A doctor at his desk takes a drag off a Camel, deliberately deceiving the public about the dangers of the drug.
Fred Flintstone fires up a Winston in front of Wilma and rattles off the company’s slogan, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”
Even Jed Clampett, of The Beverly Hillbillies, is seen smoking a Winston – with Granny, no less – at the famous family’s kitchen table.
All three implausible by today’s standards, these television commercials were aired in the late 1940s through the early 1970s, until such advertisements were banned. They represent egregious examples of the tasteless tactics employed by Big Tobacco.
“Time out for many men of medicine usually means just long enough to enjoy a cigarette,” a narrator says in the doctor’s ad. “And because they know what a pleasure it is to smoke a mild, good-tasting cigarette, they’re particular about the brand they chose.”
The one-minute con-job goes on to quote a “repeated nationwide survey” that purports more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.
In The Flintstones ad, another narrator says, “The Flintstones has been brought to you by Winston, America’s best-selling, best-tasting filter cigarette.” Then, the scene shifts to a view of Bedrock, over which looms a crude stone billboard with the Winston logo carved into it. The shameless plug lasts one minute and 44 seconds.
The Beverly Hillbillies ad might be the worst. The floppy-hat-wearing patriarch comes across his corncob-pipe-smoking elder and suggests she try a Winston. She does, first sticking it into the head of her pipe and taking a puff.
“By thunder, Jed, that is good smokin’,” she exclaims.
Then, Granny puts the cigarette to her lips to try.
“Tastes even better,” she says.
Sadly, decades later, not much has changed with regard to modern media marketing by the Philip Morris International and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company conglomerates of the world. Advertisements at point-of-purchase locations target children and young adults. The development of brands such as Virginia Slims targets women. And a ploy to pay off retailers and wholesalers that reduce the price of cigarettes in their stores targets every consumer.
As late as 1994, in a hearing before congress that tobacco executives continued to swear, this time under oath, that nicotine was not addictive and cigarettes were “relatively” safe.
The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress, released in January 2014, concludes that, annually, 480,000 deaths and $289 billion-plus in healthcare costs are attributable to smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
“Evidence in this new report shows tobacco’s continued, immense burden to our nation – and how essential ending the tobacco epidemic is to our work to increase the life expectancy and quality of life of all Americans,” Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, writes in the report. “And if we continue on our current trajectory, 5.6 million children alive today who are younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely as a result of smoking.”