History of cigarette advertising

Today it is known that smoking is generally bad for your health, and restrictions are becoming tighter on cigarettes and how they can advertise their products. The most recent restrictions means that 10 packs of cigarettes are no longer allowed to be sold, and packets of cigarettes are now instructed to be basic green with large health warnings.

Previously, before health concerns were brought to light, tobacco products were allowed to creatively market their products.

London Life advertisement form 1914

19th Century

By the end of the nineteenth century colour lithography was introduced, allowing companies to sell colourful and attractive imagery of their products. It was around this time that many magazines started to carry out magazine advertisements for tobacco brands.


Ronald Regan cigarette advertisement

20th Century

At the start of the 20th Century there was a clause in children’s act in 1908 which meant children under the age of 16 were not allowed to purchase cigarettes. However the progress was lost when tobacco was included in the army rations during WW1.

When the WW1 ended in 1925 the tobacco industry was booming, with soldiers returning home, tobacco businesses shifted their marketing tactics to aim their products towards women convincing them smoking was feminine and also empowering.

Magazines and newspapers began filling up their pages with colourful adverts with celebrities endorsing cigarette products, helping cigarettes to gain popularity.

President Ronald Reagan was including in this celebrity endorsement with an advert claiming he was “sending Chesterfields to all my friends. That’s the merriest Christmas any smoker can have—Chesterfield mildness plus no unpleasant after-taste.”


aftermath of fire caused by lit cigarette

20th Century (1965-1999)

In 1950s British Medical Journal suggested there was a link between smoking and lung cancer and by 1962 Royal College of Physicians found sufficient evidence to make a push for banning tobacco advertisements.

On 1 August 1965 cigarette advertisements were banned from being televised. After a fire broke out at King’s Cross in 1987 from a dropped lit match, the underground banned smoking as well as cigarette advertisements.

Adverts were banned in cinemas in 1986, meaning that a person wasn’t allowed to be shown smoking in an advert for any services or products.

In 1991 the EU enforced new rules that all cigarettes must have warnings on the packages stating that “tobacco seriously damages health” at the front and “smoking clogs the arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes.”


Marlboro cigarette packet

21st Century

Labour part passed the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act (2002), an act that would set out to ban all tobacco advertising over the next three years.

-          14 February 2003: General advertising was banned

-          21 December 2004: Large adverts in clubs, pubs and shops were banned

-          31 July 2005: Sponsorship of global events, including snooker tournaments and Formula 1, were banned.

By 2003 the government invested £31 million in anti-smoking adverts and increased the size of warning signs on cigarette packages “smoking kills.”

On January 17 2013 the first E-Cigarette advertisement reached the TV screens making it the first cigarette advertisement in over fifty years. This was allowed on the grounds that although it contains nicotine it doesn’t contain tar, therefore was considered to be less harmful.

On 20 May 2016 the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive rules came into force that issued controversial regulations on electronic cigarettes including restrictions on advertising on television, advertising and radio and issued a clamp down on the strength of nicotine liquids.

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