Covering Cancer?

How magazines promoted cancer research…and cigarettes


December 22, 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the National Cancer Act by President Richard Nixon. Nixon’s call to arms, which became known as the launch of the “War on Cancer,” was revived by Vice President Joe Biden in 2016 and again as President in 2022 as the “Cancer Moonshot”–-a reference to the 1969 Apollo 11 mission that landed a man on the moon eight years after President John F. Kennedy called on Congress to fund this program.

Remarkable, even miraculous, advances have been made in cancer treatment since the 1970s, even as a universal cure for the more than 100 kinds of cancer remains elusive, if not illusory. Yet it has been known for decades that upwards of one third of cancers are entirely preventable by not smoking. Communicating information through the mass media about ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer has always been essential to improving the nation’s health. Throughout the 20th century, the print medium was the most trusted form of communication. Despite the introduction of radio in the 1920s and its soaring popularity in the 1930s and 1940s, the news magazine TIME (1923-2020 as a weekly) had a circulation of 3 million by 1939. And even four decades after the introduction of television into most homes in the 1950s, Newsweek‘s (1933-2012) circulation exceeded 3.3 million. US News & World Report (1948-2008), which published the most in-depth articles of any news magazine, reached 2 million readers a week in 1973.

Cigarette advertising featured prominently in most issues of these newsweeklies from their inception to the early-2000s. This made for numerous ironic juxtapositions–-both before and since the declaration of the war on cancer–-of front cover stories on cancer and back cover advertisements for cigarettes.  This exhibition presents such two-faced examples from the Center’s collection. The extent to which cigarette advertisers influenced news coverage of smoking can only be hinted at.

Meanwhile, most major magazines in the latter half of the 20th century, including TV Guide (circulation 16.4 million in 1972), LIFE, The Saturday Evening Post, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Playboy, Woman’s Day (8.1 million in 1972), VOGUE, Family Circle, EBONY, and Jet, published cigarette advertisements in nearly every issue. Few articles about cancer–and virtually none about smoking–were published by any of these magazines. Reader’s Digest (17.8 million in 1972) was a rare exception, publishing dozens of original and reprinted articles on the health hazards of smoking beginning in December, 1952 with “Cancer by the Carton” by Roy Norr, based on an article published in Christian Herald two months before.

Click on each image to enlarge it and to read multi-page articles in full.

“What Causes CANCER?”/
“‘Why Viceroy? Because I’d never smoke a boring cigarette.’” (10 pages)

Cover story, “What Causes CANCER?” and back cover advertisement for Viceroy cigarettes (Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company)
January 26, 1976


Table in cover story, “What Causes CANCER?”
January 26, 1976

This six-page article in the Medicine section discusses the widespread public fear generated by reports of cancer-causing chemicals in food and household products. Although the article does not question cigarette smoking as a significant cause of cancer, the inclusion of a table, “Cancer and the Environment: Ten Top Suspects,” in which “tobacco smoke” is number 9, surely mollified concerns of the magazine’s four major cigarette company advertisers. The “suspects” are listed in…alphabetical order!

Nor does the article offer a sanguine outlook:

“[T]he real task of lowering the incidence of cancers induced by the American lifestyle is essentially up to ordinary citizens,” the article concluded, “–and here the outlook for constructive action does not seem so bright. For despite all the warnings, the majority of Americans continue to indulge themselves in the potentially harmful pleasures that their opulent society provides, and so far they are apparently content to take the perils along with the pleasures. ‘Right now we’ve decided that this is the way we want to live and die,’ says Dr. David Baltimore [1938- ], who won the 1975 Nobel Prize for basic cancer research. ‘And that’s the real challenge in American health today.’”

Another key quote from the article: “The outcry that follows each successive new disclosure of a possible carcinogen on the dinner table or in the workshop tends to obscure the fact that 60 million Americans continue to expose themselves to tobacco–the least disputed carcinogen of all.”

In addition to the back cover advertisement for Viceroy cigarettes (Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co.), the issue contains six other cigarette advertisements: Merit (Philip Morris, 2 pages), Winston (RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co.), Lucky Strike (American, 1/3 page), Iceberg 100s (American Tobacco Co., 1/3 page), Doral (RJ Reynolds), and Salem (RJ Reynolds).


Cover story
U.S. News & World Report
July 2, 1954

This extensive section comprises the following: an in-depth interview by an anonymous reporter(s) with Dr. E. Cuyler Hammond, Director of Statistical Research, American Cancer Society (ACS); the text of the summary and conclusions of the report on the effects of smoking made by Dr. Hammond and Dr. Daniel Horn to the American Medical Association (AMA) convention on June 21, 1954; the text of the statement about the report by Dr. Charles S. Cameron, medical and scientific director of the American Cancer Society during the AMA convention; an interview with Dr. Cameron on June 23,1954; the text of Dr. Cameron’s statement about the report in The New York Times on June 17, 1954; and a comment on the report by Dr. Clarence Cook Little, scientific director of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC).

The U.S. New & World Report cover story was sparked by the presentation at the AMA convention by Hammond and Horn of their preliminary findings of a five-year study. Using data collected and updated over a 28-month period by 22,000 ACS volunteers, Hammond and Horn reviewed the smoking histories of healthy 187,766 men, of whom 32,381 never smoked, in 394 counties scattered across the U.S.  They found that men with a history of regular cigarette smoking have a considerably higher death rate than men who have never smoked: 63% higher from all causes, 82% higher  from heart disease, 106% higher from all cancers, and 200% higher from lung cancer. In Hammond’s words, “The death rates among regular cigarette smokers are about the same as the death rates among nonsmokers–people who never smoke–who are five years older….You might say that smoking ages a man around five years.”

Although the ACS’s Cameron praised the study’s methodology, he was not convinced of the causal relationship between heavy cigarette smoking and increased susceptibility from cancer in general. Unsurprisingly, Little of the TIRC agreed with Cameron and called for “greatly extended, amplified and diversified basic research on the relation of various habits of the different types of human beings to their health and well-being throughout their life cycle.”

Unlike most issues of the magazine in 1954, there were no cigarette advertisements in this issue.

“Winston Tastes Good! Like a Cigarette Should!” (8 pages)

Cover story, “The Truth About Smoking and Cancer–What is Known and Unknown; Interview with Dr. John R. Heller,” and back cover advertisement for Winston cigarettes (RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company)
U.S. News & World Report,
July 26, 1957

This extraordinary article includes an in-depth, 10-page interview with Dr. John Heller [1905-1989]*, director of the National Cancer Institute [from 1948 to 1960], who responds both cautiously and candidly to questions about the ride in lung cancer,  the mounting evidence of cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer, and the government’s responsibility in educating the public about cigarettes, as these excerpts show.

Q Is the proportion of deaths caused by all types of cancer increasing and the proportion of deaths caused by lung cancer increasing?

A Yes. In other words, as we are surviving typhoid and gastroenteritis, malaria and so forth, we’re living longer. We must die of something. We’re most likely to die of heart disease—cardiovascular disease. But if we don’t die of that, the next chance is cancer….

(Read More)

“Turn to Salem for a Taste that’s Springtime Fresh” (8 pages)

Cover story, “Rising Hope in War on Cancer,” and back cover advertisement for Salem cigarettes (RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company)
U.S. News & World Report
April 19, 1965

There is not a single mention of smoking in this cover article and the accompanying four-page interview with Dr. Frank L. Horsfall, Jr., President and Director, Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. But Dr. Horsfall makes a prescient comment about treatment vs. prevention in the solution to “the cancer problem”:

“Treatment of paralytic polio is still little more than rehabilitation. And treatment would never, in my opinion, have progressed to the point of being an effective solution for the problem of polio. It was the development of a preventive vaccine that brought this disease under control.

