Smoke ‘Em If You’ve Got ‘Em: 11 Shocking Vintage Cigarette Ads

For your enjoyment, here are 11 of our favorite old smoking ads.

Caveat: Obviously, smoking is bad.

So, don’t smoke.

Instead, experience the horror and surprise of taking a little trip through a pre-cancerous yesteryear. Each of these, some of the best (worst?) vintage cigarette marketing pieces ever, will provide all the thrills of lighting one up and taking a long, smooth, non-irritating drag of a cancer stick without, you know, the death part.

1. When You’re Tempted… 

This is a surprisingly common angle taken by Madison Avenue back in the day. Ladies, don’t get fat. If you’re hungry, forget that whole “eating-to-continue-living” thing and just grab a smoke.

Sound nutritional advice.

From an industry that’s never been anything but forthright.

2. That’s a Very Precise Number

Often a common (is “rampant” a better word?) theme with cigarette ads from back in the day is the “doctors love our brand” angle. After all, toasting removes dangerous irritants that cause coughing and throat irritation. A claim that honestly makes zero sense.

Even better, Lucky Strikes take it to a whole new level with this ad. Because, not only is it less irritating, smoking Luckies actually PROTECTS your throat.

Well, say what you will about Big Tobacco. But you certainly can’t accuse them of subtlety.

3. Not Really Sure What’s Going on Here

There are a lot of Benson & Hedges ads out there that feature the bent cigarette. I think they’re trying to communicate that their smokes are so long, you’ll snap them in half as you go about living your life.

I think.

Either way, I’m not sure how well it works to market your product by showing that it’s going to break whenever you attempt to enjoy it… But I guess someone thought it was an effective strategy?

“Oh, man,” says a well-dressed gentleman, shaking his head in bemused frustration. “It’s such a bother that my brand new 2018 Audi 400x is so fantastically long that already twice this week I’ve had to replace the back wall of my garage.” old smoking ad

The well-dressed gentleman smiles blandly. He runs a finger across a particularly deep gouge in the hood. “Audi,” he shrugs. “That’s the breaks!”

4. The Miracle of Marlboro 

Do you feel “oversmoked?”

If so, don’t sweat it. This baby’s got the right idea.

Switch to Marlboro, smoke as much as you want.

And then scold the crap out of that little guy.

5. Craven A  old smoking ads

I’m not sure it’s a great idea to name your slimy, underhanded, death-proliferating tobacco company something that the dictionary defines as “contemptibly lacking in courage.” But Craven did it.

And now this lady’s throat is “safe.”

6. It Goes O.K.

In what might be the most lukewarm endorsement of any product ever, when asked about whether Camels help his digestion, this Olympic hurdler replies:

“That’s what I do… and my digestion goes O.K.”

Your digestion goes “O.K”.?

Not “Superbly”? Or “Very Well”? Or just “Good”? Or even, “Yeah, not bad, not bad, better than having a sharp stick in the eye”?

Nope. His digestion is “O.K.”

Smoke Camels: Because Your Bowels Deserve to Just Get By.

7.Discrimination—I mean, Discriminating 

I’m pretty sure this isn’t meant to be as White Powery as it comes across, but this is pretty dang funny.

You have whitest dude ever on a golf course that no doubt requires a certain ratio of— well, let’s say melatonin— to get a tee time.

And he’s discriminating. So, very discriminating.

Also, he’s not wearing pants so much as a vast array of conjoined pleats.

8.Definitely Not Bald-Faced Conflation

That middle paragraph, I hope, singlehandedly landed its copywriter squarely in the bowels of hell.

“Yeah, so my brothers and my sweetheart tell me—because that’s the only way I’m permitted to acquire information—that women started smoking right about the time we were granted a basic civil right necessary for keeping democracy as a whole from grinding to a patriarchy/fascism -induced halt. Do those things have anything to do with each other? Oh, who’s to say? Is smoking Chesterfields JUST like the suffrage movement in a not-at-all-conflating way? Again, I don’t know! But Maybe! But again, I don’t know. I just like to smoke Chesterfields because all the men in my life do it, and I can vote now, and Chesterfields taste better than, say, not smoking… so…”

9. Every Inch a Real Smoke

I don’t even know what’s going on in this ad.

It feels like someone might’ve run out of ideas and just flipped through an old book of Madlibs for inspiration.

Every inch a real smoke.

What would the opposite of that be? Do some cigarettes stop being real for a short time as they burn down?

“Authority,” “flavor that’s all there,” swagger,” “clean-cut taste,” “comfortably smooth, too”… Maybe this is beat poetry and I’m just not in the loop.

10. Avoid That Future Shadow

Again, ladies, quit turning into fatties. Put down the food, and shove your face full of Luckies.

Words to live by.

11. There’s a Panel Missing 

One: Young fit “Captain Joe With-It” starts smoking.

Two: Older, distinguished retired hobbyist keeps his mind—and lungs—occupied.

Three: Only slightly older, still distinguished male form still smoking while, into pristine loam, he slowly rots. old smoking ads

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