Take a look at the two full page advertisements accompanying this article. They are from a 1937 edition of Life magazine that I spotted while on vacation in California last month.
The first advertisement features Leslie Howard, a big Hollywood star of the 1930s (he was in Gone With The Wind). The quote, attributed to Howard, says “I am convinced that this smoke (Lucky Strike) is both delightful to the taste and the ‘top’ cigarette for an actor’s throat.” The subsequent ad copy claims that smoking a Lucky Strike actually “protects the throat”.
The second ad (for Camel) has one user saying “When I feel tired, I smoke a Camel and get the grandest ‘lift’ in energy. And I notice Camel helps my digestion too”.
Fans of old movies on TCM would be aware, of course, that for the first half of the Twentieth Century, smoking was considered really cool. Actors pulled out a cigarette from an elegant gold-plated case at the slightest provocation. Holding a cigarette and puffing out smoke rings developed into an art form. And one has to admit, it did look glamorous. No wonder, then, that millions of people – all over the world – got conned into the smoking lifestyle.
That was deceitful enough but, as these ads illustrate, the con game did not stop there. If the manufacturers were to be believed, smoking was actually ‘good’ for your health. They offered throat protection, an energy boost and an aid to digestion.
False advertising and hype is nothing new, of course, and goes on even today. While it may be somewhat excusable to hype one’s product and endow it with non-existent qualities, pushing a lifestyle as being ‘healthy’ for you – when the manufacturers, in all probability, knew that the reality was diametrically opposite – is atrocious. To the millions whose parents and grandparents lost their lives to lung cancer, these profit sharks have a lot to answer for.