“I use these viral diseases as outstanding examples of the effectiveness of prevention.

“In my opinion, the cancer problem, too, if it is ultimately solved, is not going to be solved solely by treatment, regardless of how effective such treatment becomes. When the cancer problem is solved, I expect it will be through prevention.”

“SMOKE GETS IN THE NEWS: Doctors report tobacco tar induces mouse cancer, note rise in cigaret use and human lung cancer” (8 pages)

Article in LIFE Magazine
December 21, 1953



“For a very Merry TREAT instead of a TREATMENT! Give Old Golds for Christmas”
Advertisement by P. Lorillard Tobacco Company

“Give cartons of Luckies this Christmas!”

Advertisement by the American Tobacco Company

“‘This Christmas You Bet I won’t forget!’ WHITE OWL CIGARS”

Advertisement by the General Cigar Company

“This Beautiful Winter Landscape appears in full color on the 1953 Chesterfield gift carton…”

Back cover advertisement by Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company

“When the first mass of scientific studies linking smoking with mortality were made–between 1948 and 1953–many [newspaper and magazine] editors thought twice about publishing them…[I]n the great majority of cases the newspaper coverage was sporadic, brief, and variable. The greatest public impact can be attributed to Roy Norr’s article, ‘Cancer by the Carton,’ in the December, 1952, Reader’s Digest, a reprint from the Christian Herald. Probably the second most powerful blow came from Life’s issue of December 21, 1953. Here for the first time smokers were shown photographs of how Dr. Evarts A. Graham of Washington University, using cigarette tars, induced skin cancer in mice. These articles, along with accumulated ash from other stories, were enough to depress sales.”

–Arthur E. Rowse, “The Great Smokescreen,” Fact Magazine, March-April 1964

“Winston. America’s Best.”

Cover story and back cover advertisement for Winston cigarettes (RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company)
December 16, 1985

“New Kent III 100s, Experience It!”

Cover story and back cover advertisement for Kent cigarettes (P. Lorillard Tobacco Company)
National Enquirer
January 22, 1980

“A World of Flavor in a Low Tar”

Cover story and back cover advertisement for Merit cigarettes (Philip Morris)
National Enquirer,
March 5, 1985

“Gilda Radner’s Answer to Cancer”/
“The World’s First Do-It-Yourself Print Ad”

Cover story and back cover advertisement for Merit cigarettes (Philip Morris)
LIFE Magazine
March 1988

“One American woman in ten will get BREAST CANCER; Why–and what can be done?”/
“10 packs of Carlton have less tar than 1 pack of these brands. U.S. gov’t. test method confirms of all king soft packs: Carlton is lowest.”

Cover story and back cover advertisement for Carlton cigarettes (American Tobacco Company)
TIME Magazine
January 14, 1991

“The American Cancer Society’s A to Z Diet Guide”/
“Discover Flavor at the Lowest Levels of Tar and Nicotine”

Cover story and back cover advertisement for Merit cigarettes (Philip Morris)
Family Circle
August 11, 1992

“CANCER: A Progress Report” (13 pages)

Cover story in Newsweek, February 22, 1974

This article was sparked by a front-page news story by Gina Kolata in The New York Times on May 3, 1998, headlined “HOPE IN THE LAB: A Special Report; A Cautious Awe Greets Drugs That Eradicate Tumors in Mice.” The article reported the discovery that two drugs, endostatin and angiostatin, developed by cancer researcher Dr. Judah Folkman [1933-2008], stopped cancers from growing by halting angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels. Eight cigarette advertisements were featured in this issue, including three for brands by Philip Morris (Marlboro, Virginia Slims, and Merit), two by the American Tobacco Company (Carlton and Pall Mall), one for RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company (Vantage), one by Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company (Barclay), and one for Lorillard (True).

Not a single sentence in this nine-page article in the Medicine section includes the words “prevention” or “smoking,” even though lung cancer (the number of cases of which was still dramatically increasing in 1981 and would not peak until the mid-1990s) is referred to as one of the most difficult to detect early or to treat. Indeed, the article concludes on a hopeful and almost boastful note:

“Conquest: Despite the advances of the last decade, cancer will still claim the lives of more than 400,000 Americans in 1981. The conquest of smallpox, polio and measles-which took centuries to accomplish-was simple by comparison to the war being waged against cancer. They were simple diseases, caused by viruses that could each be stopped by single vaccines. Cancer is 100 different diseases, one for every type of body cell that has the perverse capacity to break ranks and become malignant. “But progress is coming, and will come, with deliberate speed. Oncologists will find better ways to use current drugs, and basic research into the secrets of the cancer cell will suggest new and more dramatic compounds. And slowly, even the most recalcitrant tumors-those of the lung and the bowel-may become as treatable as leukemia. Granted, there is a long way to go, but the oncologists are confident of the outcome. Says [Dr. Vincent] DeVita [1935- ]: ‘We’re seeing the last little pieces of the chemotherapy puzzle falling into place.'”

The Surgeon General’s landmark report, Smoking and Health, was published in 1964

When did medical journals stop accepting cigarette advertising? 1950s? 1960s? 1970s? Guess again.




Original article by Richard H. Overholt, MD and Ivan C. Schmidt, MD with accompanying editorial
Advertisements by RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company for Camel cigarettes and Philip Morris & Co., Ltd., Inc.
The New England Journal of Medicine
March 31, 1949

Note: The article and editorial are solely concerned with the screening and detection of lung cancer (by chest x-ray) and the duration of survival following surgery. There is no mention of the etiology (cause[s]) of lung cancer. 

“… if control of cholera had not been initiated empirically, but had awaited demonstration of the vibro, active and useful preventive measures would have been delayed fifty years.” (5 pages)


“PROGRESS THROUGH RESEARCH: New Research Laboratory at R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company”
Advertisement by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

Index to Advertisers

The New England Journal of Medicine
September 10, 1953

“In a recent issue of the
British Medical Journal Smithers, radiotherapist to the Brompton Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, expresses concern about the ‘alarm’ that may be created among the general public by undue publicity accorded to recent statistical research on carcinoma of the lung…
“Whether undue concern has been or is being raised among the general public is to be questioned. The latest study by Doll and Hill, based on 1465 patients with cancer of the lung and 1465 matched controls, was carefully conducted and yielded evidence of an association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer so strong as to be considered proof within the everyday meaning of the word…

“If such figures as these have been unduly publicized, the public, medial and lay, shows no sign of taking any of the relatively simple courses that would undoubtedly reduce the incidence of lung cancer. If similar data had incriminated a food contaminant that was not habit forming and was not supported by the advertising of a financial empire, there is little doubt that effective counter-measures would have followed quickly. It is not insufficiency of evidence that accounts for lack of such measures against tobacco tars, and it is debatable whether or not a little more ‘alarm’ would be amiss. It is true that the causative mechanism underlying the association between tobacco and lung cancer is not known,. although there is ample room for speculation in the presence of known carcinogens in tobacco tar; also, little is known about dosage, filtration ,of smoke and other factors that bear on the subject. However, if control of cholera had not been initiated empirically, but had awaited demonstration of the vibro, active and useful preventive measures would have been delayed fifty years.”

