20,679 Physicians Say....

Fifty years ago this month the first Surgeon General's report linking smoking to cancer and cardiovascular disease was published. The report, Smoking and Health, was released on a Saturday to minimize the effects on financial markets. The report completely changed the way Americans viewed cigarette smoking and tobacco use. In 1964 40% of adults in the U.S. smoked, today its 18%.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has devoted their January 8, 2014 issue to the fifty years of tobacco control in the U.S. There is an interactive timeline of tobacco related events from 1900-1914 in this issue.

In 1900 the adult per capita cigarette consumption in the U.S. was 54 per year, by 1940 that number was almost 2000 and by 1963 that number had grown to 4345. The huge increase can be attributed partially to the fact that cigarettes were distributed to soldiers in WWI and during WWII were given as standard rations but also to the glamorizing of smoking in the popular magazines and films of the 1920s to 1950s.

In the late 1920s cigarette companies, realizing that they were missing out on half the population, started to aggressively market to women. Lucky Strikes was the first cigarette to advertise specifically to women. Women were encouraged to smoke as an aid to weight control - "Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet." In 1924 Marlboro was the first brand created especially for women. It was a mild, filtered (to keep tobacco from sticking to lipstick) cigarette for women -"Ivory Tips Protect the Lips." Even babies urged their mothers to light up. The advertising worked between 1925 and 1939 the number of young women who smoked more that tripled. Marlboros underwent a sex change in 1954 with the start of the Marlboro Man advertising campaign. Doctors were featured in many ads to reassure smokers that cigarettes were safe. In 1940 more money was spent on advertising cigarettes than any other product sold in America. Just about every celebrity from Amelia Earhart to Fred Flintstone advertised cigarettes.

In 1970 Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act which banned cigarette advertising on television and radio. The last cigarette commercial broadcast nationally was broadcast on January 1, 1971 just before midnight on the Johnny Carson Show. It was for Virginia Slims.

For more information on smoking and health check here.

Written by Mary on January 16, 2014


Anonymous on January 17, 2014


It's fascinating what you can find in old magazines. Thank you for putting this together. I especially enjoyed seeing the celebrities and their ads.

Anonymous on January 21, 2014


I find it pretty sickening that they even used babies to encourage women to smoke. As an asthmatic who cannot be around second hand cigarette smoke I find it hard to believe that so many people at one time didn't realize its dangers. My mother smoked around me as a child, and she was a nurse! No wonder I was sick all the time with respiratory infections. It's great that people are finally getting the hint. I am amazed at how many people I know still smoke. It is sad that many of them are very young, in their twenties and thirties, puffing away.

Anonymous on January 22, 2014


Wow! What a different world we live in today (thankfully). Hard to imagine a world where smoking was encouraged and so glorified.

sanjab on May 20, 2014


i love woman smoker

Leave a comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.