Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act

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Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act To extend public health protection with respect to cigarette smoking and for other purposes.
Enacted bythe 91st United States Congress
EffectiveApril 1, 1970
Public law91-222
Statutes at Large84 Stat. 87
Acts amendedFederal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, Pub.L. 89–92
Titles amendedXV
U.S.C. sections amended15 United States Code, Sections 1331–1338
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 6543
  • Signed into law by President Richard Nixon on April 1, 1970
Major amendments

The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act is a 1970 federal law in the United States designed to limit the practice of smoking. As approved by the United States Congress, the act required a stronger health warning on cigarette packages, saying "Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health". It also banned cigarette advertisements on American radio and television.[1]


The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was one of the major bills resulting from the 1964 report by the Surgeon General, Luther Terry. The report found that lung cancer and chronic bronchitis are causally related to cigarette smoking.[2] Congress previously passed the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act in 1965; requiring that all cigarette packages sold in the United States carry a health warning.[2][3] But after a recommendation by the Federal Trade Commission, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act amended the 1965 law so that the warnings are made in the name of the Surgeon General.[3][4]

One of the major advocates of the cigarette advertising ban was the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC argued that since the topic of smoking is controversial, numerous TV and radio stations continued to break the Fairness Doctrine when airing these commercials because they did not give equal time to the opposing viewpoint that smoking is dangerous.[4]

The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was introduced into Congress in 1969, but it was not until April 1, 1970, when U.S. President Richard Nixon signed it into law. The actual cigarette advertising ban did not come into force until January 2, 1971, as per a compromise that allowed broadcasters to air these commercials during their telecasts of college football bowl games on New Year's Day.[4] The last cigarette ad on U.S. television, advertising Virginia Slims, was carried on the last possible legal minute at 11:59 p.m ET/PT, 10:59 p.m. CT/MT that evening on NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.[5]


In 1981, the FTC reported that the health warning labels as mandated by the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act had little effect on American smoking habits. Congress therefore passed the Comprehensive Smoking Education Act of 1984, requiring more specific health warnings.[6]

The tobacco industry has begun to use a variety of other marketing tools and strategies to influence people and attract new customers.[7] In particular, ads targeted to adolescents affect their perceptions on the image and function of smoking.[8] In 1991, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that more children aged 5 and 6 years old, could recognize Camel cigarettes' Joe Camel mascot than Mickey Mouse or Fred Flintstone.[9] Camel increased its adolescent customer base dramatically, from less than 1% before 1988 to more than 13% in 1993.[7] Tobacco sought protection from Congress so they could all leave broadcasting together without violating any anti-trust laws. The only lawsuit that followed was from a broadcaster in an effort to keep tobacco advertising on television and radio.

The law also affected advertising revenues on television and radio stations, along with the current imposition of Financial Interest and Syndication Rules and the Prime Time Access Rule, which also both took effect in 1971. NBC responded by pushing its broadcast day later into the overnight, adding shows such as The Midnight Special and Snyder's Tomorrow to open up further advertising inventory.[10]


  1. ^ " – Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969". Archived from the original on March 5, 2008. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  2. ^ a b "History of the Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Archived from the original on 2007-05-03. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  3. ^ a b "The 1964 Report on Smoking and Health". United States National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  4. ^ a b c "History of Tobacco Regulation". Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  5. ^ Ingram, Billy. "Cigarette Advertising on TV". TVParty. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  6. ^ "2000 Surgeon General's Report—Reducing Tobacco Use:diljfoig use protection". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Archived from the original on 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  7. ^ a b "2000 Surgeon General's Report—Reducing Tobacco Use: Tobacco Advertising and Promotion". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Archived from the original on 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  8. ^ "1994 Surgeon General's Report—Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: Major Conclusions". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Archived from the original on 2008-03-05. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  9. ^ Fischer, PM; Schwartz, MP; Richards, JW, Jr.; Goldstein, AO; Rojas, TH (1991). "Brand Logo Recognition by Children Aged 3 to 6 Years". JAMA. 266 (22): 3145–3148. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470220061027. PMID 1956101.
  10. ^ Tom Snyder on Later, 1994