The Cigarette Controversy
When Doctors, and Even Santa, Endorsed Tobacco
In the 1930s and 1940s, smoking became the norm for both men and women in the United States, and a majority of physicians smoked. At the same time, there was rising public anxiety about the health risks of cigarette smoking. One strategic response of tobacco companies was to devise advertising referring directly to physicians. As ad campaigns featuring physicians developed through the early 1950s, tobacco executives used the doctor image to assure the consumer that their respective brands were safe.
These advertisements also suggested that the individual physicians’ clinical judgment should continue to be the arbiter of the harms of cigarette smoking even as systematic health evidence accumulated. However, by 1954, industry strategists deemed physician images in advertisements no longer credible in the face of growing public concern about the health evidence implicating cigarettes.