Why does smoking cigarettes look cool? Everyone knows cigarettes are bad for your health, thanks to extensive anti-tobacco campaigns and health warnings. But this wasn't always common knowledge. The cigarette industry was (and still is) an incredibly powerful group of companies who put billions of dollars into very convincing advertisements.
Advertising, by its very nature and intent, can be incredibly persuasive. Just look at the man who was able to get Colombian guerilla fighters to put down their guns, using ad champaigns that involved Christmas lights. The tobacco industry, or "Big Tobacco" as it's known, has spent nearly two centuries honing their promotional skills. Cigarette marketing campaigns has evolved over the decades, changing their strategies to fit the times, and Big Tobacco is still getting people to smoke despite all the aggressive health warnings that advise against it.
Smoking Is the Number One Preventable Cause Of Death In America, So Why Do People Keep Doing It?
It isn't news that smoking kills – but, seriously, it really kills. Smoking is the number one preventable killer in the United States. It beats obesity, car accidents, guns, and drugs. According to the CDC, about 443,000 Americans die from smoking cigarettes each year.
So what's the deal with people who still start anyway? Smoking appeals to so many narcissistic desires before you become addicted to nicotine and can't stop doing it even when you want to. It's edgy. It's cosmopolitan (all the French do it). It's everywhere in pop culture.
Oh, and Big Tobacco has been aggressively marketing it for 200 years.
Ads Originally Had Doctors Claiming Cigarettes Were Good For You
In the early days of cigarette promotion, before morbidly flashy warnings telling you smoking kills, there were smiling doctors holding packs of Camels. These ads, popular from the 1930s all the way through the '50s, were usually fully colored magazine ads, depicting happy doctors in their pristine white coats promoting cigarettes. According to the ads, "more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette."
That wasn't too surprising considering how popular smoking used to be. A North Carolina man who grew up around tobacco farms, Barry Blackwell, remembered that the government gave him a pack of cigarettes with his rations after he joined the Marines – and his doctor examined him with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
Trading Cards Were The Earliest Form Of Cigarette Advertisement, And They Date Back To The 19th Century
Tobacco trade cards are the oldest form of advertisement for tobacco companies. They were initially introduced by French tradesmen and became crucial to the tobacco advertising industry. The cards transitioned from black-and-white to full-color, with pictures of "sports heroes, beautiful women, and iconic individuals," as well as Indian chiefs.
These images were used to stiffen the cigarette pack by giving it added stability and to cultivate brand loyalty. They also allowed for brands to incentivize their customers to buy only their cigarettes (think collector's cards). However, the trading cards were pushed aside in the 1940s when more modern techniques such as radio became more popular.
In 2007, a notable, record-holding cigarette card was sold for $2,800,000.
Ads Of The 1920s and '30s Extolled Cigarettes As Healthy And Doctor Approved
In addition to trading cards, pre-radio advertising included elaborate print ads in magazines and newspapers. According to the New York Times, "full-color magazine ads depicted kindly doctors clad in white coats proudly lighting up or puffing away."
Cigarette ads in print continued into the present, even after strict regulations limit the ways in which tobacco companies can promote their products.