Tobacco has a long history in the United States, and before they acquired their incredibly ill, irresponsible reputation, they were among the heaviest advertised products in the States. The Marlboro Man, Joe Camel; these guys were cigarette rock stars back in the day! However, cigarette ads go way back (more than 200 years!), to the earliest days of the US, in 1789, when P. Lorillard and Company ran a snuff and tobacco products ad in the New York daily paper.
This trend continued on for the next 150 years, and in 1868 the first large scale tobacco ad in the US appeared. It featured the cigarettes of Bull Durham and emphasized the ease and simplicity of “rolling your own” cigarettes.
By the late 1870’s, color lithography was unveiled and it changed the face of advertising. Color enabled better pictures, which meant better ads, overall communication. Color lithographs were used in cigarette packaging and on cigarette cards, which were part of the marketing strategy, which was rather elementary until the onset of WWII. This was the onset of a new era for cigarette use, and is very much when cigarette usage was solidly catapulted into the mainstream because they were included in the C-rations of American soldiers. During this time, many cigarette companies actually sent cigarettes to soldiers for free, resulting in a monumental effect of getting the soldiers completely addicted to tobacco, creating brand loyalty, and driving sales to all time highs. During this time period, marketing of cigarettes knew no boundaries; doctors as well as famous men and women endorsed them, and even children were used to help lure in customers in advertisements. This was the heyday of cigarettes as fashion statements.
In the 1950’s and ‘60’s, cigarette ads were all over television. Until the 1970’s, tobacco ads were totally legal, and you couldn’t turn on the TV set without cigarettes being sold to you, especially if you were young; a large majority of the marketing was geared towards the youth, with ads even being run during cartoons. They were an absolute study case of false advertising; prior to 1964, cigarette companies made all sorts of false claims of their cigarettes being safe from health risks. People were encouraged to “play safe with Philip Morris,” and were reassured of the safety of cigarettes because “more doctors smoke Camels”. The advertising was all about sales, and all about distorting the truth about their health effects, and keeping the truth from the public.
Things really began to change in 1970, when the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was passed. This was the beginning of the end, and the end for the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio occurred. As a result of this ban, cigarette advertising was restricted to printed materials such as magazines, newspapers and billboards. By 1999, the American public saw cigarette billboard advertisements get replaced with bold anti-smoking ads.
As time passed, cigarette advertising has seen even greater restrictions. 2010 saw the passing of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which has prevented tobacco companies from sponsoring music, sports, and other cultural events. The act goes so far as to prevent cigarette logos to appear on associated event products, logos, T-shirts, hats, and other forms of display. The crackdown has been aggressive, yet it has sparked major change.
Cigarette use is at an all-time low, and smokers continue to move beyond tobacco, embracing electronic cigarettes, which have proven to be an awesome alternative to their tobacco counterparts! It’s a guarantee that the industry will undergo many evolutions as time passes, however it is immensely interesting to see the changes that have occurred in the cigarette industry over time. One thing is for sure: the era of the e-cigarette is here!