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It's shocking and hard to believe the fact of 300000 excess deaths per year and in the United States related to cigarette smoking. Many Americans perhaps most react with doubt that cigarettes kill six times as many people per year as die in traffic accidents. Why they reactive cigarette smoking was that hazardous the government would certainly do something about it. Well the government is doing something about it and that's what we'll be talking about in the next few minutes. I'm Dr. Rob Granter professor of health education at San Diego State College and this is one of the series of programs on the smoking dilemma. Our guest today is the honorable Mobb Wilson congressman from San Diego. Congressman Wilson How far has the federal government gone in acknowledging this immense threat to the life and health of cigarette smoking. Well I think it's gone a long ways. Frankly the. Public Health Service to report the action by Congress
labeling cigarette packages and the recent FCC ruling on cigarette advertising all of these things are unprecedented and in modern commerce. But still many people feel that Congress has not acted in a manner call for about a magnitude of the cigarette threat. Some have even suggested that the cigarette broadcasting advertising industries have suppressed more vigorous government activities. Could you not react to this situation. Well I don't know whether they have suppressed. To them I am entering this discussion with with some prejudices of my own namely I am the only advertising man in Congress. I happen to be a nonsmoker So I think I can be objective from that standpoint I'm also a relative conservative in government to believe in a minimum of government interference with the lives and activities of the average citizen so I have to. Bring perhaps a different viewpoint to this whole discussion. I think
I don't approve of smoking and I have attempted in my own family to prevent it. I don't think I just can't understand that having it all it seems rather ridiculous to me. And yet how far should the federal government go in trying to restrict in effect the morals of of its citizens and restricting their smoking habits is a question and I am really concerned about. But the other question also is how far should the federal government go in protecting the health of the people too. And here we have a you know what's proven to be a fairly lethal product. And how can you square the eye with protection of those in a sense who promote the product as opposed to the public interest which is using and being harmed rather substantially by it. Well I think frankly that if the surgeon general's report is was a big step forward it was a rather shocker to the public when it came out to
frankly there are some doubt as to its authenticity or as to as to. Anyway it's complete objectiveness. And I think. There are many many things that the average citizen is exposed to that that are dangerous. Automobiles are certainly dangerous in Congress right now is debating how far the federal government should go in ensuring the safety in the air. And as far as equipment of that is sold to the average you know automobile driver how far how far does the federal government's responsibility go in in this particular area. As I say I think frankly that the major steps were taken and particularly in the ruling on labeling that's the only leveling that I know of outside of the labeling by the Food and Drug Law requires on poisons and that go on in advertising. I mean on the on the packages of any particular product sold in general commerce and and the fact that that the FCC has ruled
that. That radio and television stations must give equal time to to the other side of the tobacco advertising is I think of violation of free speech I don't think the federal government has a right to demand that that commercial advertising a commercial television station is required by law to present free time to someone to refute the advertising arguments of a paid advertising claim. But what about the free speech of the public interest in order to have the kind of free speech that retirees have. You need to be engaged in a profit making enterprise with large profits and be able to afford 300 million dollars in advertising per year. Anti-smoking interests do not make a profit. There is no way to get equal time in any respect equal education or anything else. And the only way this can be done isn't this through some sort of government assurance of equal opportunity for the other side to be heard.
Now I think this is a foot in the door of restrictions of. Or curtailment of ever ties ing of other products that somebody some bureaucrat might decide is against the public interest in this. The big point is is it against the pubs are cigarettes against the public interest. I don't like again I don't. I don't think cigarettes are are worthwhile I think they're harmful and I think it's too bad people who use them but how far should the federal government go in trying to trying to prevent people using we have price supports for growers of tobacco we encourage the sale of tobacco worldwide or through various governmental programs and on the one hand how in the US on the other hand can the federal government step in and say don't use it. That's a good point. And that's what leads me to wonder if the federal government should do more re-examine at least. Responsibility to the public in its responsibilities to industry here the FCC and justifying its position on this Fairness Doctrine as applied to cigarette advertising stated that no other
advertised product use normally has been found by Congress and the government to represent a more serious potential hazard to public health and cigarette smoking so I wonder if we don't have a little different product here than we have with automobiles or candy which causes dental caries and a few other things which are sometimes brought him here not you. I think you can marry him and I just can't he butt in but some of these are whipped cream desserts and so forth that are advertised to cakes and so forth that are probably harmful if some government study were made I think you'd be fine to declare arrestor all developing from over indulgence in sweets and desserts and it causes a shocking number of deaths per year but does this mean that somebody down the line after this if CC ruling it is pretty well standardized to someone down the line decide to have a heavy fat. The products are not good for the public health and therefore some warning should should be put on a bottle of Crisco or more or
a packaged cake or something. I just think the precedent that's being set in the FCC ruling is a serious war as far as the general public is concerned how far does a responsibility the federal government go in this area. This is a thing that I think Congress itself is considering and I don't believe that the opposition to age is strong. You know the wording that was put on the cigarette packages was a got over word for word by and by the committees in Congress and frankly I think the little statement it's on there now is an oculus as you could make. You've expressed your point of view on this very well I want if we could move on to another couple of items related to it. Some of these have suggested that health warnings be extended to the heads themselves and so in addition to a nice lovely idea like a spot of some sort were two people are smoking and enjoying a lake or trees or whatever that they would be placed in that warning his product may be hazardous to your
health or some such. Well again it's the president. That I object to I don't think you know I don't think. The federal government has this responsibility unless by law we found and by law found that it was illegal to smoke cigarettes I don't think we have the right to to require that someone can't engage in commerce and distributing them and in presenting them to the public. It's also been suggested that cigarettes be taxed according to tar and nicotine content. And it seems to me to be a pretty unwieldy feeling to try to administer. Now what are your views on that. Yeah that's Senator Kennedy's idea. Frankly I don't think it's practical at all I think that if there are substantial taxes and certainly in my home state of California with the recent increase the recent tax that the Governor Reagan has placed on cigarettes is probably going to have the greatest effect in reducing smoking of anything that has been done much less and certainly much more than that and then just a warning on the cigarettes when they
pay six or seven cents a pack more for taxes. They're probably not going to smoke quite as much but I think I think the federal government with its one and a half billion dollar revenue line from cigarettes. It is going about as far as it can go in preventing them from an economic way of No. If no other is the increased use of tobacco. Are you suggesting that this one and a half billion dollars in tax revenue represents the vested interest on the part of the government and that we then let three hundred thousand people a year go down the tubes because as I'm sure you're not thinking at all but I you know frankly I question that 300000 excess deaths a year due to cigarette smoking I think that that is a blue sky figure that that is really. Based on inadequate statistics and I think I would support and I again it mention that I'm a conservative. In my voting habits and so I would support a federal program a complete research
program above and beyond perhaps 10 times more carefully drawn than to really find out. This was not only dozen studies not only the effects of cigarette but the effects of tobacco cigar and. Pipe tobacco and various types of cigarettes and so forth. I really thorough study that. That I believe it is a responsibility the federal government and then make those figures known and make them known by federal expenditures use every means possible using some of the federal revenue that comes from cigarette taxation to broadcast these facts but don't interfere at the same time with commerce unless unless the figures that are that are developed from such studies are so shocking that Congress itself decides declared cigarettes illegal. One last item. How do you feel about programs of education and federal participation in programs of education which would
inform the public as to the hazards of smoking. Right now about 3 million dollars a year is spent by the federal government programs of controlling smoking from the educational standpoint. And this is opposed again to three hundred million dollars spent by cigarette advertisers would you favor a greater. Emphasis on education but I don't think you're using fair figures because 300 million sounds like a lot of money but as far as the cost of advertising when you realize that a single TV spot on a network will run as much as 50 to 100 thousand dollars that the total the total cost of 300 million is is perhaps beyond the average person's comprehension but the figures you're quoting is of the government's cost or the production costs of the of the messages and so for the not the payment of any time the government can get free time or any report it wants to give the public from the television networks and I believe that if it were adequately financed it. That and the television networks would recognize their responsibility to the public in
giving adequate free time for any any accurate government presentation certainly there was plenty of press and if you figured it on the basis of commercial time you'd be amazed how many hundreds of millions of dollars with the time it was when the first surgeon general's report came out. So what I think the federal government is lobbying adequately but I do think it's incumbent on the federal government to be sure of the facts and presented instances grave doubt has been placed in the minds of many of us as to the accuracy of the first reports and I think more additional study should be made and I know they are being made and I know a lot of San Diego has a very definite interest in smoking research that I'm going to be much interested in their final reports. We'll be having a program on this the next time. Thank you very much Congressman Wilson for being with us today and expressing your point of view so well. The federal government has led efforts to resolve the smoking dilemma. I don't think we can deny that. But in view of the magnitude of the threat and the relative ineffectiveness of programs today.
The smoking dilemma
Government and the Smoking Problem
Producing Organization
San Diego State University
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3735. This prog.: Government and the Smoking Problem. Hon. Bob Wilson, Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 36th Congressional District of California
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Producing Organization: KEBS
Producing Organization: San Diego State University
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-4-26 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:34
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Chicago: “The smoking dilemma; Government and the Smoking Problem,” 1968-05-31, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 31, 2023,
MLA: “The smoking dilemma; Government and the Smoking Problem.” 1968-05-31. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 31, 2023. <>.
APA: The smoking dilemma; Government and the Smoking Problem. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from