The Early Days of Cigarette Ads
May 31, 2012 -- Today marks "World No Tobacco Day," an annual awareness event started by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to WHO, tobacco is responsible for six million deaths worldwide each year.
Why are tobacco companies still able to market a product that's so famously bad for our health? On top of selling a product that's addictive by nature, cigarette companies have also benefited from more than a century's worth of advertising campaigns.
This 19th-century show card used to advertise a cigarette brand appears commonly featured military men, athletes, celebrities and more to promote a particular brand.
The French Know Smoking
Although technically not a tobacco retailer, JOB does manufacture cigarette rolling papers. And if there's one company that has truly turned cigarette advertising into an art form, it's this French firm.
This Art Nouveau painting, inspired by Michelangelo's Sibyls, by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha attempts to make smoking as seductive as the goddess who appears in the photo. The smoke that rises from the cigarette has the same nearly texture as the her long, flowing hair.
Like other cigarette ads of the time, this image invokes a sense of class and sophistication to the act of smoking. It wasn't until the turn of the 20th century that cigarettes became the dominant form of tobacco consumption. Prior to that, pipe tobacco was dominant among the upper class, and chewing tobacco was popular among working classes.
Although the popular AMC television series "Mad Men" might lead viewers to believe the Lucky Strike slogan, "It's Toasted," was invented in the 1960s, the phrase actually dates back to 1917 and was prominently featured in Lucky Strike advertising for decades.
In this advertisement created in the 1930s, a playboy tries to win the attention of a young woman by finding common ground based on their shared cigarette brand. "I like what you like" implies that not only do high-status men prefer Lucky Strike, but so do the women they'd hope to attract.
"More doctors smoke Camels."
The lack of scientific study surrounding tobacco use didn't keep the average smoker from realizing the health consequences of cigarette smoking. It doesn't take a medical degree to know that smoking regularly can have adverse effects on the respiratory system, even if the long-term effects of tobacco use weren't fully understood.
In the 1950s, tobacco companies began to make bold health claims about their product that simply wasn't true. They even featured endorsements from doctors supporting the alleged health benefits of one brand over another.
This ad from Camel cigarettes proudly proclaims: "More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette."
If there's any doubt that tobacco companies actively marketed their product to children, this 1930s-era cigarette ad featuring a smoking Santa Claus should dispel that notion.
Santa insists that Lucky Strike brand cigarettes are easy on his throat, unlike other brands, so he can, "Ho, ho, ho!" as he smokes, smokes, smokes his way from house to house on Christmas Eve. Instead of leaving milk and cookies out for Santa, maybe all he needs is an ash tray.
Even Halloween was a perfectly acceptable occasion to fire up a stogie, according to the makers of Old Gold cigarettes in 1953.
Unlike other brands, Old Gold resisted making phony health claims in this ad: "We're tobacco men... not medicine men. OLD GOLD cures just one thing: the world's best tobacco."
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The Malboro Man
Perhaps one of the most famous advertising icons of the 20th century, the Marlboro Man was used to convey a rugged masculinity to what at the time considered a feminine product: filtered cigarettes.
Prior to 1954, when Marlboro cigarettes first began their new campaign, most tobacco sold came in the form of an unfiltered cigarette. Filtered smokes were more of a novelty up until then.
Intended to capitalize on post-World War II-era machismo, the Marlboro Man originally was depicted in a number of different professions. Gradually, however, the cowboy version became the singular image of the Marlboro Man. In doing so, the mascot turned what had been an obscure brand among many into one of the most popular cigarette products worldwide, according to NPR.
"Winston Tastes Good"
"Winston tastes good like a cigarette should."
Introduced in 1954 when Winston cigarettes first debuted, this simple slogan helped transform Winston into the most popular cigarette brand for six years between 1966 and 1972. The ads were so catchy that the slogan is still remembered today, even though Winston has since fallen in popularity. Advertising Age even named the slogan eighth in their top 10 list of advertising jingles of the 20th century.
Like other brands of the day, Winston wasn't above marketing to younger audiences. During the 1950s and 1960s, the company even paid to have characters from the popular cartoon The Flintstones smoking and promoting the cigarette brand.
"It's Only Natural"
Tobacco manufacturers first tried to get an edge by claiming they had the "finest" product available. Then, when claims of the potential health hazards emerged, they attempted to promote their brands as the healthiest. By the 1970s, cigarette makers tried a different tactic, with different brands claiming they had the most "natural" ingredients on the market.
Salem led the charge with a series of ads featuring smokers in outdoors settings. This 1967 ad features a couple taking a smoke break after a long hike with the slogan, "It's only natural."
The "natural" branding also came with a new additive to give cigarettes a different flavor: menthol.
Over the decades, tobacco companies have succeeded in instilling their logos and brands into popular culture. But anti-tobacco advocates have been able to turn the tables on cigarette manufacturers by using their own advertising campaigns against them.
In posters, billboards and magazine for Camel cigarettes, Joe Camel is often depicted living the high life, hustling pool, shooting dice and schmoozing with women. In this image, however, Joe Camel has been recast as a hospital patient suffering from lung cancer following a lifetime of cigarette smoking.
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