Smoking image

How Advertising Made smoking look cool

Be it movies or even anime, we have seen the badass guy with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Cigarettes are often associated with rebellion. The guerrillas and the godfathers smoked, even in the movies. Tobacco Advertising made a huge impression on the people’s mind.

How has advertising affected the image of smoking?

Cigarettes were promoted as health benefactors before the 1950s.

In the 1950s, after the great depression, scientific evidence found that smoking is actually hazardous to health. The sales declined dramatically in 1953, this made everyone from the smoking industry meet up, the executives gathered at one place. It is said that in that meeting they all agreed to stop advertising cigarettes on health claims.

18 billion cigarettes are sold per day.

Filtered Cigarettes

There was a new turn in the cigarettes market as filtered cigarettes became popular. Contrary to what was decided, manufacturers started terming their filtered cigarettes much healthier than the unfiltered ones. Production of filtered cigarettes rose from 0.5% in the 1950s to 87.7% by 1975. Filters, made with cellulose acetate, a plastic that degrades slowly in the environment, takes 18 months or 10 years to decompose, subject to the environment.

Marlboro Man

Marlboro was originally introduced as women’s cigarette in 1924. To flip over the image, the Marlboro man campaign was run. Marlboro Man is an advertising campaign that ran from 1954 to 1999, the idea originated from Leo Burnett. The campaign started with rugged men in different fields but later only cowboys were used.

The Marlboro man was out there to promote filtered cigarettes, as at first, the filtered cigarettes were considered feminine. This campaign is considered one of the most successful in the history of advertising. It transformed the product which was promoted as “Mild as May” to a masculine one in a matter of months. Andy Armstrong, a Navy lieutenant was featured in the first ads.

To appeal to every living man, a series of men: sea captains, weightlifters, warriors, construction workers etc were to be featured.

The Marlboro man came from a Life Magazine issue featuring Clarence Hailey Long—a Texas cowboy. After featuring him, Marlboro’s sale rose from 1% market share to 4th bestselling cigarette brand. All the actors were replaced by real cowboys. By 1972, Marlboro was on the top of the market.

At least four Marlboro Men have died of smoking-related diseases. They died after tobacco advertising. 

Marketing Methods

In the US, the tobacco industry spends more than 8 billion dollars through retailers, also known as a point of sale marketing. One-third of teenagers trying out cigarettes for the first time is a result of retail marketing. These usually involve posters at the point of sale. People can easily notice smoking posters when they visit convenience stores.

Tobacco Advertising restrictions in India

In India Tobacco advertising is banned throughout TV and radio, broadcast, domestic newspapers and magazines, print media such as pamphlets, leaflets, flyers, posters (excluding point of sale), internet ads, vending machines, outdoor advertising, telephone, free distribution, product sales, trademark diversification or brand stretching, brand sharing, retailer incentives, paid placements in TV or films.

The mediums which aren’t yet regulated are International TV and radio, International newspapers and magazines, toys that resemble tobacco products, unpaid depiction in media, sponsorship by tobacco, misleading means.

Sales through the online channels—ecommerce platforms are however allowed.

Below are some of the most popular campaigns for cigarettes