Smoking research of the 1950s could be celebrated in UK and US stamps

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7257.378 (Published 05 August 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:378
  1. James H Lutschg, retired doctor
  1. 4022 North Bluebonnet Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70809, USA

    EDITOR—Tobacco Control reproduced anti-tobacco postage stamps on the covers of its first six issues.14 By 1992, 43 countries had issued anti-tobacco stamps,1 and Poland issued an antismoking postcard as far back as 1971.


    Libyan anti-tobacco stamp, 1995

    Sixty five countries have now issued anti-tobacco stamps or other postal items. Two of the recent issues are from Libya in 1995 and Romania in 1999 (figures). By contrast, 125 countries have issued postage stamps that honour tobacco.5

    Robert Johnson, a jazz guitarist, was honoured in September 1994 on a stamp unveiled by the US Postal Service at the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival in Greenville, Mississippi. Interestingly, the cigarette in the photograph on which the stamp was based is deleted because the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee did not want the stamps to be perceived as promoting cigarettes.6 Similarly, Jackson Pollock was shown without a cigarette in January 1999 in the “celebrate the century” issue for the 1940s, although the photograph that inspired the design originally appeared in the August 1949 edition of Life magazine and showed a cigarette dangling from the artist's lips.


    Romanian anti-tobacco stamp, 1999

    The United Kingdom and the United States continue to be among the countries that have not issued antismoking stamps. Postage stamps are often issued to commemorate the anniversary of an important event. Both countries could now do so to celebrate the seminal research published by British and American investigators in the 1950s on smoking and lung cancer. However, if the postal authorities need more time to decide on a 50th anniversary stamp they could commemorate the landmark reports on smoking and health published by the Royal College of Physicians of London (1962) and the US surgeon general (1964). It is high time that the United Kingdom and the United States join the 65 nations of the world that have already issued anti-smoking stamps or other postal items.


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