–Editorial, “Cancer of the Lung,” The New England Journal of Medicine, September 10, 1953

“‘Not one single case of throat irritation due to smoking Camels!’ MORE DOCTORS SMOKE CAMELS”

Advertisement by RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company
Journal of the American Medical Association
June 24, 1950

(Cover from May 6, 1950)

PHYSICIAN EAST / “Carlton is lowest.”

Advertisement by the American Tobacco Company for Carlton cigarettes
PHYSICIAN EAST (bimonthly medical magazine sent free to physicians, published in Boston)

Tobacco Industry Plants Articles in Men’s Magazines in 1950s and 1960s Debunking Smoking-Lung Cancer Link

1954 True magazine cover


Article by Donald G. Cooley underwritten by the tobacco industry
TRUE, The Men’s Magazine
April 1954

Reprinted and distributed by the National Association of Tobacco Distributors as a free-standing article, “Smoke Without Fear.”

Memorandum from Hill & Knowlton, Inc, public relations firm for the Tobacco Industry Research Committee:

June 7, 1954
RE: Recent publicity

Attached are reproductions of a story by Donald G. Cooley, to appear in the July issue of TRUE magazine (2 million circulation), and an editorial appearing in the June 3, World-Telegram & Sun.

Hill & Knowlton staff worked closely with Mr. Cooley in preparation of the article, which makes ample use of material from the TIRC compendium of scientific opinion. The magazine has advised that reprints can be obtained at a nominal price per thousand.

“Smoke Without Fear” (38 pages)

Reprint of an article, “WHO SAYS SMOKING DOES GIVE MEN LUNG CANCER?” by Donald G. Cooley in TRUE The Men’s Magazine
July 1954

“Memo from Harden E. Goldstein”
“I am taking the liberty of enclosing, for your reference, a copy of ‘Smoke Without Fear’”

Cover letter by Harden E. Goldstein (1918-1969), director of the National Association of Tobacco Distributors (NATD), sent to NATD members with a copy of TRUE The Men’s Magazine article.
September 20, 1954

“How This Book Came To Be Written

“ALONG with many other men and women, I became concerned about the possible injurious effect of smoking on my health, after reading various alarmist reports in the newspapers.

“So, I asked my doctor if I should quit smoking.

“My doctor is a thoughtful man, and after a little deliberation he said:

“‘I think smoking does you more good than harm, and I wouldn’t suggest that you quit.’

“He went on to tell me that there is a beneficial side of smoking that is provable, while tobacco has not been proven a killer.

“Immediately, I wanted to know more about the arguments and facts in favor of smoking, so I commissioned Donald G. Cooley, famous writer on medical subjects, to write the factual, honest case for smoking.

“Every man and woman who enjoys smoking should read
this book.

Editorial Director
True-The Man’s Magazine

’Smoke Without Fear,’ Advises Medical Writer
Claims Life Expectancy Rise
Paralleled Increase of Cigarette Sales in U.S.”

Article in THE TOBACCO LEAF (tobacco industry trade weekly)
September 11, 1954

“A well-known medicine and science writer, in a book just being published, examines facts in the current cigarette controversy and advises smokers to ‘re-lax and enjoy it.’ Donald G. Cooley, an editor of ‘Your Health, Your Life,’ and other health magazines and author of best-selling books on science and health, reaches this conclusion in a new, popular-priced book entitled, ‘Smoke With-out Fear,’ published by Fawcett Publications, Inc.

’Scare aspects about smoking frankly appear to this writer to be sensationalized, exaggerated and distorted by non-professional interpretation of highly specialized studies,’ Mr. Cooley finds after examining many current scientific opinions on smoking habits and health. ‘Some of the evidence given in this booklet may help restore a saner balance and to abate undue hysteria.’

“Mr. Cooley emphasizes that his findings and conclusions are addressed to adult men and women ‘in whom the smoking habit is pleasurably established and who have not been told by their physicians to stop smoking for urgent medical reasons.’ He is not, Mr. Cooley says, inviting ‘any non-smoker, young or old, to begin the habit.’

’However, if you like smoking, relax and enjoy it,’ Mr Cooley advises. ‘If you have guilty feelings that you are weak-willed, immoral and suicidal, begin anew to smoke with peace of mind.’

“Mr. Cooley points out that We hear very little about the dangers to human life, that have decreased, while cigarette smoking has increased. A perfectly good reason for such silence is that there is no evidence to suggest that smoking lengthens life. Yet in 1935, life expectancy in United Stales was 59 1⁄2 years. Today it is just about 70 years… One indubitable fact– an isolated and probably irrelevant one, but one which makes a whale of a statistic–is that life expectancy has increased along with the increase in use of cigarettes.”

Tobacco Is a Noble Product; Neither the Smoker
Nor the Dealer Has Any Reason to Be Ashamed
Of His Connection With It” (2 pages)

September 18, 1954

“IN LAST WEEK’S issue of this paper we printed a review of Donald G. Cooley’s book, “Smoke Without Fear.” We have Mr. Cooley’s permission to reprint extensively from the text of that book, and the excerpt shown on the opposite page is a fair sample of the sanest thinking that has been done on the subject since certain ‘medical scientists’ began running around in circles, uttering loud cries of distress and anguish because they found out that some men die sooner than others:

“MR COOLEY, with his tongue m his cheek, asks: ‘Can anything good be said about tobacco?’ We think a great deal good can be said about tobacco, and that it’s time it was said. This continual air of apology for being a smoker or for being in the tobacco business that has obsessed some American people, in eluding people in the business who ought to know better, is beginning to pall. Tobacco has been under attack from the time of its introduction into civilization, but never until the “medical scientists” began to fulminate a few months ago have tobacco lovers· and people who make their living in the trade acted as if there were something shameful in the business. lf tobacco is a king, as we sometimes love to say, then let it put on a little swank and act like a king…

“Mr. Cooley says: ‘Smoke Without Fear.’ We would go further than that. To smokers we would say ‘Smoke with pride.’ To those who are in the tobacco business, from the farmer to the retailer, we would say: ‘Don’t apologize for your profession; you are in an honorable business and in doing your part in making cigars, cigarettes, smoking or chewing tobacco or snuff available to the people, you are doing a useful and meritorious work.’ And to both the smoker and the tobacco man we would say, ‘Let the heathen rage and the ‘medical scientists’ imagine a vain thing; just use the common sense your God gave you.’”


Article by Donald E Cooley Excerpted from “Smoke Without Fear”
September 18, 1954

“WE LIVE in an age of intimidation, in which we are not exhorted lo love life but lo fear death. We’re continually told of terrible new things to be afraid of. Yesterday it was the H-bomb; today it’s cigarette smoke that looms over us in a dreadful mushroom cloud. Thousands of facts can induce exaggerated fear by the very way they’re stated. You’ve heard the familiar warning that one out of eight will die of cancer. Have you ever heard that seven out of eight will never have cancer? The same fact — but what a difference in impact! Hundreds of other direful warnings lead to pusillanimous obsession with the number of one’s days rather than the joys and amenities that are in them…

“ADVICE TO SMOKE without fear may seem wildly irresponsible at the present time when the country is swept by a wave of hysteria about cigarettes. Smoking is said to lead to cancer and heart disease and to cut years off one’s life. It is implied that every smoker would live longer if tobacco were to vanish from the earth. We have a simple one-way formula for attaining mellow old age: Never smoke.

“It’s hardly that simple. You may be, and should he, suspicious of advice to keep on smoking without constant anxiety. Can anything good be said about tobacco? The purpose of this booklet. is to examine the smoking question by drawing upon evidence that is widely scattered through the biological sciences.

