By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD
The American Cancer Society's first Great American Smokeout was celebrated November 18, 1976. Gerald R. Ford was President of the United States, the "War on Cancer" had begun just a few years before, Barack Obama was 15 years old and, according to a Gallup Poll taken that year, 37% of American adults smoked cigarettes.
This year, the 37th anniversary of that first Great American Smokeout, the percentage of Americans who smoke has nearly been cut in half, to 19%. And, those who do smoke use far fewer cigarettes than in 1976, from about 4,000 cigarettes per year for every U.S. adult then, to about 1,200 now.
Certainly, we know that any cigarette smoking is dangerous to the smoker and non-smokers who inhale cigarette smoke. We also know that far too many Americans continue to smoke - 44 million, at last count. Still, astounding progress has been made in combatting what is the nation's largest cause of preventable death and disability.
How do we know what works?
How was such progress made? What actions were taken to achieve such significant changes in the face of the tobacco industry's relentless, illegal, and well-funded efforts to addict men, women, and children to their deadly products? There is no easy answer to that question. But we do know that, over the past 37 years, a wide range of interventions - in communications, education, policy change, and medicine - have been undertaken. Interventions in all of these areas have been effective, but some have been more effective than others. More...