From the Department of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass; and the Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
Edited by Annette Flanagin, RN, MA, Associate Senior Editor.
In the late 19th century, as tobacco consumption began a dramatic increase,
medical debate about its health consequences intensified. Since the publication
of King James' Counterblaste to Tobacco in 1604,
physicians and other observers had debated whether tobacco smoking helped
or harmed a person's health.1 This debate
took on a different form in the late 19th century. Following the development
of bacteriology, physicians concentrated on identifying the specific etiologies
of pathological processes. Armed with Koch's postulates and sophisticated
laboratory techniques, they deciphered the causes of many infectious diseases.
But when physicians applied these new methods to the old problem of tobacco
use, they immediately ran into trouble.
Jones DS, Brandt AM. Tobacco Epidemiology and the Challenge of Multiple Etiologies. JAMA. 1998;279(12):969. doi:10.1001/jama.279.12.969