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In pictures: Vintage US cigarette advertising
From Santa and pets, to Ronald Reagan and babies, tobacco companies have tried all angles to sell cigarettes.

FOR THE FIRST half of the 20th century, tobacco advertising was virtually unregulated. In that environment, companies used cigarette spokespeople that are laughable to modern audiences. Even doctors and babies sold cigarettes.

Early 20th century tobacco ads, for example, claimed that cigarettes were a cure-all product that could help smokers lose weight and ease the symptoms of asthma.

In the 1960s consumers became more aware that smoking leads to cancer, and in 1965 US legislation was passed which mandated that cigarette packs and advertisements carry warnings.

More recently, a number of state authorities and governments – including Ireland’s – have banned smoking in certain places such as pubs and clubs, or have seriously clamped down on the industry’s advertising.

Here are some of the ads which were used to promote smoking in the US before that 1965 legislation:

In pictures: Vintage US cigarette advertising
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  • In the 1920s, tobacco companies used physicians to vouch for their products.

    In 1929, Philip Morris was said its cigarette was "recognized by eminent medical authorities for its advantages to the nose and throat.” (Quote: Tobacco Explained)
  • In 1929, Lucky Strike claimed "many prominent athletes smoke Luckies all day long with no harmful effects to wind or physical condition."

    In the 1950s, Camel used baseball star Hank Aaron (pictured) to sell cigarettes. (Quote: Tobacco Explained)
  • In 1933, the Journal of the American Medical Association published its first cigarette ad for Chesterfield, a practice that continued for 20 years. Camel ran its "More doctors smoke Camels" campaign.

  • Tobacco companies looked for Olympic athletes to promote their products. The claim that Camels relieved fatigue and renewed energy were found deceptive in 1939. (Info from Tobacco Explained:

  • No one was out of bounds for big tobacco. Chesterfield used Granny to sell cigarettes...

  • ...and kids. Nothing is more heartwarming than a kid holding a carton of Chesterfields.

  • Phillip Morris compared itself to being a new mother to target women.

  • Marlboro used babies to communicate the calming nature of its product and to appeal to women.

  • Winston sponsored the Flintstones and made ads that showed Wilma, Fred, Barney, and Betty lighting up.

  • Old Gold used puppies to sell cigarettes.

  • While Fleetwood claimed that each puff of smoke cleaned itself, like a kitten.

  • Even actor (and future president) Ronald Reagan hawked cigarettes.

  • Many companies showed Santa smoking in seasonal ads.

- Additional reporting by Susan Ryan

Published with permission from
Business Insider