Great works of literature, art, and music, the beauty of nature, friendship and true love are enhanced by close association. But there are other things, familiarity with which tends to breed unconcern if not actual contempt. Groups as well as individuals may become so used to situations that are wrong or dangerous as not to see them as they are. Thus American society tolerates certain things that are exacting an enormous toll in suffering and life. Among these are the devastation on the highways to the extent last year of about 40,000 deaths plus many more injuries; the five million alcoholics with the accumulated tragedy; and the 40,000 deaths from lung cancer in 1962, largely traceable, according to the American Cancer Society, to cigarette smoking.

Long familiarity with these social phenomena has produced among us callous unconcern for the human welfare they jeopardize. When areas stricken by natural disaster need aid or when our imagination is captured by the plight of miners trapped underground, we are capable of showing “reverence for life.” Yet at the same time we continue strangely apathetic to much needless suffering and loss of life right on our doorstep.

Consider, for example, the relationship of cigarettes to lung cancer. The Consumers Union Report on Smoking and the Public Interest (Consumers Union, Mount Vernon, New York), published this year, presents the problem with thoroughness and with an abundance of statistical and experimental evidence. As the subtitle of the first chapter of the report says, “we are living in an epidemic”—an epidemic of lung cancer. This is plain fact. And in the light of it the unchanged determination of the cigarette industry to sell to as many people as possible a product that is ...

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