“We can’t tell all the facts, any more than scare-stories can, for the reason that nobody knows all the facts about anything. But it is possible to bring the smoking· question into somewhat saner balance. You must in the end make up your own mind. You are a whole man or a whole woman, not a statistic.”


Cover story in ARGOSY, “The largest-selling fiction-fact magazine for men”
January 1958

“Why Shouldn’t You Smoke? Is there a proven cause-and-effect relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer? NO, says authority Eric Northrup, and gives surprising reasons why.”

Article by Eric Northrup
January, 1958

Eric Northrup was the pen name of Leo Nemiroff [1914-2001], a science writer for the medical publication Scope Weekly and the author of a 1957 book Science Looks At Smoking: A new inquiry into the effects of smoking on your health (New York: Coward-McCann), which disputed the statistical link between smoking and health. Harry S.N. Greene, MD, Chairman of the Department of Pathology of Yale University Medical School, who wrote the Introduction, also debunked studies claiming that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer. The book received considerable attention, including a favorable review in The New York Times Book Review on July 14, 1957.)

In the ARGOSY article, Northrup argues that air pollution and “constitutional factors” are the likely causes of lung cancer and downplays the growing evidence of smoking as a cause of cancer by pointing out that the studies were all done on mice, guinea pigs, and machines. He quotes Clarence Cook Little [1888-1971], described as perhaps the world’s leading researcher on cancer in mice (but not also identified as the scientific director and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board to the Tobacco Industry Research Committee), debunking the research showing that tobacco smoke condensate (or ‘Tar”) painted on mice caused cancer, as “ninety per cent enthusiastic, ten per cent critical.”

Other quotes: “…the overwhelming attention devoted to the purely hypothetical cigarette-cancer risk verges on the absurd.”

“Statistics, as always, can play a brilliant part in providing clues for follow-up laboratory and clinical investigation. But until such claims receive scientific confirmation claims of causation can lead only to unwarranted emphasis that may adversely affect the distribution of research facilities.”

There are three full-page color cigarette advertisements in the issue: Old Gold Filter (Lorillard), Hit Parade (American Tobacco Co.), and Lucky Strike (American Tobacco Co.).

“CIGARETTES–Your  Invitation to Cancer!” (5 pages)

“CIGARETTES CAUSE CANCER” by M. Brothman, MD, as told to Don Cormack
October 1954

At first glance, Fury, published by pioneering bodybuilder and physical fitness advocate Joe Weider (1920-2013), resembled the sensational format of other mid-century men’s magazines. But in stark contrast to other monthlies such as TRUE, Argosy, and the newly launched Playboy–all heavily dependent on cigarette advertising–Fury published articles about “constructive living” aimed at men “whose outlook on life is sound and hopeful.”

“[D]oesn’t it seem just a bit insane that our number one cancer-producing agent, cigarettes, should be promoted by multi-million-dollar advertising campaigns that base their appeal to more smokers on the reassurance that harmlessness or even positive healthful aid will come as a result of smoking?”


Cover story by Henry P. Mattison and John Schneider
Coronet Magazine

May 1950

Although the authors of this article downplay, deride, or debunk the increasing number of medical reports of a variety of adverse health effects caused by smoking, Coronet, a general interest, family-oriented magazine similar in format to Reader’s Digest (which in 1952 became the first major magazine to warn regularly about the dangers of smoking) did not have cigarette advertising. However, its publisher, Esquire, a recipient of considerable cigarette ad revenue, disseminated reprints of the article.

“[A]larmists, seeking to promote their own or special interests, find it easy to thrive on sensation. Because of our sensitivity to the new and the startling, they can often cast a spell of fear across the country before sober facts catch up and repair the damage. Currently, we are being scared again–this time, about cigarette smoking. From all sides, we hear warnings of the grim fate awaiting smokers. Fifty million Americans who enjoy cigarettes–half the adults in the country–are told that smoking will lead them to an early grave, induce ulcers and high blood pressure, bring on assorted heart ailments, and even encourage the incidence of that gravest of all diseases, cancer. Never before, in fact, have the prophets of doom so diligently exposed the alleged evil effects of tobacco.”

Clues to a Deadly Riddle” (13 pages)

Article by Albert Rosenfeld
LIFE Magazine
June 22, 1962

(Four tobacco advertisements in this issue)

“Viceroy’s got the taste that’s right”
Cigarette advertisement by Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company

 “This is tobacco too mild to filter. This is pleasure too good to miss. This is CHESTERFIELD KING”
Cigarette advertisement by Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company

 “Should a gentleman offer a lady a Tiparillo?”
Cigar advertisement by General Cigar

Photograph of U.S. Marine war hero Lieut. Colonel Martin (“Stormy”) Sexton smoking a cigarette

“Get Lucky , the taste to start with… the taste to stay with”
Cigarette advertisement by the American Tobacco Company

“If it does indeed turn out that cancer is infectious, the news should inspire much more hope than fear because it would mean that cancer might be conquered through use of the same sort of techniques which have been so successful with other infectious diseases — perhaps even through anti- cancer vaccines…

“The cancer-germ theorists claim to have isolated the cancer organism and grown it in culture. Many claim that with it they have induced cancer in laboratory animals. Some…even claim to have developed vaccines for preventing, and serums for curing, cancer in humans. Similar claims have been made by others since the 1920s. Nearly all the cancer-germ theorists are doctors with bona fide degrees in science…”

“to smoke or not to smoke – that is still the question
Are cigarettes really ‘hazardous to your health’ like the package says? Nobody knows. In any case, Americans are smoking more than ever and, curiously, worrying less”

Article by Stanley Frank
TRUE The Man’s Magazine
January 1968

“Lung cancer is complicated by so many intangibles that it is almost impossible to attribute it solely to cigarettes or any other single cause. The Surgeon General’s report was criticized on that score by Dr. Israel Rappaport, a man with impressive credentials as a physician and a former professor at Columbia University’s School of Medicine. Among other achievements, in 1928 he initiated at Bellevue Hospital in New York a research project in pulmonary diseases which brought Nobel prizes in 1956 to two younger associates who carried on his work.

“‘The often-used argument that preventive action may be justified before the cause of a disease is established hardly applies in this case,’ Doctor Rappaport declared. ‘The assumed possible link between cigarette smoking and chronic lung disease cannot be compared with the link which exists, say, between an infection, the agent of which still is unknown, and
a definite disease. ‘Where we are dealing with a definite disease clearly linked to an infection we need not wait for determination of the particular infectious agent. In chronic lung disease we have an ill-defined disease indefinitely linked to a number of undetermined agents. Action against any particular one of the possible agents is illogical, unjustified, unreasonable and purposeless.’…”

“The truth about …
True’ s Article on Smoking” (5 pages)

June 1968

“More than four million copies of an article that attempts to debunk the dangers of smoking and attacks the findings of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee Report on smoking have been circulated in recent months. The article was first printed in more than two million copies of the January 1968 issue of True (“the man’s magazine”) under the title, ‘To smoke or not to smoke — that is still the question.’ It was written by a man named Stanley Frank…

“Then, early in March, an article appeared in the National Enquirer, a weekly tabloid with a circulation of close to a million, entitled ‘Cigarette Cancer Link Is Bunk.’ The Enquirer article carried the byline of ‘Charles Golden.’ But Stanley Frank, author of the True article, concedes that he wrote the Enquirer article, too.

