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July 8, 2024

“CUT IT OUT YOU FOOL” – Anti-Smoking Sign Outside of Zion, Illinois, ca. 1920s

Road sign in field, stating that: “No Gentleman Will Use Tobacco in This City,” and “Cut It Out You Fool.” These photos were taken outside of Zion, Illinois from the early 1920s, at a time when smoking was generally considered healthy.

It wasn’t marketed as healthy until the late 1930s and 1940s. Alternatively tobacco wasn’t considered necessarily unhealthy either, just more “gross” and smelly and largely considered a novelty item. Before the marketing campaigns of the 1940s, the ads and marketing was mostly just artsy logos with brands behind them, mostly aimed at poorer folks until the turn of the century when ads began depicting wealthy men and Gibson girls smoking.

No claims of health benefits specifically, just mostly about good flavors and racist depictions for humor purposes. Cigarettes became more popular around the American Civil War, which led to an increase in “tar lung” occurrences as the years went on. Studies had been done on lung cancer and its causes since the 1700s which is when the first case was properly documented. Lung cancer was studied intensely on any reported cases because it was so rare. But German scientists in the 1910s began linking tobacco field workers and lung tumors with one another, assuming that tobacco dust was the culprit- and eventually looking into smoked tobacco. But it was considered inconclusive until the 1920s when more cases began showing up in cigarette smokers around the globe and there was a growing interest in this when scientists took a larger interest in tobacco users and did so by using animal testing vs tobacco juice and fumes (poor animals).

It was a confirmed link in men by the 1940s and 1950s but cigarette and tobacco companies fought hard against these claims and misguidedly used doctor endorsements to claim health benefits and the filter was introduced. So it was known to some degree that it was harmful by WWI, but the exact side effects not widely known.


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