ASH History


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In the years following the release of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking, Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) was established by a distinguished body of physicians, attorneys, and other prominent U.S. citizens who saw the need to protect the rights and health of nonsmokers. For the last 54 years, ASH played a key role in the war on smoking.


In response to a petition filed by ASH’s founder John Banzhaf, the Federal Communications Commission rules that radio and television stations must devote free air time to anti-smoking messages. ASH successfully places hard-hitting anti-smoking messages on radio and television for the first time.

“John F. Banzhaf, III is the lawyer who staggered the tobacco and television industries with his successful demand that TV stations give free time for anti-smoking messages.” – Time


The Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare accepts ASH’s proposal to adopt the first restrictions on smoking in federal buildings.

Reader’s Digest calls ASH’s founder John Banzhaf “The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials” for getting cigarette ads off radio and TV.


ASH forces airlines to provide no-smoking sections for nonsmoking passengers when a Civil Aeronautics Board rule proposed by ASH mandating no-smoking sections on airplanes becomes final.


ASH helps get the first court order banning workplace smoking.


ASH persuades a court that statutes banning public smoking are constitutional.


ASH triggers a ban on cigar and pipe smoking on airplanes.


ASH successfully asks major air carriers to begin protecting nonsmoking passengers from secondhand smoke by limiting smoking in airports.


ASH begins getting lower health insurance rates for nonsmokers.


ASH petitions the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to ban smoking in common workplaces.


ASH helps get law banning smoking on short domestic flights.


ASH helps defeat the first “smokers’ rights” bill.

ASH persuades a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee to issue subpoenas which demonstrate how the tobacco industry had secretly been paying movie makers to include “hidden commercials” for smoking in their movies, which forced at least one movie maker to include an unprecedented cigarette health warning at the conclusion of the movie.


ASH helps get smoking banned on all domestic flights and buses.

The Interstate Commerce Commission, responding to ASH’s legal petition, bans all smoking on interstate bus routes.


ASH helps persuade NIOSH to classify secondhand smoke as a “potential occupational carcinogen.”


ASH assists in the successful defense of several statutes restricting the sale of tobacco products through vending machines which establishes legal precedents across the country.


ASH petitions the Food & Drug Administration to regulate nicotine in cigarettes the same way the FDA has regulated nicotine delivery in gums and patches – as a drug.


ASH helps persuade court to rule that there’s no legal right to smoke.

ASH organizes a campaign by which workers filed complaints to OSHA concerning smoking in the workplace. This campaign resulted in the elimination of smoking in companies across the country.


Due to the lethargy of OSHA’s plans to protect non-smokers, ASH sued the agency in an effort to hasten the process by which the residents of the United States would enjoy the benefits of smoke-free workplaces.


ASH helps persuade the President to ban smoking in virtually all federal buildings.


ASH helps kill sellout settlement with Liggett Tobacco Company.


ASH helps achieve smoking ban on international flights to and from the US.


ASH plays a major role in the negotiation and adoption of the world’s first public health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).


ASH efforts to ensure that the FCTC addresses protection from exposure to tobacco smoke lead to the adoption of the FCTC Guidelines on Article 8, which state that all governments should ban smoking in public and workplaces.


ASH helps ensure that tobacco is a central issue at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs).


ASH convinces 12 countries to protect tobacco control measures under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the first such exclusion in trade treaty history, meaning tobacco companies cannot benefit from the free trade agreement.


ASH ensures that tobacco use reduction targets are part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a first in international development history.


ASH adopts a human rights-based approach to tobacco control, making health equity our top priority. Read more here.

ASH gave a presentation before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, along with two of our partner organizations. This was the first time the Commission considered tobacco as a human rights issue and was an important victory. Read our press release from the hearing.


ASH led a successful campaign to end the Danish Institute of Human Rights’ (DIHR) partnership with Philip Morris International which resulted in DIHR denouncing tobacco as antithetical to the work of a human rights organization. This campaign also resulted in a sign on letter from 123 organizations in 40+ countries calling on Philip Morris International to immediately cease all marketing and production of cigarettes to adhere to human rights norms.

ASH re-set our goal to build a tobacco-free world; a world with virtually zero deaths from tobacco with the launch of Project Sunset.


The World Conference on Tobacco or Health adopts the Cape Town Declaration on Human Rights and a Tobacco-Free World, as did 165 organizations from around the world.


Planning and co-hosting the Global Forum on Human Rights and a Tobacco-Free World at Romania’s Presidential Palace. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired of Jordan participated; and


ASH, along with the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to force a ban on menthol cigarettes. Read our joint press release. (update below in 2021).

ASH released the U.S. Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020 to shine a light on and score each type of tobacco industry interference in public health policy making.


In April 2021, the FDA agreed to begin a rulemaking process; the lawsuit is ongoing to hold the FDA accountable. Read ASH’s joint statement with partners here.

May 21, 2021, ASH released a letter signed by 148 organizations across the globe calling on governments to plan to eliminate tobacco sales.

We’re hard at work on the next milestone. Stay tuned!