“Mr. Frank has been a prolific magazine writer-author of scores of articles, on a wide range of general subjects, in the Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping, as well as True, and a frequent contributor to other national magazines. In October 1967, Mr. Frank went to work for Hill and Knowlton, the other public relations agency retained by the Tobacco Institute. Hill and Knowlton, True and Mr. Frank have all stated that Mr. Frank sold the story to True the previous April. However, when Mr. Frank rehashed his piece for the National Enquirer, he was an employe of Hill and Knowlton.

“The Wall Street Journal also reported (and Consumers Union later confirmed) that ‘a tobacco industry representative’ had approached a prominent Washington journalist in 1967 and had asked her to sign an already-written article attacking the 1964 Surgeon General’s Committee report. The plan was to submit it to a national magazine to which she was a frequent contributor. She refused.

“In sum, then, it would appear from the reports cited that the tobacco industry’s representatives tried to plant a pro-smoking article in a national publication. Two prosmoking articles have in fact appeared. Their author is currently employed by one of the public relations firms retained by the tobacco industry. He wrote the second of the articles while employed by the industry’s publicists. The industry directly financed extensive promotion of the first article and put into circulation more than a million reprints of it.” Some 600,000 of the reprints were sent out to professional people in the name of the editors of a presumably un-biased and unfettered national magazine…”

“’Life Cancer Article sent to RJR Holders”

News article
The Tobacco Leaf
July 28, 1962

“The RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company has mailed to its stockholders reprints of the article “New Evidence that Cancer May Be Infectious,” which appeared in the June 22 issue.

“An accompanying letter from Bowman Gray, board chairman, notes that the article ‘described some of the new scientific evidence which has been discovered by competent and careful research pointing toward infectious virus as one of the origins of cancer.

“’As you will see,’ Mr. Gray told the stockholders, ‘this artic le barely mentions tobacco, but does give compelling reasons why proper scientific research is the key which will unlock the secret’s of cancer’s cause and cure.’”

Atlantic Monthly: Pushing the debate

“THE PUBLIC AND SMOKING: Fear or Calm Deliberation?” (4 pages)

Commentary by Dr. Clarence Cook Little, scientific director and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board to the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, in response to the commentary by Dr. Daniel Rutstein, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Harvard Medical School

The Atlantic
December 1957


“In accepting and carrying out the responsibility of developing a research program in tobacco use and health for the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, my colleagues on the Scientific Advisory Board and I believe the cause of scientific investigation is best served by adherence to our stated position that definitive conclusions and predictions of individual risks are unwarranted by the present state of knowledge in this complex field…

“The public has been heavily propagandized along one definite theory of causation by those convinced by one level of information. Some of us demand a different order and level of knowledge before we accept causation or condone presentations of conclusions to the public. We claim merely the right to pursue knowledge through scientific research, the right to hold our point of view, and the right of the public to be aware of it.”


Commentary by Daniel D. Rutstein, MD, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine, Harvard Medical School

The Atlantic
October 1957

“Over 25,000 people in the United States die from lung cancer each year, and the number is increasing by about 2000 every year. This disease now kills more men than any other type of cancer.

“What is the evidence that cigarette smoking is responsible for most of this increase? Eighteen studies in five countries show either that patients with lung cancer are predominantly cigarette smokers, or that cigarette -smokers have more lung cancer than do non-smokers. All but one of these eighteen studies show that the more and the longer you smoke cigarettes (but not pipes or cigars), the more likely you are to get lung cancer. Depending on the amount and the duration of the smoking, the rate of occurrence of lung cancer is from five to thirty-five times greater among cigarette smokers than among non-smokers. Most important, in all of the medical literature there is not one study that shows no relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. These results, it seems to me, are more than just “the opinion of a few statisticians, as you stated…

“You have stated that there is nothing new, that the evidence is just ‘statistical,’ and that no ‘cause and effect relationship has been demonstrated.’ Your statement troubles me because I had always thought that such evidence as valid; I had been taught to believe that it is essential for medical research workers to follow statistical principles in all their investigations, What is wrong with a statistical study? Do not statistical principles come into play whenever anything is counted in any scientific study, whether performed in the laboratory or in the field? Statistics are, after all, the rules by which things are counted, and it is impossible to do any experiment without counting up the results…

“Dr. Little, is there really any justification for your continuing to demand the discovery of the ‘cause’ of lung cancer before we attempt to save human lives by recommending a decrease in cigarette smoking? Lung cancer is a serious disease which causes much suffering and cuts down people in the prime of life. Should not public health authorities immediately recommend the obvious remedy suggested by sound epidemiologic observation and confirmatory laboratory evidence? If not, why not?”

“THE QUIET VICTORY OF THE CIGARETTE LOBBY: How it found the best filter yet–Congress” (8 pages)

Article by Elizabeth Brenner Drew
The Atlantic
September 1965

“Behind the facade of a requirement for printing a warning on cigarette packages (which is not expected to deter smoking much), Congress tied the hands of the Federal Trade Commission by forbidding it to proceed with its own plans to apply much more stringent regulations. Had it not been for Congress, the FTC, which is charged with preventing unfair and deceptive trade practices, would have required a warning both on cigarette packages and in cigarette advertising. The effect of the advertising regulation is what the cigarette industry most feared; Congress obliged by forbidding it for at least four years.

“In another remarkable provision, the law prohibits state and local governments from taking any action on cigarette labeling or advertising. It is one thing for Congress to prohibit the states from enacting legislation which overlaps and is inconsistent with its own requirements’ as in the case of the labeling, but it is a far different thing for Congress to refuse to act, and to prohibit the states from acting, as in the case of cigarette advertising.

“The tobacco industry’s success at winning from Congress what it wanted while still providing the lawmakers with an opportunity to appear to be all in favor of health was a brilliant stroke. The industry brought it off because the tobacco lobby employed unusually skilled and well-organized strategy; because it hired some of the best legal brains and best-connected people in Washington to help with the fight; because it successfully grafted onto its built-in congressional strength from tobacco-producing states a sufficient number of congressmen to whom the issue was not one of health, or even of the tobacco industry, but one of curbing the powers of regulatory agencies, such as the FTC; and because it succeeded in throwing a heavy smoke screen around the health issue. And finally, it was the industry’s good fortune that President Johnson remained aloof from the battle…”

Selling Death: The New Yorker excoriated the tobacco industry in 1963, still maintains tobacco industry ties in 2023

“A Reporter at Large: A Cloud of Smoke” (21 pages)

 Article by Thomas Whiteside
The New Yorker
November 30, 1963

“When a manufactured product that most consumers accept as useful or pleasurable comes under strong suspicion of being harmful to certain users, a number of acute problems confront the manufacturer. To solve them, he can do one: of several things. If he is quite satisfied that his product presents no risk, he can do his best to reassure the public—and, if the sale of his product is subject to official regulation, the government— of its harmlessness. If he recognizes that a risk exists for certain users, he can try to modify his product, in order to render it as harmless as he knows how, or he can warn buyers of the nature of the risk, or he can withdraw the product from the market until its safety is firmly established. Whichever course he follows, the nature of the difficulty before him is not only technical and economic but moral. Such moral dilemmas arc recurrent in American industry. At present, one of the most serious of them involves the tobacco business-the oldest industry in the country. During the past decade and a half, a number of medical people have produced an increasing weight of evidence showing that an association exists between people’s smoking habits and the incidence of various diseases, including coronary heart disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer.

