In 1988, three million students entered the first grade. I was relatively new as Arizona’s public relations director for the American Heart Association.
When I joined the staff in the mid-‘80s, the AHA had already established a coalition with the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association to promote a project called Smoke Free Class of 2000. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (appointed by President Ronald Reagan) was the celebrity of the campaign.
The idea was to eliminate smoking in youth by the time they graduated from high school, “at the beginning of the century.”
Here was an organization that had planned everything out for 12 years (the program was dead by 1991). They had enlisted state and local government agencies from all 50 states.
This organization was comprised of thousands and thousands of staff and volunteers, “There’s a reason Stanley Kubrick called his movie ‘2001’ and not 2000,” I said. This organization had spent millions on literature, videos, and clothing. Yet I was the only one to explain decades begin on “aught,” but centuries start on 01?
The good news is cigarette sales over the 12 year time period fell more than 40 percent. The bad news was falling sales were more the result of escalating tobacco taxes than education programs by non-smoking advocates.
There is a Facebook page of roughly 10,000 members of the Smoke free Class of 2000.