People who remember when tobacco advertising was a prominent part of the media landscape — and others who recall what they learned in Marketing 101 — probably recollect that actors like Barbara Stanwyck and athletes like Mickey Mantle routinely endorsed cigarettes.
But how about doctors and other medical professionals, proclaiming the merits of various cigarette brands? Or politicians? What about cartoon characters in cigarette ads? Or children? Babies? Even Santa Claus?
The following images and texts were taken from the detailed Stanford University research into the impact of Tobacco Advertising.
It is shocking to see the plethora of tobacco brands which incorporated images of infants in their advertisements, but these images had multiple values to tobacco advertisers. For one, depictions of babies in cigarette ads reinforced the respectability of smoking as a part of normal family life, a perception often promulgated by the tobacco industry. Further, the images of youngsters tended to send a reassuring message to consumers about the healthfulness of the product. Babies, especially, represent purity, vibrancy, and life concepts which can be dangerous when tied to tobacco products. Finally, these depictions of infants were an obvious ploy to attract females to smoking as part of the industry s campaign to expand the pool of women smokers.
Children have played a huge role in tobacco advertising over the decades, and images of children fulfill multiple purposes for tobacco advertisers. Cigarette firms have long used “pictures of health” and “perfect family projection” in cigarette ads to foster smoking as an acceptable, healthy lifestyle, bringing happiness and prosperity to the families. Ads like these also want consumers to associate smoking with outdoor sport and recreational activities such as tennis, bicycling, sailing and horseback riding.
Gift for Daddy
Depictions of children with their mothers or fathers in cigarette ads have the enormous ability to reinforce the respectability of smoking as a part of normal family life. Because this perception is often promulgated by the tobacco industry, it is no surprise that many tobacco advertisements took advantage of Father’s Day. Indeed, many print ads, particularly from the Baby Boomer era, depict children gifting cigarette cartons to their fathers. The images of youngsters worked to send a reassuring message to consumers about the healthfulness of the product, as youngsters represent purity, vibrancy, and life concepts which can be dangerous when tied to tobacco products. An R.J. Reynolds ad from 1953, for example, depicts a woman and her two children ready to surprise Dad with Cavaliers. The accompanying text speaks directly to children, essentially selling the tobacco products to kids: Make your Dad s eyes light up as he lights up his favorite smoke with love from you to him on Father s Day 1953
Cherished Icons can be found in a number of Tobacco Ads. Indeed, the tobacco industry has made every effort to associate itself with noble institutions, patriotic themes, and cultural icons that connote respectability. Among the innumerable examples are George Washington, Mt. Rushmore, British royalty, the US flag, the Statue of Liberty, soldiers, astronauts, and even the beloved family pet. Even more prevalent were cultural symbols which brought to mind happy times and celebration, particularly Santa Claus. There were numerable examples of ads featuring jolly old Saint Nick puffing away with obvious pleasure on a cigarette, cigar or pipe.
Lucky Strike, 1935
Sources and Additional Information: