Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Marlboro Baby: Cigarette Propaganda from the "Good Old Days"

When was the last time you saw a baby pitch cigarettes?
Before cigarette smoking was determined to cause lung and other types of cancers, it was promoted by Madison Avenue in many different and creative ways. According to a report in Time magazine, Ridley Scott, who was a commercial director before he went on to feature films, said that cigarette ads were the most fun to make, because they were all image. One can only imagine the meetings and brainstorming sessions that resulted in the above ads for Marlboro cigarettes in the early 1950s. Long before there was a Marlboro Man there was an adorable little Marlboro baby!

It seems (if this image was not created via Photoshop) that you can purchase your own Marlboro Baby shirt!
Well, if Santa Claus smokes, then shouldn't everyone?
The holidays are just around the corner. Worried about catching a cold before your Christmas shopping is finished? You can "guard against throat-scratch" by copying Santa and lighting up a Pall Mall. Kris Kringle enjoys "the smooth smoking of fine tobaccos" as he gets all the toys ready in his workshop. All cigarettes advertised back in the 1950s seem to have been "mild" and "smooth." When was the last time you "let a carton of Pall Malls say 'Merry Christmas' for you"?

Now if your doctor smokes Camels, then they must be good for you!
Wouldn't you just get a warm, fuzzy feeling all over if your doctor lit up a cigarette during your annual exam? Back in 1946, when the Mad Men on Madison Avenue were sketching this one with different headlines, the link between smoking and lung cancer wasn't totally set in stone. Ads such as the above were created to reassure consumers about a product known even then as "coughin' nails." What better spokesman than a local doctor? Would he lie to you, Mr. and Mrs. Consumer? The medical community of 1946 did nothing to combat such advertising. Why should they? Everybody smoked. Notice the "T-Zone" in the ad--for "taste" and "throat." Notice how happy the smokers look.

Did you ever have to make up your mind? It seems that home run hitter and New York Yankee Mickey Mantle did not! Above he appears as spokesman for two different brands: Viceroy and Camel. I bet that you didn't know that "many of the Yanks smoke Camels"! I wonder what brand of whiskey they drank in the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium? Back then Mantle was known as the "Commerce Comet," and was only one of several sports heroes to endorse cigarettes when these ads appeared in 1957 (left) and 1953. If so many "Yanks smoke Camels" then how did they win all of those World Series? Perhaps the other teams smoked cigarettes that were not "richer tasting..." or "mild and swell tasting!"

Next time you and the little lady take in a baseball game, do what this couple does!

What could be cuter than cartoon characters making smoking seem "fun"?
Imagine being a child back in the 1950s and early 1960s. You're watching TV and all of a sudden your favorite characters are in a commercial smoking cigarettes! Now of course the cigarette companies have always claimed that they don't market their product to children. Would those giant corporations lie to you and me?

Here are three ads for cigarettes featuring the Flintstones.

Wait! Don't leave yet! Take a look at capitalist advertising inspired by Stalinist propaganda!

Copyright (C) Eric Brothers 2011. All Rights Reserved.


  1. ...and I quote the modern sage Penn Jillette, "Hey kids, don't smoke. Unless you want to look cool."

  2. When I was an undergrad many years ago, one could smoke in class. And on an airplane the stewardesses (that's what the servers were called in those days) would pass out free cigarettes in cute little packs that only held 3 or 4 cigs. As for LS/MFT (Luck Strike means fine tobacco), we had a PG version when we were kids: Loose straps mean flabby tits. Hey, we were 11. What did we know about sophisticated humor, or about tits? And finally, the slogan "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should," was seized upon by pedantic types who claimed it should be, "Winston tastes good AS a cigarette should." I miss those days, and I miss smoking. Always did enjoy it, although I'm glad I quit. F5

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