Smoking and Pregnant – Just What the Doctor Ordered PtII

illustration of fetus vintage smoking couple illustration

(R) Vintage Winston Cigarette Ad 1954


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.

Pregnancy Pro

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.

illustration sleeping baby and woman smoking

(L) Vintage ad North Star Blanket (R) Vintage Lucky Strike Cigarette Ad

“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

smoking baby T Zone

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

smoking pregnancy drs

(L) A stylist lady-in-waiting circa 1954 (R) Vintage Camels ad  “What cigarette do you smoke doctor? When asked what cigarette they smoked the answers came in by the thousands..from general physicians, diagnosticians, surgeons, -yes, and nose and throat specialists too. The most named brand was Camels.”

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

Smoke Without Fear Book vintage ad doctor smoking

“Smoking Without Fear” by Don Cooley published in Sept. 1954 claimed you didn’t have to give up smoking. The 48 page low priced book sold at newsstands, appeared courtesy of the tobacco industry and it’s public relations firm Hill & Knowlton shortly after the first medical reports emerged saying cigarette smoking caused cancer. (R) Vintage Camels ad “More Doctors Smoke Camels”

“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.”

smoking camels john wayne 30 years

These vintage ads from 1954 offer Testimonials from smokers who have smoked Camels for 35-40 years prove you can smoke and grow old! Even John Wayne boasts of 24 years of pleasurable smoking. Sadly this American icon would develop lung cancer in just 10 years time, dying of stomach cancer in 1979. He would eventually acknowledge his lung cancer was a result of his 6 pack a day cigarette habit.

“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.

vintage illustration doctor examining patient

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”

smoking reearch drs 900SWScan01019

Of course years later we would find out the Tobacco Industry Research Committee was set up as a shield for the industry, their real  mission being  to deliberately confuse the public about the risks of smoking and spread doubt over strong scientific evidence and the public wouldn’t know what to believe.

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.”

vintage illustration businessmen smoking

Exactly 10 years before the January 1964 publication of the surgeon generals report , in January 1954 the tobacco industry banded together and announced in a double page ad “the formation of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee. “
Growing concern among the public of dangers of smoking caused the tobacco companies to join forces when the realized their industry was in trouble.

 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.

vintage illustration men in office

The Tobacco Industry Research Committee was a brilliant counter offensive by the Tobacco industry that left both doctors and the public unsure how dangerous smoking really was,

 “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.

smoking pregnancy camels disposition

“Hows your disposition today” asks this Vintage Camels ad from 1955. “It’s only human to feel edgy when little annoyances pie up-thats why its wise to choose Camels”

“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

Oh, Baby

smoking baby camels dr child

A healthy start is so important. Without a hint of irony, this vintage Camels ad (part of the More Drs Smoke Camels” campaign) on the (R) boasts how this little 5 year old girl might live to 100 “due to the amazing strides of medical science that have added years to life expectancy. Not only the expectancy of a longer life but a life far healthier. Thank medical science for that. Thank your doctor for that and thousands like him…” (L) Philip Morris claims their cigarette is as gentle as a baby

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.

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