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1964 Twenty-five Years Ago

June 2024
1min read

Scientific studies linking cigarettes with lung cancer had been appearing for at least twenty-five years when Surgeon General Luther Terry introduced his report on the subject in a January 11 press conference, Incomprehensiveness and a lack of publicity had hindered the acceptance of the earlier studies; Terry was determined that his report would face no such impediments.

Terry’s advisory panel, a group of eminent medical authorities, had taken more than a year to review the combined evidence on smoking, and its progress had been kept secret from the press in order to gain maximum coverage at the skillfully staged news conference. The report, impressively bulky at almost four hundred pages, based its conclusions on an analysis of more than 1,100,000 men and 37,000 deaths. Terry’s study found that the death rate from heart disease was 70 percent higher for smokers than for nonsmokers, from respiratory disease 500 percent higher, and from lung cancer almost 1000 percent higher. The report also concluded that cigar smoking had a negligible effect on death rates and that cigarette smoking was a psychological habit rather than a physical addiction.

The Tobacco Institute immediately rejected the Surgeon General’s report as inconclusive, but the Federal Trade Commission was sufficiently impressed to announce two days later that it would move to require by 1965 that cigarette packs contain warning labels and to restrict advertising claims about the benefits of smoking.

Running roughshod over the conventional wisdom that boys could never be convinced to play with a doll, GI Joe was unleashed in February. The legendary 11½-inch war hero cut a wide swath through the toy market for Hasbro, the Pawtucket, Rhode Island, company that created it, selling between thirty and forty million dollars’ worth of dolls and accessories a year throughout the 1960s. Joe’s rise almost exactly paralleled the escalation of the Vietnam War. Though reviled by many parents and antiwar activists for his militaristic posture (and no doubt for endless barbarian raids on younger sisters’ Barbie-doll collections), GI Joe survived the war that tormented the entire country and, in his current, smaller form, is still one of the biggest-selling toys in America.

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