Virtually every magazine and newspaper published in New York City carried cigarette advertising. Some even published articles that were covertly written by the tobacco companies to try to play down the growing concerns about smoking and health in the 1950s. An example is in TRUE Magazine. An article commissioned by the industry was entitled “Smoke without Fear,” or “Who says smoking gives men lung cancer?” Copies of this were distributed in tobacco shops throughout New York and mailed to tobacco distributors to send to their customers.
One might have expected scandal sheets like the National Enquirer to take cigarette advertisements. And indeed they do to this day, but it’s disappointing to look back and see that publications such as Ms. Magazine were mainstays of cigarette advertising. I spoke with [Ms. publisher] Gloria Steinem on a radio interview that she was giving on WNYC and asked her how she could continue to accept cigarette advertising in her publication–even on the back cover of the Health Issue–and she bristled, became quite angry, and said, “Would you rather us not publish?!”
TIME Magazine and all sorts of others would publish stories on breast cancer or women and heart disease on the front cover–and a cigarette advertisement on the back cover. The Village Voice was a prime vehicle for cigarette advertising and not just the ads themselves, but also ads that wrapped around entertainment schedules such as the Camel Sound Board or the Marlboro Country Music events that they announced.
Of course, Time-Warner, long the publisher of the major weekly magazines in the United States, LIFE Magazine and TIME Magazine, was a major recipient of cigarette advertising dollars. So was Newsweek, which would have a cover story in the late 1970s, “What causes cancer?” and would list the causes of cancer in alphabetical order, starting with arsenic and asbestos. Way down the list was “tobacco smoke.” On the back cover, of course, was an ad for Viceroy cigarettes.