“Of all the associations alleged to exist between smoking and disease, none has received more public attention than that between smoking and lung cancer. During the last half century, the annual death rate from all cancers in this country has declined. as declined, hut the d<:ath rate from lung cancer, eath rate from lung cancer, once looked upon as a rare disease, has increased dramatically.  Between 1935 and 1962, deaths from lung cancer in the United States rose from four thousand to forty-ne thousand…

“According to a summary made by the American Cancer Society earlier this year, the death rate from lung cancer—death certificates being taken at face value—is seven times as great for people who smoke less than half a pack a day as it is for nonsmokers, while for those who smoke two or more packs a day, it is more than twenty times as great…”

annals page

“Annals of Advertising: Cutting Down” (22 pages)

Article by Thomas Whiteside
The New Yorker
December 19, 1970

NOTE: Although The New Yorker stopped publishing cigarette advertising by the 1970s, the magazine has not stopped publishing advertisements by Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, touting the company’s sponsorship of charitable endeavors such as food banks, arts organizations, literacy initiatives, and efforts to reduce domestic violence. See historic examples of cigarette advertisements in The New Yorker as well as examples of Altria’s corporate sponsorship advertisements published in the magazine in the 2000s in the exhibition, “Big Tobacco in the Big Apple: How New York City Became the Heart of the Tobacco Industry…and Anti-Smoking Activism” (

“Selling Death” (4 pages)

Article by Thomas Whiteside
The New Republic
March 27, 1971

NOTE: Thomas Whiteside adapted his two articles on cigarette advertising in The New Yorker in 1963 and 1970 plus a third article in The New Republic in 1971 into the book Selling Death: Cigarette advertising and public health (Liveright, 1971).

Ms. Magazine’s addiction to cigarette advertising

“Do you think that it would be better to stop publishing!?”

In 1986, feminist icon and founding publisher of Ms. Magazine Gloria Steinem caught heat for the magazine’s dependence on cigarette advertising revenue, even as the prevalence of lung cancer in women soared. During a testy exchange with a caller on a radio show who challenged Steinem on taking cigarette money, she retorted, “Do you think that it would be better to stop publishing!?” With a handful of exceptions, such as Good Housekeeping, magazines directed at women courted tobacco companies for more cigarette ads. In 1989, Grace Mirabella (1929-2021), former editor-in-chief of VOGUE and wife of famed lung cancer surgeon William Cahan (1914-2001) of Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, started a new magazine, Mirabella. Its April 1990 issue featured a hard-hitting article on cigarette advertising. As reported by Los Angeles Times writer Bob Sipchen (“Mirabella Smokes Out Pro-Tobacco Influence : Magazines: Importance of cigarette ads to women’s organizations and publications is detailed. Magazine Week, meanwhile, says 165 periodicals would die without them.” Although Grace Mirabella subsequently announced that the magazine would no longer accept cigarette advertising, she left in 1996, and when the magazine folded in 2000, its next-to-last issue, pictured here, featured a cigarette ad on the back cover.

“Forty years ago Ms. was launched in the pages of New York Magazine

Cover of New York Magazine
November 7, 2011

Ms. “The Beauty of HEALTH” / Now is lowest

Advertisement by RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company for Now cigarettes on the back cover of the annual health issue of Ms. Magazine
May 1986

Ethnic minority publishers sell out to cigarette advertisers

For more than 60 years, the highest circulation magazines with a predominantly African American readership were Johnson Publishing’s EBONY and JET.  Cigarette advertising was a mainstay of these publications, which rarely included articles about cancer and seldom if ever informed readers of the devastating health toll taken by cigarette smoking.  Neither did magazines aimed at Spanish-speaking readers such as HISPANIC, the premier issue of which featured a Marlboro cigarette advertisement on the back cover.

“WAR! The Drug Crisis” / “Salem Fresh on the scene”

Advertisement by RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company on the back cover of EBONY Magazine
August 1980

“Premier Issue” / “Marlboro”

Advertisement by Philip Morris  for Now cigarettes on the back cover of the premier issue of HISPANIC Magazine
April 1988

[Adolf Hitler]

TIME Magazine
May 7, 1945

[Saddam Hussein]

TIME Magazine
April 21, 2003


TIME Magazine
May 26, 2011

“CANCER: How to tell the hope from the hype. A SPECIAL REPORT” (8 pages)

Cover Story by Christine Gorman
TIME Magazine
May 18, 1998

TIME Magazine and the cure for cancer: Hope vs. hype indeed

In 1945, TIME Magazine first used a red X on its cover to mark the demise of an arch-enemy. The striking image has since appeared five times–after the killings of a dictator in 2003 and two perpetrators of mass terrorism in 2006 and 2011, and in 2020 to illustrate the end of “the worst year ever.” But the May 18, 1998 TIME cover heralding the elimination of cancer was woefully premature. The rush-to-print cover story was sparked by a front-page article by Gina Kolata in The New York Times on May 3, 1998, headlined “HOPE IN THE LAB: A Special Report.; A Cautious Awe Greets Drugs That Eradicate Tumors in Mice.” Kolata’s article, which reported the discovery that two drugs, endostatin and angiostatin, developed by cancer researcher Dr. Judah Folkman [1933-2008], stopped cancers from growing by stopping angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels. “Within a year, if all goes well,” the article began, “the first cancer patient will be injected with two new drugs that can eradicate any type of cancer, with no obvious side effects and no drug resistance — in mice.”

Although there is no mention of cigarette smoking in the TIME article, at the bottom of a two-page Checklist of Cancer Treatments a paragraph labeled, “The Best Prevention,” notes that “changes in life-style–chief among them quitting smoking–can remove risk factors that cause cancer in the first place…”

A second three-page article, “Molecular Revolution,” by Claudia Willis, lists “cigarette smoke, sunlight, environmental toxins…and aging” as causes of alterations in genes that can result in cancer. The article reflected the view of cancer researchers that “a new era is dawning in the treatment of the U.S.’s No. 2 killer.” Dr. Bert Vogelstein [1949-  ], a world-renowned investigator of cancer genes at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said, “Three decades ago, the Federal Government’s ‘War on Cancer’ underwrote basic discoveries about the ways broken-down genes led to malignancies. Now that work is beginning to pay off…As researchers, we feel a tremendous amount of hope, probably for the first time in the history of cancer research.”

From its first year of publication in 1923 and throughout the 20th century, TIME Magazine was a major recipient of cigarette advertising revenue. There were no cigarette advertisements in its May 11, 1998 issue on the hoped-for cure for cancer.

“SMOKING SCARE? What’s Happened to It?” (3 pages)

Cover story
U.S. News & World Report
January 11, 1965

Cover headline: “Smoking Scare? What’s Happened to It?…One year after the big smoking scare–People are smoking about as much as they did before. Sales of cigarettes after a sudden drop a year ago, have climbed back.”

This article describes the lack of impact on U.S. cigarette consumption one year after the publication of the Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health. The hope was that educational campaigns being developed by national health organizations and aimed at teenagers would be more successful in discouraging smoking.

“[A]ll signs indicate that cigarette smoking is still just as widespread among Americans as it ever was…
The Surgeon General himself has said he is ‘disappointed’ that so few Americans gave up cigarettes permanently following the publication of his report….The Surgeon General’s report caused a 30-day slump in cigarette sales, coupled with a wholesale shift to pipes and cigars. Few people, apparently, attempted to quit smoking entirely.”

There were no cigarette advertisements in this issue.

