"People Were Buying Cigarettes Before Freud Was Born"

It seems as though there isn't a single scene in Mad Men, where a cigarette isn't lit. Donald Draper sits on his office couch with his arm draped over the back with a cigarette in hand. Betty Draper rests at home with a glass of wine and a cigarette in hand. Peggy Olsen lights up a cigarette at a dinner date, even though she does not smoke. The countless examples of smoking in Mad Men display how in the 1950s and early 1960s, cigarettes were a staple of American culture. Although meant as a luxury good in its early days, cigarettes had already reached mass production by the 1950s. The urban elite were not the only ones smoking cigarettes, anyone could get their hands on one. Cigarettes were cheap to buy and socially accepted at any location and occasion. Don is always seen smoking at his office, his fancy restaurants and parties, and on the train home. Smoking was allowed on planes, trains, buses, offices, restaurants, schools, and almost any public area you can think of. Hollywood glamorized smoking with celebrities, such as James Dean, the man who always had his cigarette, and Audrey Hepburn, who made smoking classy and sophisticated. 

Which brands were the most popular? Lucky Strike is most commonly smoked in Mad Men since Sterling Cooper has an account with them. Some of the most popular brands in the 1950s and 1960s included Lucky Strike, Marlboro, Camel, Pall Mall, Parliament, Salem, Newport, Winston, Kent, Viceroy, Kool and more. Cigarettes advertisements depicted them as part of American life and played on the aspects of being a man or a sophisticated woman, having fun, and relaxing. Just as Don may be smoking because he’s a man, Betty may be smoking because she's stressed, and Peggy may be smoking to fit in. Cigarette brands used celebrity and athlete endorsements, cartoon characters, politicians, children, and even medical professionals to sell their product. In the episode, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” Don knows that even though a magazine called Reader’s Digest claims that cigarettes are dangerous, people would still buy them; Sterling Cooper just can’t advertise physicians claiming they are safe anymore.

Here is an advertisement for Camel cigarettes preposterously trying to make you feel better about smoking since your doctor loves it too.

This is an advertisement for Marlboro in the 1960s, hinting that smoking Marlboro cigarettes will make you feel like the rugged man that you want to be.

Alas, since the word spread about cigarettes being dangerous and the efforts began in the 1970s, the government has heavily regulated cigarette advertisements, added warnings and images to packaging, and banned or limited the places you are allowed to smoke. Back in the “Mad Men” days, however, smoking was not even given a second thought. Light another one, Mr. Draper. It’s toasted.

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1 comment:

  1. To start off, I really like the title for this. Reminding me of the scene where Don said this is a great way to start off the article. It does of a good job of proceeding chronologically as well; taking the reader through a brief history of cigarettes. It covers a broad array of topics on the history, while at the same time covering a very broad topic. The topic of smoking is so widely accepted it remains largely unaddressed, and this does a good topic of addressing it. Overall, I really like the article.