Can you believe that it has been nearly 43 years since President Richard Nixon signed a bill into law that banned cigarette advertising on radio and TV (even though the President was a heavy pipe smoker)? I was only 16 years old when this took place, a junior in high school, and we were in the middle of the Vietnam War.
Tobacco companies were at one time big radio and television advertisers. They started on network radio and then moved to television. Phillip Morris was the sponsor of CBS’s I Love Lucy and several times throughout its six year run you could hear Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz make references, both verbally and in images, to Phillip Morris products. Back in that day, an advertiser sponsored the entire program, unlike today where the majority of shows are supported more by various spot advertisers (sponsorship still does exist today but it is costly). Game shows such as To Tell The Truth and I’ve Got A Secret were sponsored by cigarette advertisers. CBS’s The Bob Cummings Show, later known as Love That Bob, was sponsored by Chesterfield. When I was with KXTX Channel 39 in the 1980’s, the distributor sent an episode of Love That Bob on 16mm film but failed to check it out properly. Not only did it have the wrong show opens and closes, it had a built in cigarette spot for Chesterfield’s! (we made sure it didn’t air!).
If you were watching shows like Person To Person With CBS News’ Edward R. Murrow, you saw him interviewing people with a cigarette in his hand (“now, tell me, Marilyn……”). Public affairs shows like Face The Nation and Meet The Press showed panelists with cigars and pipes! And the most famous image is that of Walter Cronkite lighting up his pipe at the end of each CBS Evening News. Try doing that today? Not a chance in you know where!
Cigarette advertisers had some of the most creative ads and jingles. Marlboro had the rugged “Marlboro Man”. Virginia Slims empowered women with the slogan, “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!” Tarleton used the slogan, “I’d Rather Fight than Switch!” with the image of a person with a black eye. And the jingle that stuck in you head, “Winston taste good like a (thump-thump)…….cigarette should!” Madison Avenue ad agencies created some of their best work for the tobacco business but trouble was looming on the horizon.
In 1954, a campaign was started by the tobacco industry called “A Frank Statement” which acknowledged that cigarette smoking could be hazardous to one health and cause cancer. As we entered the 1960’s, more reports from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office concluded that cigarette smoking was definitely linked to health problems such as cancer and heart and lung issues. Eventually this led to Congressional legislation and on April 1, 1970, President Nixon sign into law prohibiting cigarette advertising on radio and TV.
Today, tobacco advertisers use other media or outlets to advertise and despite the dangers of smoking, they are still in business. I remember walking down the streets of downtown Winston-Salem NC when I lived there in 1980 smelling the tobacco being processed. Yet we all know the dangers of smoking. Occupants of the White House have smoked, including Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and the late First Lady Pat Nixon. On the reverse side, Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes, Harry S, Truman, anfd former First Lady Hillary Clinton banned smoking in the White House during their times there.
See you next time.
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