Up In Smoke: Vintage Cigarette Ads

"Do You Inhale?" never worked as a pick-up line for sea captains. But Lucky Strike wants you to think "how important it is to be certain your cigarette smoke is pure and clean."

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em

Just for kicks (’cause kicks just keep getting harder to find), let’s return to those carefree days before smoking was banned from bars and beaches and the public airwaves. Back when LS/MFT stood for “Luck Strike Means Fine Tobacco” and ABC meant “Always Buy Chesterfields.”

Hard as it is to imagine now, cigarette advertising used to be everywhere. Thirty years ago, who would’ve imagined that vintage cigarette ads would become expensive collectibles? All manner of cigarette ads used to feature a galaxy of movie and sports stars (including a future president) puffing away, enjoying pure smoking satisfaction.

A whole series could be written on Leo Burnett’s iconic Marlboro campaign alone, but for now let’s just take a few puffs and savor a sampling of tobacco campaigns of yore. Alternately poignant and pathetic, cool and comical, they’re like a window back in time. Back when smoking was KOOL.

From Cowboys to Cavemen

Star of "Hong Kong" and future president Ronald Reagan suggests stuffing stockings with cancer sticks. And be sure to buy the beautiful Christmas-card carton.

The smoker’s preferred brands of yesteryear included the manly Marlboro cowboy, the strangely phallic “Joe” Camel, KOOL, Lucky Strike, Chesterfield, Virginia “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” Slims, Winston (with stone-age spokestoon Fred Flintstone), Salem, Newport, Benson & Hedges, Tiparillo, Pall Mall, and more. (On a personal note, Pall Mall contributed to my mother’s death from cancer at age 54, although she only smoked for a few years in her early 20s.)

This smokin' hottie likes her cigarettes extra long.

One of my earliest memories is singing ad jingles with friends. Along with Cal Worthington’s car commercials (sung to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”), the other commercial jingle that we couldn’t get out of our heads was the song for Winston: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”

We would always change the lyrics of the second line to: “no filter, no flavor, just cotton-pickin’ toilet paper.” Somehow, the commercials never really made us want to smoke, because even in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, the educational push to inform the youth about the dangers of smoking was in full force.

The smokey trip down memory lane begins with a hilarious TV commercial for Winston featuring the Flintstones. One wag commenting on YouTube wondered why the brand name for these spots wasn’t changed to Winstone!

Beverly Hillbillies wrap cigarettes for Christmas

The choice of The Beatles: Marlboro

Chesterfield’s “Men of America” 1959

Chesterfield  hires “Expert Smokers”

Newport smoker starts hallucinating

Just in case you find yourself influenced by the preceding messages and don’t read the Surgeon General’s warning, it might be wise to end on a more somber note. Take it from two celebrity spokesmen who ultimately wished they never started the smoking habit.

Late Warnings from the Duke and the King

John Wayne for the American Cancer Society

John Wayne: A Cure For Cancer? “I Wouldn’t Bet My Life On It”

Yul Brynner, star of “The King and I,” and “Magnificent Seven,” among many other great films, offers a posthumous warning to would-be smokers. Ironically, Elmer Bernstein’s score from the “Magnificent Seven” became the theme music for the long-running Marlboro campaign.

Yul Brynner: “Just Don’t Smoke”

The logic of smoking advertisements: live a little by shortening your life.



4 responses to “Up In Smoke: Vintage Cigarette Ads

  1. The Yul Brynner spot [ahem] can be seen near the end of the spectacularly visceral Body Worlds exhibit alongside the numerous cadavers who clearly died of lung cancer as a result of smoking. The upside to this part of the exhibit is that there is a see through “Quit Now” display box filled with hundreds of cigarette packs from visitors who were compelled enough (thanks to the envelopment of the exhibits’ theme + Yul’s simply powerful public service announcement) to call it quits….hopefully for good.

  2. OMG. That Flinstones spot is horrifying!

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