Libraries and Anti-Smoking Education: Sharing Lifesaving Knowledge

Libraries may be being slowly replaced by online repositories of knowledge, but they are still treasure troves of valuable information about the risks of tobacco, how forward-thinking groups have challenged the tobacco industry and the tobacco industry’s history of deceptive ads.

Libraries are centers of knowledge. With volumes and volumes covering everything from ornithology to the risks of smoking, while they may be falling out of favor thanks to the advent of the Internet, libraries are still invaluable institutions in society. If you’re hoping to learn about the dangers of smoking, how tobacco companies have crafted deceptive ads to sell more cigarettes or about some historical anti-smoking campaigns, few places are more informative and useful to visit. Libraries and anti-smoking education go hand in hand, but in the future that role will undoubtedly shift to online sources. If you work in a library, you also have a unique opportunity to put something special together to encourage any smokers to quit, and you should take it.

Anti-Smoking Campaigns in Libraries

As centers of knowledge visited by people from all walks of life, libraries have a unique opportunity to promote a tobacco-free life. From putting flyers, posters and leaflets promoting quitting smoking or emphasizing the risks of tobacco up close to the entrance of the library to creating a special section for education on smoking and its risks, libraries can help to ensure that smokers and potential smokers understand the risks of the habit. By promoting effective approaches to quitting and underlining the abundant reasons you should want to quit, libraries can make a huge, positive difference to the world.

Catalogues of Historical Smoking Ads and Libraries

Some of the most shocking historical advertisements are those for cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, and libraries can be great sources for this type of content. Before the risks of tobacco were known, there were no anti-tobacco laws preventing advertising, and there was no obligation for tobacco companies to inform consumers of the risks.

One exhibit showing ads like these at Yale University Library showcased the various ways tobacco companies aimed to lure in customers, with everything from celebrity endorsements through to claims of health benefits being used to make smoking look attractive and desirable. Exhibits like this shine the spotlight on the deceptive ways cigarette companies have tried to convince consumers to take up smoking.

If you work at a library, exhibits like this can be interesting for a glimpse into the history of our relationship with tobacco, but they’re also a valuable opportunity to emphasize the crucial message that smoking is a deadly habit.

Anti-Smoking History and Libraries

While cigarette companies were doing their best to deny the link between smoking and lung cancer and desperately trying to maintain their customer-base as understanding of the risks of tobacco begun to grow, anti-tobacco groups were working to inform the public. The catalogues of anti-tobacco activities held by prominent groups can make a valuable addition to the library, and provide a rich look into tobacco history that also emphasizes the key message that smoking is dangerous.

One example of a library like this is the archives of anti-smoking group ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), which is currently available at Wellcome Library. These trace the history of the battle against smoking, including moves to ban advertising of cigarettes, previous educational campaigns designed to illustrate the risks of tobacco and more. Exhibits like this can be combined with looks at historical tobacco advertisements to give a three-dimensional picture of what things were like around the time when people were first starting to understand just how dangerous smoking is.

Reliable Anti-Smoking Websites: The Libraries of the 21st Century

While many of the materials discussed above haven’t been digitized – one of the many reasons libraries and anti-smoking education will continue to be linked for the near future – it’s understandable that libraries won’t be around forever. Over time, more records will be digitized and information will increasingly be stored on hard drives instead of hardbacks, and will be easily accessible online.

As we move in this direction, finding reliable information about the risks of smoking online is increasingly important. As well as this site, many other sources provide many excellent articles and posts explaining the risks of tobacco and other relevant topics. From high-level official sources like the CDC through to groups like ASH or the American Lung Association, there are many websites providing reliable information about tobacco and its risks.

Conclusion – Libraries and Anti-Smoking Education Go Hand in Hand

Physical libraries will likely be replaced by online repositories of information in the near future, but until then, they have a golden opportunity to make the risks of smoking more widely-known by showcasing the history of the fight against tobacco, displaying posters about the risks of smoking and shining the light on the tobacco industry’s less-than-rosy past. In the future, this information may be online, but regardless of how its accessed, libraries and anti-smoking education will always be closely linked.