Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One of the advantages of studying old pop culture...

...is that it provides a useful reality check against the conventional wisdom around an era. If you spend some time leafing through old comics and pulp magazines, watching old movies and listening to old radio shows, you will inevitably run across ideas and opinions that seem anachronistic.

Take attitudes towards smoking and health. It's easy to think that people in the Fifties thought of cigarettes as healthy. After all, didn't all those doctors in the ads insist that smoking was good for you, that it soothed your T-zone?

But of course, the tobacco industry didn't run those ads because people thought cigarettes were healthy; they ran them because by 1950 it had become clear that cigarettes were anything but. The purpose of those ads was to throw some dust in the air to help people ignore the obvious and, failing that, to at least convince customers (who were, remember, already addicted to nicotine) that the brand being advertised was a bit less unhealthy than its competitors.

This ad from the inside cover of a 1953 comic book (courtesy of Mippyville) tells the other side of the story.

1 comment:

  1. I was putting together a policy brief for a tobacco cessation initiative recently, and they asked me to use their tagline "everyone has the right to breathe clean, natural air!" Which is eerily similar to the "“Don’t be a slave to tobacco – enjoy your right to clean, healthful natural living!” line they have there. Funny stuff - thanks for sharing!