Help stop smoking with teens and adults
Help stop smoking with teens and adults
Looking at cigarette ads from the 1940s and 1950s, you might find yourself thinking, “Are these for real?” Take the ads for Camel cigarettes that say, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” Or the ad with a baby saying, “Gee, Mommy you sure enjoy your Marlboro.”
Were these misleading and dangerous advertisements really legal?
Until the mid-1960s, the marketing of tobacco had few restrictions. Along with doctors and babies, cartoon characters, famous athletes, and movie stars made regular appearances in ads. Cigarettes were advertised on TV, in magazines, and on billboards.
Across America, cigarettes were widely available too. For less than a dollar, it was possible to buy a pack at a drugstore, a restaurant, or a hospital gift shop. And even though it was illegal in most states to sell cigarettes to young people, teens found it easy to get their hands on them.
How did this happen?
In the early 20th century, few people understood the enormous health risks thatsmoking posed, and in the coming decades, tobacco companies used aggressivemarketing tactics to get people addicted. They made smoking seem fun and glamorous. They hired doctors and dentists to say smoking was not only safe but also good for you. They created smoking cartoon characters that appealed to kids and placed cigarettepacks featuring those characters low on store shelves, where they’d be eye level withchildren.
But the dangers of smoking couldn’t be hidden forever. In the 1950s, several studies linked smoking to lung cancer and heart disease. Tobacco companies vehemently disputed these results. In 1954, they even ran a full-page ad in hundreds of newspapers and magazines. “We believe the products we make are not injurious to health,” the ad stated.
However, Big Tobacco understood that growing public concern over the hazards of smoking would cause them to lose money if people started to quit. So they introduced “filter-tip” cigarettes, which they claimed were “milder” and “safer.” In reality, these filtered cigarettes are no safer than any other kind of cigarette, but the marketing worked. Filtered cigarettes soon became the most popular cigarettes on the market.
These advertisements are from the 1920s to 1950s.
Then something happened that forever changed the public’s view of smoking. In 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General (the head of our public health service) declared that smokingcauses cancer. Americans took the message seriously. After reaching nearly 42 percentin 1965, the percentage of adults who smoke in the U.S. began to fall. Soon after, therules about where people could smoke and how tobacco companies could sell andadvertise cigarettes began to change too.
Today, it’s illegal to advertise cigarettes on TV. All packs must have warning labels. Andthe U.S. is much less friendly to tobacco companies—and smokers. Most states restrictwhere people can smoke. Higher taxes on cigarettes have made smoking a costly habittoo. In some states, a pack can cost $10 or more. (Studies show that raising cigarettetaxes reduces smoking rates.)
Plenty of other efforts are underway to try to prevent people from smoking as well. Perhaps surprisingly, many are paid for by tobacco companies. In 1998, as part of alawsuit settlement, tobacco companies agreed to give states billions of dollars forprograms that help people quit smoking and discourage kids and teens from starting.
The New York Times (headline); VARLEY/SIPA/Newscom (Surgeon General’s warning)
Today, all cigarette packs are required to come with warning labels.
Keep Your Guard Up
Today, far fewer Americans smoke than in the 1960s. Yet 14 percent of American adults do smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and one in five deaths is linked to smoking. Most smokers want to quit, but the addictive nature of nicotine makes quitting difficult.
But why are 8.1 percent* of high school students—who have grown up hearing about the dangers of cigarettes—smoking in the first place?
For one thing, the tobacco industry has found ways around marketing rules, such as enlisting social media influencers to post photos or videos that show cigarettes**. Then there’s smoking in movies and video games, which is a major factor in teen smoking***. Plus, there’s vaping, which is also dangerous and can lead to cigarette smoking. In fact, one of Juul’s largest investors is Altria, a cigarette company.
So while you won’t see a cigarette ad on TV or in your Instagram feed, you’ve still got to keep your guard up.
*2018 survey by the Centers for Disease Control **In July, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, and other public health groups filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission, saying four tobacco companies broke the law by using social media to promote smoking. ***U.S. Surgeon General’s Report (smoking in movies) and Truth Initiative (smoking in video games)