Throwback Thursday: When Doctors Prescribed ‘Healthy’ Cigarette Brands

Don’t be foolish, take your doctor’s advice: Smoke a fresh cigarette. From the 1930s to the 1950s, advertising’s most powerful phrase—“doctors recommend”—was paired with the world’s deadliest consumer product. Cigarettes weren't seen as dangerous then, but they still made smokers cough. To allay fears, tobacco brands hired throat “doctors” (that is, models dressed in white coats) to explain that dust, germs or a lack of menthol were to blame, not the cigs themselves. 

While nearly every brand used this dubious marketing approach—including Dunhill, whose doctor claimed you could “cut down on smoking” while still firing up a pack a day)—the prime offender was Camel, which cited an incredible study that found “more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” Turns out, this “independent research” was the work of the William Esty Co., R.J. Reynolds' ad agency. Participating doctors were paid, too—with cartons of Camels.

1

Dr. Penguin Says Menthol’s Good for You

 

 Kool's penguin poses as an otolaryngologist in this 1938 ad. The brand made the case that its cigarettes actually soothed the throat.

2

‘Eminent’ Throat Docs Say Switch to Philip-Morris

 

The moral of this comic strip? Johnny the bellboy's a smart kid to listen to those doctors.

3

Try the Pack-a-Day Anti-Nicotine Diet!

 

Meet a medical miracle from 1948: the crystal filter. Dunhill's ad calls nicotine a poison, but asserts that with this device, you can protect yourself "without giving up a single cigarette!"