Here are five baffling advertising trends that prove we’re all better off without cigarette ads in our lives.

vintage cigarrette advertising

Believe it or not, the first group to publicly make the connection between cigarettes and lung cancer wasn’t the American Anti-Cool Society or the Tracheostomy Voice Box Choir of Harlem, it was the Nazis. During his Fuhrership, Hitler was the most prominent anti-smoker in the world. It took the United States over 30 years to acknowledge what the Nazis knew in 1928 — smoking kills. In the meantime, American cigarette brands figured out another neat fact about nicotine — it’s an appetite suppressant. To illustrate the horrifying possibility of a life without cigarettes, Lucky Strike shadowed their models with monstrous gray blobs of their future selves.

vintage cigarrette andvertising

Things got really weird when Lucky Strike forced viewers to imagine their future fat butts on a horse. Not only is the horse bogged down with the weight of a thousand Depression-era snacks (aka apples), but it’s losing a race to the “prettier” skinny version of the same person. Look at the first half of the skinny model’s horse leap like it’s made of air! Notice how its backside is probably not going to clear the fence, which is also a good metaphor for the lung health of a long-term smoker.


Of course, Lucky’s “Don’t Be Fat” campaign ran in the 1930s, when women were barely out of the house and only months beyond their liberation from knee-length hair. So you can understand the mindset behind displaying looming jelly shadows as examples of what not to be. Advertisers didn’t know any better. But you’d also think their granddaughters would move on to better things 30 years later. You’d be wrong.

best vintage cigarrette advertising

Way to capture the zeitgeist, Silva Thins. Notice how the ad was still targeting the male smoker by comparing cigarettes to women. Thin and rich women. Because who wants to smoke a poor fatty?

Ladies, we’re just getting started on the bad things coming your way, cigarette-marketing-wise.

vintage cigarette advertising

In 1965, the surgeon general declared that cigarette companies could no longer tout the fake health benefits of their product. Up to that point, brands could say anything: that more doctors smoked their cigarettes, or that theirs were better for your throat, or that they gave you the hardest Lindy Hop skills. Tobacco ads were a hot stogie of lies, and the public smoked them up for decades

vintage cigarettes adverstising
That’s an oddly specific number of physicians! It turns out 20,679 doctors responded to a three-year survey sponsored by Lucky Strike’s advertising company — a survey that sent free cartons of Lucky Strikes to doctors while asking them if their cigarettes were less irritating than other brands. Most doctors said “Yes” and “Thank you for the free smokes.”

vintage cigarette advertising

The faces in the ads ranged from “Stay away from me, I’m mad as hell” to “Stay away from me, I’m about to make love to this box of cigarettes and you don’t want to be here to see it.” The only unifying theme was that the models had angry expressions and baffling quotes. Have you ever picked a brand of anything because it’s nice and boxy? The guy below has.

vintage cigarette advertising

For all we know, this guy was also smoking crayons because the box fit so nicely in his jean jacket, but Winston was smart enough to keep that part on the DL. One ad simply featured a mildly cross-eyed woman who spewed out truncated half-finished thoughts about her smoking history

vintage cigarette advertising

Deleted quotes included “I like bandannas” and “What’s that?” and “Do you need a sweater? Because I’m wearing two.” Eventually Winston just cut out the extra random thoughts and ran ads featuring the weirdest weirdo they could find.