The tobacco ads pictured here offer a window onto the history of cigarette marketing over the last century. Ads are an especially valuable source for exploring not only the promotion of the product, but the specific ways that the industry reacted to medical evidence implicating cigarettes as a cause of serious and deadly disease.

Click each image for a larger version.

The first Camel cigarette campaign of 1915 announced the arrival of national brands. Devised by N.W. Ayer Agency, the campaign created considerable anticipation and interest. (Credit: R.J. Reynolds, 1915) In the years before tobacco companies considered it culturally viable to advertise directly to women, they offered more subtle and suggestive notions to would-be women smokers. This Chesterfield advertising slogan initiated in 1926 reportedly led to an increase in sales of 40 percent. (Credit: Liggett and Myers, 1926) This ad, drawn by well-known pin-up artist John La Gatta, makes explicit the sexual allure that the companies sought to associate with their product. “Everybody’s doing it!” noted the ad.  (Credit: American Tobacco Company, 1932) The “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet” campaign touched off a major controversy in the early 1930s. Not only did the candy industry rise in protest, but a number of critics now suggested that American Tobacco was using the ads to solicit youngsters.  (Credit: American Tobacco Company, 1930)
By the early 1930s, advertisements portraying physicians suggested underlying public concerns about the health impacts of smoking.  (Credit: American Tobacco Company, 1930) These prominent ads of the late 1940s, pitched at both doctors and the general public, subtly sought to subvert emerging statistical and epidemiological knowledge by inviting doctors and patients to “make your own test.”  (Credit: R.J. Reynolds, 1946) This ad reflects the characteristic tradeoffs faced by smokers as new knowledge of the harms of smoking emerged.  (Credit: Lorillard, 1975)


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