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The legacy of the tobacco colossus Richard Doll

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 14 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7311
  1. Mike Daube, professor of health policy1,
  2. Simon Chapman, professor of public health2
  1. 1McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia
  2. 2Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
  1. simon.chapman{at}

Continues to increase

In early 1947, Austin Bradford Hill suggested that Richard Doll, who was then a smoker, should be recruited to work on a study of smoking and lung cancer. He described Doll as “a very good worker to whom it is well worth while giving a wider experience of medical statistical work with an eye to the future.”1

In 1950 Doll and Hill published their initial findings in the BMJ (delayed for a year by faint hearts at the Medical Research Council),1 2 and Doll went on to become the tobacco colossus. Others had, as he often acknowledged, published important work. In a linked study (doi:10.1136/bmj.e7093), Sakata and colleagues examine the impact of smoking on overall mortality and life expectancy in Japan using data from a large population based cohort recruited in the same year as the first Doll and Hill publication.3

Countless scientific papers and reports on the many harms of smoking were published in the decades after 1950. In 1962, a BMJ editorial observed that “the causative link between cigarettes and lung cancer is undeniable, and no amount of …

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