However, smoking is in decline, because the evidence of smoking’s harms became undeniable over time. At a certain point, indifference to tobacco’s dangers peaked – long before actual tobacco use peaked. Peak indifference marks a turning point. Once the number of people who care about your issue begins to grow on its own, without your needing to wheedle them about confronting long-term harms, you can switch tactics for something much easier. Rather than trying to get people to care about the issue, now you need to get them to do something about it.
The anti-smoking movement made great strides with this. They made sure that people who had cancer – or whose loved ones did – understood that tobacco’s use wasn’t a blameless, emergent phenomenon. They named names and published documents, showing exactly who conspired to destroy lives with cancer in order to enrich themselves. They surfaced and highlighted the risks to non-smokers’ lives from smoking: not just second-hand smoke, but also the public health burdens and the terrible losses felt by survivors after their loved ones had perished. They demanded architectural changes – bans on smoking – and legal ones, and market ones, and normative ones. Peak indifference let those activists move from convincing to fighting back.