In the first ad below, smoking is positioned as a way to get "immediate relief" from such conditions as asthma, bronchitis, hay-fever, influenza and shortness of breath. One ad went so far as to promote smoking as a way to "breathe freely" and "keep yourself fit." There is a myth, I have occasionally heard from smokers, that quitting smoking is dangerous and can bring about a dreaded medical diagnosis. Perhaps this myth originates in the approach taken in these early ads that smoking somehow promotes health or protects you from illness. This notion may unfortunately be reinforced by the reality that some people wait so long to quit that they already are in physical distress, or in an advanced state of smoking-caused illness. Waiting to be diagnosed with an illness before deciding to quit is more likely the reality behind the myth that quitting smoking makes you sick.
Another series of ads offers to help the smoker with the stress of modern life, to learn to "let uplight up" to "soothe the nerves." It offers the implicit message: smoking helps you give your "nerves a rest" to cope with "high-pressure," with the "fast-moving" and "high tension" of modern times. Of course this is all believable because the experience of smoking is heightened by its association with fun, sociable things, like being with friends, drinking alcohol or coffee, winding down after a meal, work breaks and time-off.
Cigarettes have also been recommended (prescribed?) by trusted members of the health professions. The following series of ads shows Claudette Colbert as a nurse giving out cigarettes to a group of smiling army boys. The ad promises to "keep 'em satisfied with Chesterfield...when the going's hot...with more smoking pleasure than you've ever known." Another ad shows a dentist in a white coat with a big Viceroy cigarette "filter tip" stating "As Your Dentist I Would Recommend Viceroys." Another ad boasts: "According to a recent Nationwide survey, More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette." According to this ad, the Turkish-domestic blend is good for your "T-Zone" a term covering both taste and throat. In case the potential customer had any doubts about whether it is safe to smoke the ad is very reassuring: "The doctor is a scientist, a diplomat and a sympathetic friendly human being all in one, no matter how long and hard his schedule." These ads used the prestige of the nursing, dental and medical professions to certify to the perceived healthfulness of smoking cigarettes.
For those customers with continuing doubts about the safety of smoking as a pastime, the ads had ready reassurance such as "toasting" the tobacco or adding "filters." One ad states: "Beware of irritation...Toasting removes dangerous irritants that cause irritation and coughing." Another ad states that "sworn records show that among independent tobacco experts...Luckies have twice as many exclusive smokers as all other cigarettes combined." This ad shows Dolores Del Rio, a movie star and singer, explaining that this brand is good for her business because ..."I take no chances on an irritated throat. No matter how much I use my voice in acting, I always find Luckies gentle." The headline for this ad is: "Her Throat Insured for $50,000." Another well-known personality and voice in his day, Walter Winchell also promoted Luckies as being "toasted...your throat protectionagainst irritationagainst cough." He says: "Luckies are kind to your throat...I know...I've smoked them for eleven years." Another movie star and singer Carole Lombard also added her testimony: "When I had to sing in a recent picture...I considered giving up smoking. But my voice teacher said I needn't if I select a light smokeLuckies."
In another series of ads, the tobacco industry rolled out the benefits of "filter tips." The ad, featuring movie star Barbara Stanwyck, claims the filter "selects and removes the heavy particles, leaving you a light and mild smoke." It also removes "one-third of the smoke" and gives "much less nicotine" but offers "much more flavor and aroma."
In another ad, a man with glasses on states "the man who thinks for himself knows...a thinking man's filter...a smoking man's taste." This man, the ad goes on: "knows the difference between fact and fancy. Trusts judgement, not opinion." Another example of the use of the filter to reassure smokers was an ad, which again sought the support of a group of highly credible citizens: scientists and educators. The ad states: "All Over America...More scientists and educators smoke Kent with the Micronite filter than other other cigarette." Unfortunately for Kent smokers the micronite filter was later found to contain asbestos as one of its ingredients.
The tobacco industry's ads also touted cigarettes psychological benefits as a source of pleasure for men, and a way to "steady their nerves," improve their mood and keep a good disposition. They aimed at women (and men) who wanted to keep their figures, and as a way to avoid any dreaded weight gain as they age. At the same time, the cigarette was touted to improve digestion and enjoyment of food. One ad, using movie star Gene Nelson, states: "It's a psychological fact: Pleasure helps your disposition." It went on: "How's your disposition today? Mad as a wet hen? That's natural when little annoyances ruffle you...That's why everyday pleasures, like smoking for instance, are important..." Another series of ads showed the menacing "future shadow" of overweight lurking behind the fit and youthful image of a male tennis player and advised: "When tempted to overindulge reach for a Lucky instead." Smoking, of course, was a way for women "to keep a slender figure." In another ad the tag line was: No one can deny....Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." Different versions of this ad used the same approach, designed to scare women into smoking. They included such text as:
"The heartless shadow that threatens the modern figure...avoid that future shadow." Another ad shows an obese shadow behind a slimmer woman on a diving board and ominously asks" "Is this you five years from now?" Finally the after meal cigarette was also promoted in advertisements showing fashionable Hollywood diners lighting up after a meal with such tag lines as "for digestions sakesmoke Camels." It explains: "Camels stimulate digestion in a pleasant natural way...increase alkalinity...The human digestion responds unfavorably to nervousness, hurry, and strain. It is definitely encouraged by smoking camels."
What happens to the promises in the ads when the biology of the modern cigarette starts to take hold? As the smoker progresses from recreation to addiction, a new reality sneaks up. Now the smoker develops a need for the cigarette itself (See Box 1 for a comparison between tobacco withdrawal and the symptoms of clinical depression. See Box 2 for additional emotional features of tobacco withdrawal). All of a sudden, there is an empty or hungry feeling for the cigarette itself, an urge or a craving to smoke which is relieved by smoking, in most cases many times a day. The individual develops a mental compulsion to smoke based on the need to ward off the stress of smoking addiction itself. Now the cultural belief that smoking helps cope with modern life merges with the individual belief, based on dependency on tobacco, that they can't be comfortable without smoking.
The fantasy of smoking presented in the ads takes on a physical and emotional reality, and the smoker is now afraid to be far from their cigarette. The smoker becomes preoccupied in an anxious way with planning for their cigarettes, when and where they can smoke etc. In other words, once the addiction sneaks up on the individual, the ad turns out to be true. The smoker does need the cigarette for relief; only the relief the smoker seeks is from the artificial stress imposed by the chemical addiction to the tobacco product itself.
The original reasons to smoke offered in the ads now become rationalizations to explain compulsive not recreational smoking. The smoker reports "I need to smoke because"... of stress, tension, family problems, fear of weight gain and overeating, to manage my anger and keep good relations with others etc...
Overlap between tobacco withdrawal and clinical depression (DSM IV criteria):
Dysphoric or depressed mood
Increased appetite or weight gain
Additional emotional features of tobacco withdrawal (DSM IV criteria):
Acknowledgements: Not a Cough in a CarloadImages from the Tobacco Industry Campaign to Hide the Hazards of Smoking. Collection of Stanford University, created by Robert K. Jackler, M.D., Robert N. Proctor, Ph.D., Laurie M. Jackler and Rachel Jackler.