Spread the Word

Top 6 Shocking Old School Cigarette Ads

Quick, think of the last cigarette ad you saw. You might not be able to come up with any. Yes, the tobacco industry has been forced to tame down the ads and abide by very stringent guidelines. However, back in the day, cigarette ads were everywhere. Thankfully, overall smoking rates in the US are dropping nearly everywhere. Maybe it’s because these ads are no longer kosher.

Black-eyed Women

Those high-priced Madison Ave ad agencies were once a bastion of male chauvinism. It was their creative genius that resulted in advertisements like these, featuring battered women. What is now regarded as insensitive, to say the least, was not just an American phenomenon. Cigarette ads in foreign places also featured similar content. Other countries were quick to take advantage of any advertisement that was shown to work. Evidently this ad was one of them. These extremely graphic images certainly made their mark, no matter what language. Perhaps, in an effort to avoid discrimination, they eventually expanded these types of ads to include men. Whether it’s women or men doesn’t matter; these ads are still bad taste, at least by modern standards.

Sexy? Not.


Doctors and Nurses

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry, but there was a point when the health profession was used to promote smoking. According to the ads, large numbers of doctors were smokers. Surely this was not a positive contribution to the American health crisis. There was even a study to determine how many doctors nationwide were smokers. The scientific validity of that study is open to debate; most likely it would fail modern standards.

Not ones to miss a beat, ad agencies began running advertisements featuring smoking nurses as well. Perhaps they determined that a segment of North American society was influenced to a greater degree by nurses than doctors. That’s more than likely given their portrayal of nurses as attractive, attentive and nowhere near as intelligent as doctors.

Luck? Says who?

Cigarettes were healthy back then.



Who can resist the allure of a baby? That was probably the reasoning behind the rash of cigarette ads featuring infants. Granted, babies have been used to sell a wide variety of products and services, many of questionable taste. However, by modern standards, this one takes the cake. Maybe it was merely a matter of desperation that drove cigarette companies to use babies, who knows? Looking back one can laugh, but you have to remember that this was the “cutting edge” of marketing at the time. At least the babies weren’t smoking.

Say what?

They’re so cute.


If doctors and babies can sell cigarettes, then why not Santa? That jolly old fellow was the perfect spokesman to promote smoking during the holiday season. At least that’s what one major cigarette company thought. I’m not sure how parents explained this one to their young children. Perhaps it wasn’t that big of an issue. Since practically everyone was smoking, it wouldn’t be unusual for jolly old St. Nick to enjoy a puff or two. After all, he was the one that brought gift packages stuffed with cigarettes every Christmas. If it’s good enough for Santa, it must be good enough for mom and dad.


The cigarette industry started going to the dogs once companies started using our canine friends to promote smoking. Whose idea was this anyway? Cigarette companies used high-priced ad agencies with highly paid creative personnel and market researchers. Yet all they could come up with was an ad using dogs to sell cigarettes. It certainly would be interesting to hear the rationale behind this ad campaign. If you’re wondering what the connection is between dogs and smoking, you’re not alone. Maybe it was a cuteness factor. No doubt the SPCA would have something to say if this ad were run today.

It’s a dog’s life.

Just give me my treat please.

You Must Believe

If you still have doubts after seeing these ads, then maybe this one will convince you. According to this ad, smoking was believing. Bet you didn’t know that there was a season to smoking. In the mid-20th century America, summer was the season to get outdoors, participate in some healthy exercise, enjoy some fresh air and smoke. Nothing like keeping physically fit while destroying your lungs’ capacity to absorb oxygen. It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Just gotta have faith.