IS THERE PROOF SMOKING CAUSES CANCER? Exclusive Interview with Dr. E. Cuyler Hammond” (6 pages)

Cover story
U.S. News & World Report
February 26, 1954

Cover headline: “Is There Proof Smoking Causes Cancer? Interview with Dr. E. Cuyler Hammond: A Multiplicity of Suspects…How the Research Is Being Handled…What’s Been Found Up to Now,”

This is an in-depth interview with Dr. E. Cuyler Hammond (1912-1986), director of statistical research of the American Cancer Society and professor of biometrics at Yale University. Dr. Hammond, who smoked, was directing the nation’s largest epidemiological study of smoking and lung cancer. This quote reflected his open-mindedness while conducting his research:

“My personal guess right now is that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between smoking and lung cancer, but I have no idea at the present time whether that relationship is trivial–no more dangerous than crossing the street, for after all, you might get run over crossing the street–or whether it is so important that making cigarettes ought to stop until we found what’s in them that is bad and remove it. But as to whether or not all the harmful ingredients can be removed and still have a cigarette that is pleasant to smoke remains to be seen. I am interested not only in lung cancer, but also other possibly harmful effects of smoking.

“It may be that the nicotine is increasing the death rate from heart disease and that the tar is increasing the death rate from lung cancer and that something else is increasing the death rate for cerebral hemorrhage. If so you will probably have to eliminate the cigarette. We don’t know yet. It is also conceivable that smoking has some beneficial effects.”

There were no cigarette advertisements in this issue.

About the back cover: The consumption of alcoholic beverages was first classified as a potential cause of cancer in 1988 by the International Agency for Cancer Research (IACR). Since 2010 ethanol (the major ingredient of alcoholic beverages) and acetaldehyde (the principal metabolite of ethanol) have been classified as Class I carcinogens in humans (similar to asbestos and tobacco smoke). IACR has concluded that alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast. The level of risk increases with the level of consumption. Alcohol consumption is the primary cause of 3.2% of deaths from cancer in the US each year.  Mass media coverage of alcohol as a carcinogen has been negligible. In contrast to its annual, one-day “Great American Smokeout” to discourage cigarette smoking, The American Cancer does little to raise the awareness of the public or health professionals about alcohol as a cause of cancer.

“Lung Cancer: Who’s at Risk? The Danger for Women and Ex-Smokers: What We Can Learn from Dana Reeve and Peter Jennings”
(5 pages)

Cover story, “The Deadliest Cancer,” by Geoffrey Cowley and Claudia Kalb
August 22, 2005

There are several mentions of smoking in this article, including “The causes of lung cancer are no great mystery: some 87 percent of all cases result directly from smoking. Whatever your age, sex, race, occupation or family history, the surest way to protect yourself is to avoid smoking or to quit.” The article discusses ABC-TV news reporter and anchor Peter Jennings, who died of lung cancer at 67 that he attributed to his past 35 years of cigarette smoking. The article also mentions actress Dana Reeve, who never smoked but was found to have lung cancer at age 44. Other points of the article include the frustratingly slow progress in the detection and treatment of this largely preventable disease, as well as the need to counteract the largely unopposed $15 billion/year marketing of cigarettes by the tobacco industry.

One degree of separation: The back cover advertiser, TIAA-CREF, the nation’s foremost teachers’ pension fund, has been a major investor in tobacco stocks. In 2005 Philip Morris, in which TIAA-CREF held millions of shares, was one of the 30 companies included in calculating the Dow Jones average. Philip Morris was also the most profitable stock over a 50-year span on the New York Stock Exchange.


Cover story, “Stopping Cancer in Its Tracks,” by J. Madeleine Nash
TIME Magazine
April 25, 1994

This article focuses on advances in the understanding of angiogenesis, the abnormal formation of new blood vessels by cancer cells that is a harbinger of a spreading cancer, as well as on discoveries related to the genes found in cancer cells: oncogenes, which can mutate and transform a normal cell into a cancerous one; and tumor-suppression genes, most notably p53, which keeps watch over our hereditary material, DNA, as our cells divide [the p53 gene is named for a protein it makes with a molecular weight of 53].

“For Satisfying Pleasure…Kent with the Micronite Filter…” (5 pages)

Cover story and back cover advertisement for Kent cigarettes (P. Lorillard Tobacco Company)
November 18, 1963

This article is the most definitive coverage published in any news magazine about the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health in the lead up to the release of the committee’s findings on the role of cigarette smoking and disease. The committee had been set up a year and a half earlier after Washington Evening Star reporter Edgar Prina surprised President John F. Kennedy at a news conference by asking what the federal government was going to do about smoking in the wake of the Royal College of Physicians’ recent indictment of cigarettes. Kennedy asked Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry to establish a committee to study the issue. Just as the committee was winding up its top-secret investigation, and only a few days after this issue of Newsweek was published, President Kennedy was assassinated. There was doubt that the report would be released, since President Johnson’s friend, attorney Abe Fortus, had represented the tobacco industry. But the report was issued on January 11, 1964–an indictment of smoking as a cause of lung cancer and other diseases, after having reviewed 7,100 studies.

The article included statements from the Tobacco Industry Research Council and several physicians who cast doubt on the evidence that smoking caused cancer. The issue featured an advertisement for Kent cigarettes (Lorillard) on its back cover.

(Read More)

“The War Against CANCER: A PROGRESS REPORT” (9 pages)

Cover story
February 22, 1974

This article in the Medicine section highlights the discovery of University of Wisconsin cancer researcher Dr. Howard M. Temin [1934 – 1994]* that the rules for the transmission of genetic material within the cell can be reversed by viruses known to cause cancer in animals. The tone of the article is buoyant, as these two quotes suggest:

“‘[C]oincidentally or not, the White House itself has called for a massive commitment of public funds. ‘The time has come in America,’ said President Richard M. Nixon in his State of the Union Message this year, ‘when the same kind of concentrated effort that split the atom and took man to the moon should be turned toward conquering this dread disease.’”

“What more remains to be seen is how quickly the latest breakthroughs may lead to yet more dramatic and productive ones, so that as some cautious physicians and researchers envision, the war against cancer may be won by the end of the century.”

There is no mention of smoking in the article. There are full-page color advertisements for Parliament cigarettes (Philip Morris), Winston cigarettes (RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co.), Borkhum Riff pipe tobacco (United States Tobacco Co.), and a one-third page ad for Cuesta-Rey cigars.

*In 1975, Dr. Temin shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology with David Baltimore and Renato Dulbecco for discoveries related to the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of the cell. After receiving the award from King Carl Gustav of Sweden, Temin addressed the smokers in the audience…saying he was ‘outraged that one major measure available to prevent much cancer, namely the cessation of smoking, had not been more widely adopted.’ He had also insisted that the ashtray located on the laureates’ table be removed.” In 1994, Dr. Temin died of lung cancer at age 59.

Rebels, Mavericks, and Heretics in Biology by Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.
Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, February 9). Howard Martin Temin. Wikipedia. Retrieved March 11, 2022.

“DR. CLARENCE COOK (“PETE”) LITTLE–‘If we can get all the women talking about Cancer…’” (8 pages)

Cover story, “Cancer Army,” in Medicine section
TIME Magazine
March 22, 1937

This article profiles cancer researcher Dr. Clarence Cook Little, director of the American Society for the Control of Cancer, and his plans to create a “Women’s Field Army” in 39 states to educate women about cancer, “the largest evangelical movement ever loosed against a disease.” The article begins, “Three hundred thousand U.S. women have cancer. Some 80,000 will die of it this year…”

There is no mention of smoking. In the cover photo, Dr. Little is lighting his pipe. (In 1953, the tobacco industry, reeling from the growing number of published studies in peer-reviewed medical journals implicating cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer, set up the Tobacco Industry Research Committee and hired Dr. Little as scientific director and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board to the committee.) 

