4-4: Nixon, Cigarettes, and Vietnam

Nixon Swaps Lottery for Draft

In 1969 President Richard Nixon replaced the military draft with a lottery. While the protracted war in Vietnam drew the country further and further apart, demonstrations grew in numbers and frequency. As with President Lyndon Johnson before him, Nixon really could not see an “honorable” way out of the Vietnam mess. And the war continued. And people died.

Digital History http://digitalhistory.com reports that:

In late January 1973, the United States, South Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and North Vietnam signed a cease-fire agreement, under which the United States agreed to withdraw from South Vietnam without any comparable commitment from North Vietnam. Historians still do not agree whether President Nixon believed that the accords gave South Vietnam a real chance to survive as an independent nation, or whether he viewed the agreement as a face-saving device that gave the United States a way to withdraw from the war “with honor.”

And the war continued for two more years. And people died. Needlessly. I do not see honor in that.

Let’s back up a few years to 1970. On the international side of American policy and politics we remained mired in Vietnam. On the domestic front, we were also fighting a deadly battle against a ubiquitous enemy: cigarettes.

Cigarettes Claimed Health Hazard

While the government was sending American troops to a war they knew was hopeless, in 1970 Nixon signed “legislation officially banning cigarette ads on television and radio” (www.history.com). I find this funny, not in a humorous way.

… health studies emerged as early as 1939 that linked cigarette smoking to higher incidences of cancer and heart disease … In 1964, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed that advertisers had a responsibility to warn the public of the health hazards of cigarette smoking. In 1969 … Congress yielded to pressure from the public health sector and signed the Cigarette Smoking Act. This act required cigarette manufacturers to place warning labels on their products that stated “Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health.”

Maybe they should have ordered placement of the same warning labels on M-16s, Claymore mines, and hand grenades. Or maybe the Department of Defense should have glued the label on every C-Ration box that contained … a half-pack of cigarettes. For me, the odor of gunpowder shrouded every firefight, the taste of nicotine accompanied every meal.

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nixon-signs-legislation-banning-cigarette-ads-on-tv-and-radio?  (for full cigarette article)

[PTSD symptom: having angry outbursts (National Institute of Mental Health). I am not going to throw a shoe at the TV. I do, however, get upset when people I believe are without honor hide behind the word so easily. In the Vietnam era we kept hearing, year after year, about finding a way to withdraw honorably. We “honor” our war dead on Memorial Day, and yet “we” continue to send them into senseless combat. Who are we?]


One thought on “4-4: Nixon, Cigarettes, and Vietnam”

  1. Ah the royal “we”, it is the moment when no one person is willing to put their name out there as author, sponsor, boss or perpetrator of an event.

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