February 18, 1998

Reinventing American Tobacco PolicySounding the Medical Community's Voice

Author Affiliations

Dr Koop is professor of surgery, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH; Dr Kessler is dean, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn; and Dr Lundberg is the Editor of JAMA .

JAMA. 1998;279(7):550-552. doi:10.1001/jama.279.7.550

1998 may be the most important moment in the history of the tobacco wars, a moment when America chooses between a path toward social repair or one toward irrevocable public loss. Winston Churchill said, "Americans can be counted upon to do the right thing—after trying everything else." This year, Americans may finally do the right thing. After years of growing public and professional awareness of the addictiveness of nicotine, of the health effects of tobacco, and of the tobacco industry's extensive efforts to target young children, federal laws may be enacted to seriously weaken the grip of the industry on the public and on the nation's health. Conversely, there is the risk that the tobacco industry could further entrench its ability to stand outside the ordinary rules of commerce in society.