Like Father, Like Son
Smoking as a Family Tradition
Above: 1.) Leon Blum, MD 2.) Blum family photograph, with Dr. Blum’s hand on his son’s shoulder, ca. 1953
3.) Dr. & Mrs. Leon Blum with friends at a night club, 1950s. 4.) Gerald Leon Wallace, MD
In the ad, Talman introduces us to wife and children before revealing his battle with lung cancer. “So take some advice about smoking and losing from someone who’s been doing both for years,” he concludes, looking directly at the viewer, “If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit. Don’t be a loser.”
This and other anti-smoking advertisements on TV had such an immediate impact on the public that the tobacco industry soon announced it would remove all of its cigarette commercials from TV if Congress gave it an exemption from anti-trust law violations. The last cigarette ad on US television appeared on January 1, 1971. But this also meant that TV stations no longer had to broadcast anti-smoking messages to meet the requirements of the Fairness Doctrine. As a result, there was a dramatic reduction in the number of anti-smoking PSAs and a leveling off of the rate of decline in smoking.
“Until 1975 Joseph A. Califano Jr. smoked as many as three packs of cigarettes a day, but he kicked the habit at the request of his then 11-year-oid son, Joe. Mr. Califano, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, recounted this today while outlining the Federal Government’s new antismoking proposals.
“Mr. Califano said that his son had ‘told me that the best birthday present I could give him would be to stop smoking.’ He added: ‘I set about then to give up cigarettes. And the best present I could give Joe turned out to be one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do.’”
New York Times
January 12, 1978
“It was September, and I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He said, ‘I want you to stop smoking.’ ‘No, seriously,’ I said. ‘What do you want for your birthday and for Christmas?’ And he repeated that wish.
“Joe’s now a surgical oncologist and director of the Head and Neck Cancer Center at the University of California at San Diego.”
Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
Personal communication, June 13, 2019
With great appreciation to my son Leon Blum, whom I dragged to countless protest demonstrations at sports and arts events sponsored by the tobacco industry. The cigarette companies testily denied that they were aiming at kids and once accused me of posing my children in front of their billboards for photographs to prove otherwise. Leon is now the beloved dad of Evan and Hannah.