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When doctors advised “healthy” cigarette brands, 1930-1950


In the broad spectrum of medical history, the relationship between doctors and patients has changed significantly in recent decades. For a long time, health was the authority of physicians.

Patients relied on the education and expertise of their doctors and, for the most part, followed their advice. When health concerns about cigarettes began to gain public attention, tobacco companies took retroactive action.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, the most powerful advertising phrase—"doctors' advice"—was associated with the world's deadliest consumer product. Cigarettes were not seen as dangerous then, but they still made smokers cough.

To allay fears, tobacco brands hired throat "doctors" (that is, models wearing white coats) to explain that dust, germs or a lack of menthol were to blame, not the cigs themselves. To. Tobacco companies capitalize on the public's trust in physicians to address concerns about the dangers of smoking.

During the 1920s, Lucky Strike was the leading brand of cigarettes. Created by the American Tobacco Company, this brand was the first to use the image of a doctor in its advertisements. "20,679 physicians say 'the lucky ones are less bothered,'" its advertisements declared.

The advertising firm promoting Lucky Strikes sent free cartons of cigarettes to doctors asking them if Lucky Strikes was less irritating than a 'sensitive and tender' throat. The company claimed that its toasting process made its cigarettes a greasy smoke.


By the mid-1930s, Lucky Strike had some competition. A new advertising campaign for Philip Morris refers to research conducted by physicians. One advertisement claimed that after giving Philip Morris brand cigarettes to sore throat patients, "every case of irritation was completely cured or markedly improved."

This series of advertisements, as well as referring to "evidence" of superiority, made Philip Morris a major cigarette brand for the first time in its history.

One of the most famous campaigns of this era was the "More Doctors" campaign for Camels brand cigarettes of the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. These ads, which appeared in the magazines Time to Ladies Home Journal, claimed that according to a nationwide survey, "more doctors smoke camels than any other cigarette!" These ads showed doctors in laboratories, sitting at their desks or talking with patients.

Physicians were also not immune to the addiction of cigarettes and tobacco products and tobacco companies knew this. Many physicians still suspected that there was a widespread link between smoking and the disease. Instead, it was believed that smoking only affected the health of certain individuals; This was considered a case-by-case situation.

Tobacco companies targeted this thought process by asking physicians to prescribe at least one 'healthy' brand of cigarettes if patients were going to smoke cigarettes, regardless of what their health advice was.


In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a transition began to appear in these commercials. Camel advertisements began to incorporate a 'try for yourself' approach.

Although commercials still featured physicians declaring cigarettes as less irritating, they now encouraged consumers to test cigarettes themselves: “The test was really fun! How good was the taste of each camel! And I didn't need my doctor's report to know that camels are mild!".

But it was only a matter of time until science caught up with advertising. By the mid-1950s more research was being published confirming the link between tobacco products and lung cancer. Growing public concerns about the dangers of cigarette smoking meant the gradual disappearance of the 'doctor' from cigarette advertisements.

Tobacco advertisements were banned on television and radio in 1971, and in 1998 the Master Settlement Agreement banned other forms of tobacco advertising.

Tobacco companies may still advertise in print publications, although there are far more restrictions for them today. Health claims are under question.

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