When Athletes and Physicians Promoted Smoking!


It’s hard to believe that not too long ago, revered athletes like Mickey Mantle and even our medical community promoted cigarette smoking! Yet despite the numerous bans, beginning with the cessation of Ads on TV (January 2, 1971), Billboard Ads (April, 1999) and most recently, the FDA’s process to ban JUUL cigarettes, smoking continues to be the #1 most preventable cause of heart disease.

Notwithstanding the cutback/elimination of advertising, nearly 8 million yearly deaths continue to be attributed to cigarettes worldwide; in the U.S., 500,000 tobacco related cardiovascular deaths are anticipated in 2022.

A recent review by the American Heart Association found that compared to non-smokers, tobacco use was associated with the development of heart disease at an earlier age in men and women aged 40-59 years, (5 and 4 years in men and women, respectively). In fact, middle-aged women without a history of heart disease who smoked, doubled their risk of sudden death; in middle-aged men, the risk was increased by 80%. Smoking also increased the risk of stroke in young men and women (less than 40 years of age) and heart failure in middle and older aged men and women.

Today, more than 34 million adults in the United States continue to smoke cigarettes. While these numbers are undoubtedly lower than during the era of incessant tobacco advertising campaigns, the ravaging, long-term health consequences attributable to daily tobacco use persists.

Unfortunately, in the absence of successful smoking cessation efforts, effective therapies to reduce tobacco related cardiac events are highly limited. I can think of 2 (statins and aspirin). Wouldn’t it be nice if there were other treatments available/associated with reduced risk?

Michael Miller, MD is a cardiologist and Chief of Medicine at the Corporal Michael J Crescenz VA Medical Center and Vice Chair of Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to his arrival in Philadelphia, he was Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He is the author of numerous scientific publications and several books, including Heal Your Heart published by Penguin Random House. Check him out on twitter: @mmillermd1