Thanksgiving 1966 Triggered a Public Health Revolution

Legal Activism Was Born Then, and Led The Fight Against Smoking
WASHINGTON - Nov. 22, 2023 - PRLog -- On Thanksgiving Day, more than 55 years ago, a revolution was born.

A young lawyer, fresh out of law school with his heart set on becoming a very rich patent attorney, instead became a legal hacker.

In doing so, he helped create a new concept now known as Legal Activism.

He also started a new movement - no, actually 2 new movements - which would revolutionize how the problem of smoking was to be so successfully attacked, and in so doing saved millions of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

How it all began is told in:
READER'S DIGEST INVOLVED AMERICANS - The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials (

At a time when almost half of all Americans smoked, and smoking was permitted virtually everywhere - even in hospitals by and near critically ill patients - he sent of a 3-page letter from a cruise ship which forced radio and TV broadcasters to make hundreds of millions of dollars worth of broadcast time available free for antismoking messages.

These messages did what the earlier Surgeon General's Report on Smoking could not do; caused the first drop in cigarette smoking in the U.S.

Ultimately, it also drove cigarette commercials off the air.

That young lawyer then went on to start the nonsmokers' rights movement by getting smoking limited and then banned on airplanes; a revolution which led to bans in many indoor places - including some apartments and even private homes - as well as outdoors, both here and abroad, and proved to be a major factor in forcing millions more smokers to quit.

He added to the pressure by helping to obtain a ban cigarette billboards and the use of cartoon characters such as Joe Camel to advertise cigarettes; something Congress itself could not have done because of the First Amendment.

Today only about 12% of U.S. adults smoke, and those who do often pay more for life, health, and even automobile insurance.

Perhaps more importantly, they increasingly must do their smoking away from nonsmokers, including children.

In terms of people affected, deaths prevented, and money saved, this may well be the most consequential public health movement in modern history, and it was all triggered by a football game on a Thanksgiving Day some 57 years ago.

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School
"The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials"
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor
Fellow, World Technology Network
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Inventor of the "Banzhaf Index"
2000 H Street, NW, Suite Stockton 402
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418   @profbanzhaf

GW Law
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