We Came, We Saw, We Conquered

This is one in a series of stories about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s landmark achievements, which continue to inspire us as we address future challenges.

Our initial forays into the tobacco wars were modest and low-profile, but they were successful.

Our next efforts, not long thereafter, were much more sweeping, and fraught with risk for the Foundation.

Those early 1990s efforts focused on getting kids to “just say no,” helping pregnant women to quit smoking, and getting the sons of “good ol’ boys” to renounce chewing.

We quickly understood that more was needed. Instead of detailing the problems, we began to invest in new research to identify solutions. We launched the Tobacco Policy Research and Evaluation Program, and we pulled together SmokeLess States, the first real coalition. We paired with the American Cancer Society to create the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, which grew to become the high-profile Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (We pumped $84 million into the campaign over a decade.)

We never once doubted that we were doing what needed to be done.

Over time, we helped form, mobilize, and sustain a movement that so far has saved probably 2.5 million lives; and marginalized the tobacco industry as an economic and cultural mainstay of American life.