A Law Professor is Featured in Ken Burns’ PBS Medical Documentary About Cancer

Washington, DC, March 29, 2015 --(PR.com)-- Although fighting cancer is usually thought of as a medical story, Ken Burns’ new PBS documentary - "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies" - features a law professor who may have saved more lives and prevented more lung cancer deaths than any doctor.

John Banzhaf’s legal complaint about cigarette commercials led to a ruling by the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] requiring broadcasters to make hundreds of millions of dollars available free for anti-smoking messages on radio and TV stations; the first time they ever appeared.

The ruling caused U.S. cigarette consumption to fall for the very first time - something even the earlier 1964 Surgeon General’s Report was unable to do - and then to a ban on cigarette commercials.

It also led an entirely new movement, embodied in the new organization he founded, Action on Smoking and Health (A.S.H.), to use legal action as a weapon against smoking and smoking deaths. That in turn led to current bans on public smoking here and abroad, and to a world tobacco control treaty.

Prof Banzhaf also developed or assisted in a variety of smoking-related law suits against the major tobacco companies, including those by smokers, non-smokers, states, and etc.

His actions led to many accolades for him, including: “The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials,” "The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry," and "A Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars."

Ken Burns' documentary is based the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

It tells the complete story of cancer, from its first description in an ancient Egyptian scroll to the gleaming laboratories of modern research institutions where medical professionals do cutting-edge research about finding cures. But the documentary realizes, of course, that it is better and much more efficient to prevent the cancers in the first place than to simply try to cure them more effectively.

Thus, the third evening of this three-part series focuses on Banzhaf’s very successful efforts to prevent lung and other cancers from even developing by curbing smoking through bans on advertising (now also including not just radio and TV, but also billboards and the use of cartoon characters), restrictions on smoking in workplaces and many public places (which, by making it more difficult and well as uncomfortable to remain a smoker, is the major factor in getting people to quit), and even economic incentives (such as the 50% smoker surcharge Banzhaf helped include under the Affordable Care Act).

The 3-part series begins airing on Monday, March 30, from 9-11pm Eastern each night on PBS. Professor Banzhaf’s major contributions are featured on Wednesday, April 1st.
George Washington University Law School
Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf
202 994-7229 // 703 527-8418