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The 1962 report of the Royal College of Physicians on smoking was a significant event in the history of smoking. Its significance was, however, more than smoking-specific: the RCP committee's appointment, its membership, its work, and the manner of its publication signified the changes within social medicine, and within the medical profession more generally, in postwar Britain. Doctors assumed the right to speak to the public and to government on matters of individual health, and a new risk-based public health was in the process of formation. A public health "policy community" formed, and governments began to assume responsibility for advising the public on health matters. The use of research in the report, and of social research in response to it, was important in the emergence of evidence-based medicine within public health. The paper argues for greater attention to the change in public health epitomized by the report in current debates on the concept of the 1960s "permissive society." It was the harbinger of a new style of "coercive permissiveness" in health.