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Antonia Novello: 1944—: Pediatrician

Fought For America's Health

During her three-year tenure Novello focused her energy on a number of health topics, including alcohol, tobacco, violence, and AIDS. She told the Saturday Evening Post that she followed the motto of "good science and good sense." Her first major public health campaign as Surgeon General attacked the problem of underage drinking. Novello publicly asked the alcohol industry to voluntarily stop creating advertisements that targeted young people. As Novello explained to the American Medical News, "I have nothing against the advertising industry. But I do have something against alcohol advertising that misleads, misinforms and unabashedly targets American youth." Novello especially criticized the distributors of Cisco, a wine with 20 percent alcohol content that was being sold as a cheap dessert wine with advertising aimed toward teenagers and the poor. In addition, Novello launched a "Spring Break '91" campaign to bring awareness to the rising number of binge drinkers among college students.

Novello used a similar strategy to continue Dr. Koop's public campaign against smoking. Most notably she joined forces with the American Medical Association to ask R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company to voluntarily withdraw its "Old Joe Camel" cartoon advertisements for Camel cigarettes because they were too attractive to teenagers. In an article in Adweek's Marketing Week in March of 1992, Novello proclaimed, "I don't care whether their actions were intentional or unintentional. Their advertising has reached children and it is going to stop." Novello's campaign paid off several years after she left her position. In 1998 federal law prohibited such imagery in tobacco advertisements. Novello also fought to stop cigarette advertisements that targeted women, citing her concern over the fact that lung cancer had become the leading cancer death among women. She was especially critical of brands such as Virginia Slims, Satin, Ritz, and Capri that associated women's smoking with images of physical fitness and independence. As Novello explained to the American Medical News in November of 1990, "It is time that the self-serving, death-dealing tobacco industry and their soldiers of fortune, advertising agencies, stop blowing smoke in the face of America's women and children."

Novello also brought national attention to health problems that were especially prevalent to the Hispanic community, such as smoking and diabetes. As Surgeon General she convened a workshop on such issues that led to the development of a National Hispanic/Latino Health Initiative. When she left her position as Surgeon General she produced two public service announcements for the American Diabetes Association encouraging Hispanic Americans to get tested for diabetes. In 1994 she also edited a book on Hispanic/Latino health issues.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Grace Napolitano: 1936—: Politician to Richard (Wayne) Peck (1934-) Biography - CareerAntonia Novello: 1944—: Pediatrician Biography - Childhood Illness Led To Medical Career, Became Nation's Leading Doctor, Fought For America's Health