1954 was a good year for smokers and an even better one for the big tobacco companies.
For a baby in utero…not so much.
After the previous years blistering reports on the dangers of cigarettes, 1954 new years resolutions to quit smoking could now be forgotten , thanks to the January report of the Tobacco Institute Research Committee which gave the green light to smoking.
Everyone was encouraged to let up and light up.
It was still tens years before the Surgeon General’s landmark report concluded that there was a link between lung cancer and cigarette smoking, so until then my modern-thinking mother blissfully puffed away while pregnant with me.
My second time Mom had first hand knowledge on pregnancy and smoking. She knew frequent cigarette breaks came in mighty handy to quiet pregnancy jitters.
Having successfully delivered a whopping four pound baby boy 2 years earlier, my baby-bound mother Betty was now a seasoned pro when it came to pregnancy and was happy to share her experiences with the nervous first-time mothers in the neighborhood.
“It was really a pity,” she commented to Dad over breakfast one November morning, “when you consider how many young women still continued to enter pregnancy without first learning the real truth about being pregnant.”
Now 5 months pregnant with me, Mom couldn’t wait to offer her wisdom to the gaggle of pregnant gals who would soon descend on our suburban home for their weekly Kaffee Klatch.
Lighting her usual post breakfast cigarette, Mom carefully measured out the Chock Full of Nuts coffee in her Mirro Matic percolator. Knowing how coffee was a great little picker upper for expectant mothers when they get that tired draggy feeling, she put up a big pot.
Experience told her that there was nothing more welcome to a gal in-the-family-way, than to put her feet up, have a cup or two of piping hot coffee with plenty o’ sugar for extra pep, and relax with a soothing cigarette. Mmmm! Heaven!
Pregnancy on Parade
By noon, a bevy of bellies in all stages of protrusions waddled into our kitchen.
Decked out in an assortment of generously cut maternity separates that kept pace with modern times, these chatty women proved there was no need to be frumpy while pregnant
Gathered around the cheery, yellow Formica kitchen dinette set in our kitchen the fretful first timers were overwhelmed with questions.
Like so many ladies-in-waiting, they were suffering from f impending motherhood jitters, compounded by recent news concerning the hazards of smoking.
“There seemed to be so many things to be afraid of nowadays,” voiced our neighbor Bunny echoing the concerns of the others who were nodding in agreement “Yesterday it was the H bomb, today it’s cigarette smoke that looms over us like a dreadful mushroom cloud.”
In the past year, headlines about smoking and lung cancer had been getting bigger and scarier and naturally the baby-bound women were bothered .
When a scientific report by 2 doctors found that painting cigarette tar on the back of mice created cancer, a bombshell had been dropped. Audible gasps could be heard over smokers hacks coast to coast.
The next salvo fired was when another doctor delivered a headline making speech in NYC warning “the male population of the US would be decimated if cigarette smoking increases as it has in the past unless some steps are taken to remove the cancer-producing factor from cigarettes.”
In late November 1953 Time Magazine declared that the the first definitive link between cancer and smoking “was proved beyond any doubt.”
But doubt still remained.
Ads movie stars endorcements Movie stars smoke, athletes endorced it even society ladies lit up.
You Can Take Your Doctors Word For It
Now the apprehensive girls were all ears to what Mom had to say
Fresh from her obstetricians appointment in the city, my mother was anxious to share what she had learned from her Park Avenue doctor.
Mom went all misty eyed talking about Dr Orenstein. All the girls felt that way about their own doctors and Mom understood why.
No one was more trustworthy, more knowledgeable and more important in a pregnant gal’s life than her doctor.
Lighting up another Parliament, Mom began.
“Despite all the worries,” she said assuredly “we girls were living in the best of times.”
“Back in the pre-historic days,” she explained, “when their own mother’s were pregnant, a baby-bound lady had to pace herself with the number of smokes she could have.”
“Doctors strictly advised limiting expectant mothers to only four cigarettes a day, to help wih digestion and soothe their pre-natal nerves . Pregnant women were advised to take it easy…. stick to AMA approved activities like reading cheerful books, knitting or chatting, but, heaven- forbid- nothing too controversial please!”
But now thanks to modern research “there was little need to alter the lifestyle of “today’s modern- thinking young mothers”…including smoking!
Just What the Doctor Ordered Medical Authorities
“Along with many of you, I was concerned about the possible injurious effect of smoking on my health after reading all the alarmist reports filled with scientific gobbledegook pointing to the health hazards of cigarettes,” she said thoughtfully.
“So I asked my doctor straight out if I should quit smoking!”
“My doctor is a thoughtful man,” Mom gushed, “and after a little deliberation he said: ‘I think smoking does you more good than harm and I wouldn’t suggest that you quit.”
Quoting from an article by a popular medical writer in Harpers Magazine he said “that the case against cigarettes is by no means proved and that cigarette has little or nothing to do with cancer of the lung.”
“Maybe its the mice who should quit smoking,” he said chuckling.
Band of Brothers- Tobacco Institute Research Committee
Stepping up to dispel the alarmist rumors was the Tobacco Institute Research Committee and their research.
Handing Betty a booklet the group had published entitled “A Scientific Perspective on the Cigarette Controversy” the doctor was sure it would put Moms mind at ease.
To put Moms mind at ease, he handed Betty a booklet the group had published entitled “A Scientific Perspective on the Cigarette Controversy”
The authoritative booklet ( written with the help of committees PR firm ), distributed widely to the media and health practitioners all over the country , quoted 36 scientists questioning smoking’s link to health problems.
Quoting 36 scientists questioning smoking’s link to health problems, the authoritative booklet ( written with the help of committees PR firm ) was distributed widely to the media and health practitioners all over the country.
Mom relayed the good news to the gals.
The latest information from the Tobacco Industry Research Committee Report confirmed the obvious “that there was no proof that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer”
Dr Orenstein explained to Mom that the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, made up of esteemed scientists, university researchers and notable physicians was formed last December by the tobacco companies who had banded together to look into the health allegations.
Their mission explained the doctor, was to reassure the public that the industry could responsibly investigate smoking and health issues.
Science For Sale
Mom recalled the large ad that ran in the paper in early January announcing the “the formation of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee.”
Headlined “A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers” the 2 page ad was placed in 448 newspapers.
“Recent reports on experiments with mice have given wide publicity to a theory that cigarette smoking is in some way linked with lung cancer in human beings.”
“Although conducted by doctors of professional standing these experiments are not regarded as conclusive in the field of cancer research.”
Distinguished authorities point out:
1. There is no agreement among authorities regarding what the cause of lung cancer is
2. That there is no proof that cigarette smoking is one of the causes.
3. That statistics purporting to link cigarette smoking with the disease could apply with equal force to any one of many aspects of modern life.
We believe the products we make are not injurious to health.
“For more than 300 years tobacco has given solace relaxation and enjoyment to mankind.
At one time or another during those years critics have held it responsible for practically every disease of the human body. One by one these charges have been abandoned for lack of evidence.”
The Proof is in the Smoking
Dr Orenstein went on to tell Mom that there was a beneficial side of smoking that is provable while tobacco has not been proven a killer.
“It’s a fact that moms to-be go through all sorts of mood swings…just ask any poor dad-to-be,” laughed the doctor. ” The fluctuations of hormones make you moody and upset. That’s only natural. And because it was a psychological fact that smoking helps your disposition,” he continued, “everyday pleasures like smoking are so important.”
“You see cigarettes are like a doctors prescription for calming nerves and fighting fatigue,” Mom explained to the group
And naturally it goes to reason what’s good for you is good for the baby!
“So you see, it was important to educate yourself if you have concerns and worries,” Mom told the relieved gals. “Learning facts can help dispel some of the fears based on inaccurate information.”
Reading aloud from her dog-eared copy of Pregnancy and You, the invaluable book her doctor had given her 2 years before, she explained
“Smoking during pregnancy is no more or less injurious for the mother than smoking when not pregnant. We are not so sure about the fetus. It is known that some substance from the tobacco smoke, probably nicotine, passes from the mother’s blood stream to the infant’s via the placenta. The result is a temporary and harmless speeding up of the baby’s heart rate.”
So relax and enjoy!
Folks everywhere, including mothers-to-be could feel free to light up.
My sugar coated kodacolor childhood would be be spent through a constant blue haze of cigarette smoke.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.