We’ve come a long way in the history of cigarette advertising. Here’s a 1949 commercial for Camels.
The “More doctors smoke Camels” campaign was a response to concerns, starting in the 1940s, that smoking caused lung cancer and heart disease. There had been a series of articles on this in the widely read Reader’s Digest. What better reassurance that smoking was not harmful than an endorsement from doctors?
Did more doctors really smoke Camels? The American Medical Society and various organizations for medical specialties have annual meetings at hotels and resorts. RJ Reynolds, the manufacturer of Camels, sent their representatives to these meetings and arranged to leave packs of Camels in the hotel rooms of doctors. They then sent members of an “independent” polling organization to hotel lobbies, where pollsters asked doctors what brand of cigarette they were carrying. Sure enough, more doctors smoked Camels.
It’s what’s up front that counts
In the 1950s, in response to the increasingly conclusive evidence of the health dangers of cigarettes, the tobacco industry responded by adding filters. “It’s what’s up front that counts,” as the slogan for Winstons claimed. At the start of the decade, 10 percent of cigarettes had filters. By 1960, the market for filtered cigarettes had grown to 70 to 75 percent.
Here are two print ads for filtered cigarettes, one for Kent and one for Viceroy. One of the interesting things about the Kent micronite filter is that it originally contained asbestos. According to a post on a Discover Magazine blog, the man in the Viceroy ad is modeled after Edward Hubble, of Hubble telescope fame. (Hubble himself smoked a pipe). Both the Kent and Viceroy ads are designed to appeal to the consumer’s self-image as an intelligent and independent thinking person. Yes, we know you’re smart and concerned, but we’ve solved the problem with our filter. That’s why you should smoke our brand.
In my last post I mentioned an article from The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on the FDA and tobacco. That article includes an audio slide presentation. You can listen to stories, such as the one I just related about RJ Reynolds getting doctors to smoke Camels, while viewing a retrospective of cigarette advertising. The images start in the 1930s and continue through the Marlboro man. The voice-over is by the article’s author, Allan M. Brandt, a historian of the tobacco industry. It’s 13 minutes long, but well worth the time.
The NEJM article also includes an eight and a half minute video interview with Professor Brandt, where he discusses upcoming FDA regulation.
Cigarette advertising as art
For an extensive online collection of tobacco industry advertising, see the Stanford School of Medicine site: Images from the Tobacco Industry Campaign to Hide the Hazards of Smoking. It illustrates how tobacco companies used deceptive and false claims to reassure the public. The ads range from the late 1920s to the early 1950s.
In Stanford’s online presentation you can view images by theme: Doctors, Nurses, Calms your nerves, Instead of a sweet, Celebrities, Athletes. The Infants and children theme starts with “Gee, Mommy you sure enjoy your Marlboro.” This is from the days when Marlboro was an unfiltered brand for women with the slogan “Mild as May.” When Philip Morris added a filter, they masculinized the brand to attract men.
There’s a running print commentary for each image. There are no dates, but I assume the ads are presented in chronological order. You can also view the ads by brand, and there’s a list of slogans for each brand. It’s a great collection and a very well done website.
The Man Who Observes the Universe Smokes Viceroys, Discover Magazine, Science & Society blog, November 20, 2008
Print cigarette advertising with audio commentary by Allan M. Brandt (12:54 minutes) The New England Journal of Medicine, July 31, 2008, Vol. 359: 445-448, No. 5.
Video interview with Allan M. Brandt (8:35 minutes) The New England Journal of Medicine, July 31, 2008, Vol. 359: 445-448, No. 5.
The Stanford School of Medicine collection of tobacco industry advertising: Images from the Tobacco Industry Campaign to Hide the Hazards of Smoking