The media has used smoking for as long as it’s been popular. Often ads would feature prominent actors or doctors who would extol the virtues and pleasures of smoking. Sometimes ads would even use actors who *played* doctors to be in smoking ads. Smoking ads, as all ads became increasingly sophisticated as time wore on.
In the mid 1970’s a British artist created Joe Camel, the cartoon camel featured on all Camel cigarette products. The US did not see these ads until the mid 1980’s and when they ran they were an instant hit. In fact, they were too much of a hit because the cartoon attracted children like no other cigarette ad did. In the early 90’s a lawsuit was filed against R.J.Reynolds for targeting minors. R.J. Reynolds ended Joe Camel in 1997 because of the public outcry and the upcoming trial.
President Nixon outlawed cigarette ads on both TV and radio in April 1970. Increasing evidence about the health risks of cigarettes and the knowledge that tobacco companies were lying helped him make this decision. From that point on, cigarette makers had to turn to other sources to publicize their products.
Smoking in films has often been used to make females look sexy and males look tough. From these images, smoking in the US became something very ‘glamorous’ and desirable. For a while filmmakers decreased the use of smoking in movies and some actors refuse to smoke in movies because of its influence on children. Even with all of this, smoking in the theater, even in children’s movies such as Rango, went up considerably in 2012. However, the cast of characters that smoke has changed somewhat since the early to mid 1900’s. Now, most of the people who smoke on film are the ‘bad guys’, equating smoking with antisocial activities.
Interestingly, art has portrayed smoking since it was first discovered by the ancient indigenous peoples of the Americas. It is also the first way that artists protested against smoking. Art preceded anything else in portraying smoking as an ‘emblem of mortality’. To this day, art seems to revel in this statement that smokers understand what they are doing will kill them, but that is the draw for them. They have more control over their mortality than non-smokers – or so the misguided belief goes.
As early as the 1700’s writers were penning essays, referring to smoking as the ‘great power of the sublime’, often romanticizing the act while at the same time despising it. Other poetry and literature was written well before smoking became such a national pastime, often exploring the users’ great love for the activity. In fact, most literature devoted to smoking stopped by the 1920’s. Sherlock Holmes was one of the premier characters in literature who constantly smoked.
While there is rarely music referring to smoking – either glorifying it or decrying it – smoking has always been associated with places where musicians play such as clubs and bars. It was rare that a musician did not smoke.