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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What I Learned from Watching 3 Hours of Old Cigarette Commercials

Being something of a knowledge junkie, I wanted to better understand how tobacco products were sold over the years.  Enter YouTube, and after about 3 hours of videos, I've come to some conclusions.  Some of these are serious, some are stupid, but so be've been warned.

(Weird cartoon toilet bowl seat man smoking; from THIS video.)

Before I get to the list, I do want to make an important point:  Smoking is an incredibly stuping thing to do.  If you smoke, I really and truly wish you would stop.  Honestly, I do.  It's a truly senseless habit:  It costs a lot of money, it smells...and makes you smell...bad, it's basically a delivery mechanism for a highly addictive drug and it can kill you in ways that are just ridiculously horrible (citation HERE).  By any objective measure, smoking makes absolutely no sense.

Oh, and by the way, the argument that "well, it's no worse than obesity" doesn't fly here.  Why?  Obesity, while dangerous, represents an excess of something all humans  Yes, the worst food has some nutritional value, even if that's to provide basic calories.  There is, however, absolutely zero redeeming value in smoking.    Again, please stop smoking.

Anyway, here's the list.
  1. Teeth - Everyone in the commercials seems to have perfectly white teeth.  That's remarkable given the damage that chronic smoking can actually do to your teeth (see HERE).
  2. Tips - Filters that were made of cork, tobacco itself, activated charcoal, inverted or extroverted.  Or no filters at all.  Riddle me this Batman:  If you accept the need for a filter, which stops bad stuff from going into your lungs, doesn't that basically prove the very act of smoking (where bad stuff goes into your lungs) is in fact bad?
  3. Robot - The number of commercials narrated by Bob Tufeld...who also voiced the Robot on the original Lost in Space television show...was incredible.  I kept waiting for the phrase "danger Will Robinson" to come out at any moment as someone started smoking.
  4. 21 - A commercial noted that "21 different tobaccos" made up their product.  I didn't know that there were that many different types of tobacco.  I've since learned that there are three basic kinds of tobacco plants, but they each have been engineered into countless different varieties.  Interesting, but I suspect there are probably 21 different kinds of maggots as well.
  5. Athletes - Back in the day, athletes apparently smoked, a lot.  
  6. Everyone Smoked (except everyone really didn't) - Smoking commercials painted a picture of every adult smoking.  That's not actually correct by the way; the highest smoking rate, among men in the United States, was 56.9 in 1955 (citation HERE).  By the year 2000, the rate had dropped to below 25%.
  7. Coupons - Once upon a time you could collect smoking coupons by giving yourself lung cancer and then use them to buy stuff for your home (or even a puppy).
  8. Cartoons - The number of cartoons used to sell tobacco products was shocking.  Be it a particular brand sponsoring the Flintstones or an animated penguin selling menthols, it was, by today's standards appalling.  I know, get in line.  
  9. It's Hot In Here - Actual cigarette commercial premise:  Two young people are dancing in a crowded room.  The young lady says "It's hot in here, let's get some air", so she and her male companion go out to a balcony to smoke.  Isn't wanting "some air" and smoking, which actually prevents your lungs from getting air, somewhat contradictory?
  10. Minorities - Minorities didn't seem to smoke too much in commercials.  Nice to know that white-washing was an equal opportunity endeavor.
  11. All the Time - The commercials showed people smoking at work, at home, while eating, after eating, while making food, while relaxing, while being active outdoors and everywhere else imaginable.  There was even a commercial that showed someone smoking while taking a shower.
  12. Smells - Some tobacco products were sold as smelling "great".  That's ironic, given the fact that prolonged smoking harms your sense of smell (citation HERE).  As a side note, I'll also add that, by and large, smoking smells horrible.
  13. Taste Good - Another common theme among smoking commercials was that they "taste great" or something along those lines.  As is the case with the smell, smoking can actually harm your sense of taste (citation HERE).   
  14. It's Cool - Smoking makes someone look chic, hip, hard-working, fun, and countless other least according to the commercials.  They fail to mention though how cool it is to wake up and cough up a lung.  Every morning.
  15. Doctor Recommended - Countless early commercials touted the smoking habits of doctors.  That hasn't exactly aged well, now has it?
  16. Menthol Magic - Some commercials touted the "magic" of menthol.  I'd call that one down-right insidious.  Why?  There is plenty of scientific evidence to suggest that menthol infused tobacco actually turbo-charges the negative effects of smoking (citation HERE).
  17. T Zone - One brand touted the "benefits" smoking had in the "T Zone", which was basically your nose and throat.  Another example of a selling theme that basically says: "This is bad, but not as bad as others, and that makes this thing actually good".  That's smoking logic for you, circa the 1950s.
  18. Lucille Ball - Listen to Lucille Ball's voice during one of the many early commercials she did for the tobacco company that sponsored her television show and then in the years right before she died.  It's borderline shocking.  By the way, smoking was linked to her death ("Ironically, Arnaz died of lung cancer in 1986, and Ball of heart disease three years later — deaths that have long been linked to their cigarette smoking."; citation HERE).  She went from high-pitch to a frog.  
  19. Language - A "short smoke" is when you only smoke a part of a cigarette and is indicative of the need to switch brands.  There was also other smoking lingo used in the commercials.  Kind of like a cool kids club secret language.  I'd suggest adding "lung rot" to the lingo list.
  20. Older Folks - A large majority of smoking commercials featured younger to middle-aged folks and were centered on getting people to switch cigarette brands.  Older folks were excluded.  I suspect the marketing thought was that it didn't make sense to sell cigarettes to older people who were going to be killed by your product before too long anyway.
Too harsh?  Too snarky?

Probably yes on both counts.  

If this offended you, well, you can get even with me by kicking the smoking habit.  Deal?

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