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May 24, 2019

Selling Cigarettes With Medical Science From the 1930s

By the 1930s, cigarette smoking was a widespread habit, popular with Americans from all social classes and professions. Even many physicians smoked. Cigarette companies often advertised smoking as a way to stay happy and healthy, promoting cigarettes, as seen here, for the nerves and for digestion.


However, increasing anxiety about the negative health effects of smoking led some people to question the safety of cigarettes. In hopes of reassuring consumers that their product was safe, many tobacco companies made advertisements that featured pictures of physicians or testimonials claiming that physicians endorsed their brand. Because medical doctors were at the time seen as trustworthy and deserving of respect, the incorporation of doctors into advertisements gave the impression that cigarettes did not pose a large health risk and lent the tobacco companies some credibility.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, tobacco advertising strategies marshalled a tone of medical authority of their own, marketing various brands as healthier than their competitors based on scientific studies and chemical analysis. Tobacco companies continued to use physicians in advertising campaigns until mid-century medical research began to illuminate the many health risks associated with cigarette smoking.

Below are some tobacco ads associated with medical science from the 1930s through the 1950s:

Lucky Strike campaign using doctors to advertise cigarettes.

Camels are endorsed by salesman John K. Speer, x-ray technician Audrey D. Covert, and a sound engineer, as well as a greyhound dog.

“It’s a psychological fact: Pleasure helps your disposition;” endorsements from John Wayne, Teresa Wright, Alan Ladd, Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith, Joanne Dru, and Gene Nelson

Young woman trying to ask her boss for a raise, but she is having difficulty communicating it because of her smoker’s hack. Bottom of advertisement has penguin holding carton of Kool cigarettes, ads for other accessories, coupon in every box.

Office manager Olive Tucker endorses Camels, alongside billiards champion Welker Cochran and several tobacco planters.

Johnny holds up a sign that you’re safer smoking Philip Morris.

A young woman and an older man with a leaf of dried tobacco in the sunshine.

Penguin dressed as life guard and holding life preserver while smoking a Kool cigarette. Advertisement also says “They are soothing to your throat...” At bottom there are additional smoking accessories, coupons in every carton.

A flight attendant is offered cigarettes as she boards a TWA airliner.

Test pilot Marshall Headle endorses Camels.

A close-up diagram of a new filter and a man smoking in front of a tobacco drying shed.

Johnny points and calls over large text.

(via Yale University)



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