"Most Americans first learned about crack cocaine through media stories, which usually disclosed tragic details of public figures’ addictions. Coverage of the dangers associated with the use of all forms of cocaine intensified in 1979 with the emergence of the practice of smoking cocaine, colloquially referred to as 'freebasing.'63 Rolling Stone magazine focused on smokeable forms of cocaine, calling it the 'top-of-the-line model of the Cadillac of drugs,' yet cautioned that 'freebasing seemed to be much more dangerous than snorting.'64 In 1980, when comedian Richard Pryor sustained third-degree burns after reportedly using a butane torch to light cocaine freebase, newspapers capitalized on the incident.65 Outlets including The Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, and The Boston Globe ran stories about the new trend of freebasing cocaine.66
"In 1985, The New York Times became the first major media outlet to use the term 'crack cocaine,'67 and a follow-up article appeared on the front page less than two weeks later, detailing crack cocaine and its intensely addictive quality.68 By 1986, major news outlets had declared crack cocaine usage to be in 'epidemic proportions.'69"


Beaver, Alyssa L., "Getting a Fix on Cocaine Sentencing Policy: Reforming the Sentencing Scheme of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986," Fordham Law Review (New York, NY: Fordham University School of Law, April 2010) Vol. 78, No. 5, p. 2539.