From 'Medicinal' To Dangerous: Cigarettes Through The Years : The Picture ShowBelieve it or not, cigarettes used to be billed as 'medicinal.' Take a look at vintage ads that show the evolution of public perception.
From 'Medicinal' To Dangerous: Cigarettes Through The Years
Many of the cigarette ads from the last century make claims that seem laughable today.
In bold colors and vintage fonts, they boast that cigarettes can help us stay thin, cure a cough and digest our food. They won't irritate our throats, make our voices raspy or affect our athletic performance.
Though Marlboro is strongly associated with the hypermasculine Marlboro Man today, for many years it was seen as a woman's brand. Here, the company is likely appealing to the maternal instincts of women smokers. Circa early 1950s.
This contemporary European ad features "superlight" cigarettes. The terms "light," "superlight" and "ultralight" are meant to convey a healthier, low-tar and low-tobacco alternative to regular cigarettes, but the words have no legal meaning.
This ad from a 19th century London newspaper advertised one brand of so-called medicinal cigarettes. "Medicinal cigarettes" or "asthma cigarettes" were billed as effective in treating asthma, hay fever, bad breath, head colds, canker sores and bronchial irritations, among other ailments.
Until the late 1920s, it was not socially acceptable for women to smoke in public. As a result, advertisers during this period avoided depicting women smoking, often showing them instead looking longingly at a man with a cigarette. Circa World War I.
Christmas motifs were a common thread in tobacco advertising for decades. Circa World War I.
Images of doctors and nurses were commonly used in tobacco advertisements from the 1920s. The practice was outlawed in the 1950s. 1927.
For years, tobacco companies have advertised cigarettes as a way for women to stay thin. Decades after the slogan "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet" was developed, Virginia Slims advertisements still featured slim, fashionable women to convey the same idea. Late 1920s.
This 1933 ad touts the honesty of the featured cigarette company. Cigarette ads like this one often appeared in the Sunday comics.
Tobacco companies advertised menthol cigarettes as being soothing on the throat, and claimed that they refreshed taste buds after years of smoking. Another series of Spud-brand advertisements urged smokers to switch to their mentholated brand if they had a cold, a smoker's cough or a hoarse voice. Late 1930s.
This 1940s Camel ad was likely meant to target young smokers.
Tobacco endorsements from athletes date back to the second half of the 19th century, when baseball cards began to be inserted into packages of cigarettes. Into the late 1940s, ads featured athletes claiming that a certain brand of cigarettes didn't hurt their athletic performance. 1947.
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Today, most of us are well-versed in the dangers of smoking. But vintage cigarette ads can show a timeline of America's changing perceptions of smoking — and how tobacco companies adapted their ads in reaction to ever-increasing knowledge. An exhibit at the Stanford School of Medicine takes a look at the evolution of these ads through the years.
Read more after the jump!
Around the turn of the century, companies produced so-called medicinal cigarettes, which were billed as effective in treating asthma, hay fever, bad breath, head colds, canker sores and bronchial irritations.
As health concerns increased over the years, though, tobacco companies tried to carve out more specific niches to market their cigarettes. Concerns about throat irritation began to rise in the 1930s, so tobacco companies focused on marketing cigarettes as "nonirritating" and "mild." Doctors and nurses made frequent cameos.
In the mid-1950s, tobacco companies began to realize that making health claims in advertisements was becoming too risky, and specific health claims began to disappear from ads. Advertisers began focusing on features of their cigarettes that made them less dangerous than their competitors': filters, low tar and menthol.
Alyse Lancaster, a professor of advertising at the University of Miami, says that in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, advertisers increasingly genderized their product, used targeted marketing campaigns like the Joe Camel cartoon, and focused on aligning their brand with an active, carefree lifestyle that went against what experts were saying smoking did to the body.
The truth about the health effects of tobacco has become more commonly accepted, and restrictions on tobacco advertising have grown. But along with the positive effects of increased regulation, a small loss was suffered by those who simply like to look at bright colors and vintage fonts: Cigarette advertisements lost some of their glamour and artistry.
Those advertisements may not have been the whole truth, but at least they were pretty.
All images courtesy of Stanford University. These advertisements are part of a Stanford School of Medicine exhibit called Not a Cough in a Carload: Images from the Tobacco Industry Campaign to Hide The Hazards of Smoking. The online collection can be found here.