The back cover is a color advertisement for Lucky Strike cigarettes (American Tobacco Company). There are also two advertisements for pipe tobacco, Prince Albert (RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company) and Briggs Pipe Mixture (Briggs).

“THE NEW WAR ON CANCER via Virus Research & Chemotherapy” (9 pages)

Cover story, “Cornering the Killer”
TIME Magazine
July 27, 1959

The article profiles the director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. John R. “Rod” Heller, and discusses the theory of viruses as a cause of cancer and the development of drugs to kill cancer cells. Two key points:

“The experts are in close agreement on what cancer is. First, it is not one disease any more than ‘infection’ is. Cancer ravages the entire plant and animal kingdoms. In Man, there are 200 to 300 kinds, though 90% of human cancers belong to 30 common types. So ‘cancer’ is a collective term.”

“Biggest question in prevention today is how the rise in lung cancer–virtually confined to heavy-smoking men–can be checked and reversed. Rod Heller, bureaucrat and son of a tobacco-growing state (although he has never smoked), has weighed all the conflicting evidence and arrived at a forthright conclusion: ‘Statistical evidence, supported by laboratory findings, has shown that excessive cigarette smoking can be a cause of lung cancer, and that the greater the consumption of cigarettes the greater the risk.’ Practical Dr. Heller sees little prospect of changing U.S. smoking habits, pins his hopes for lung cancer prevention on convicting a specific substance in tobacco tars as the guilt agent, then getting rid of it.”

There is a full-page color advertisement for Pall Mall cigarettes (American Tobacco Company) and three small Marlboro cigarette ads (Philip Morris) totaling one-sixth of a page.

“DIAGNOSIS: LUNG CANCER? The Surgeon Operates” (7 pages)

Cover story
June 22, 1959

“Cancer of the Lung–Case No. 248301,” by Calvin Tomkins

This cover story includes a graphic description of an open-chest operation in a patient suspected of having lung cancer. The article begins,

“Fifty years ago, cancer of the lung was virtually unknown. Today, it kills more than 35,000 Americans a year, strikes down hundreds of thousands throughout the world, and is increasing at a rate that some doctors call ‘epidemic.’ So far, despite intensive research, the only hope of cure is surgery–the massive, radical chest surgery recently undergone by such prominent men as Gen. Nathan Twining, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and TV-radio star Arthur Godfrey.”

The article features a question and answer section with prominent researchers (excerpted below). A color advertisement for Pall Mall cigarettes (American Tobacco Company) appears in the issue, with the slogan, “Get satisfying flavor…So friendly to your taste!…No flat filtered-out flavor.”

(Read More)

“Toward Control of CANCER” (10 pages)

Cover story, “Toward Cancer Control,” by Peter Stoler and Andrea Chambers
TIME Magazine
March 19, 1973

This hagiography of a pioneer of modern immunology and bone marrow transplantation, Dr. Robert Good [1922-2003] is prefaced by a publisher’s note that begins,

“CANCER, mankind’s most feared disease, has been stubbornly resisting the onslaught of medicine since the days of Hippocrates. lt is today the second leading cause of death in the U.S. (after heart disease) and a subject of intensive study by researchers around the world. One of the foremost of these is this week’s cover subject, Dr. Robert Good, director of New York’s Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research.”

The article is devoted entirely to advances in the treatment of cancer; thus there is no mention of prevention, smoking, or lung cancer. There are, however, four full-page color advertisements for cigarettes (Tareyton [American Tobacco Co.], Viceroy [Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company], Kent [Lorillard], and Benson & Hedges [Philip Morris]) and a quarter-page advertisement for Garcia y Vega cigars.

How TIME and Newsweek, the nation’s top two news magazines, courted cigarette advertisers

Not long after its inception in 1923, TIME Magazine sought to ingratiate itself with the tobacco industry. For the remainder of the century, the magazine was heavily dependent on cigarette advertising. In the early-1980s, TIME was a frequent advertiser in the tobacco industry trade publication United States Tobacco Journal (re-named the US Tobacco and Candy Journal, then The US Distribution Journal in that decade), promising to “Light up cigarette sale.” One of TIME‘s advertisements saluted the National Association of Tobacco Dealers. In airports across the country, TIME purchased freestanding billboards that featured a pack of cigarettes as a stand-in for the “I” in the magazine’s logo. Brands of all the major cigarette manufacturers appeared during this campaign.

In the mid-1980s Newsweek, then owned by The Washington Post, also purchased advertisements in United States Tobacco Journal touting the magazine as a leading vehicle for increasing global cigarette sales and making a pitch for more cigarette ads. At the same time, in ads in the trade weekly Advertising Age, Newsweek used the prestige of the American Medical Association (AMA) to lend credibility to potential advertisers in a Personal Health Care section, written and endorsed by the AMA, published in an issue in 1983 and another in 1984. The 32-page section in Newsweek‘s November 7, 1983 issue, which featured 17 pages of advertising by pharmaceutical, food, fitness equipment, and vitamin companies, included a total of two sentences about smoking in its 15 pages of health information and advice: “If you smoke, you should discuss the risks with your doctor.” and “Don’t smoke in bed.” In the rest of the issue, there were 11 pages of cigarette advertising, more than for any other product except automobiles. The 36-page Personal Health Care section of Newsweek‘s October 29, 1984 issue included five paragraphs about the risk of cancer from smoking in its 16 pages of health information and advice. The issue carried four pages of cigarette advertising. Not to be outdone by the AMA and Newsweek, the American Academy of Family Physicians and TIME Magazine collaborated on a supplement, “LIFESTYLE/HEALTHSTYLE” in TIME‘s October 8, 1984 issue that made no mention of cigarette smoking. Eight pages of cigarette advertising by Philip Morris (Virginia Slims), RJ Reynolds (Vantage 100s), Lorillard (True 100’s), American Brands (Carlton Slims, Lucky Strike Lights), and Brown & Williamson (Kool Filter Kings) were featured in that issue.


Photograph in Advertising Age
February 23, 1987

TIME  Magazine‘s salute to dance sponsor Philip Morris Cos. included an 11-by-14 banner for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane danced troupe’s New York premiere of ‘The Animal Trilogy’  at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On hand for the occasion were (from l.) James L. Thompson, VP-media Philip Morris; Harvey Lichtenstein, president-executive producer BAM; William Campbell, executive VP-director of marketing, PM-USA; and Richard Heinemann, U.S. advertising sales director, TIME.”

“Where there’s smoke…there’s a hot market for cigarette advertisers in TIME.

Advertisement for TIME Magazine
US Tobacco Journal
Circa 1981


Advertisement by TIME Magazine
United States Tobacco Journal
Circa 1981

TIME: Where America learns Carlton is lowest”

Photograph of advertisement for TIME Magazine (and American Tobacco Company’s Carlton cigarettes) at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago
All photographs of airport billboards taken by Alan Blum, MD

TIME: Where America learns Carlton is lowest”

Photograph of advertisement for TIME Magazine (and American Tobacco Company’s Carlton cigarettes) at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago

TIME: Where the lowest reaches the top”

Photograph of advertisement for TIME Magazine (and American Tobacco Company’s Carlton cigarettes) at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago

TIME: Where True Gold is being discovered”

Photograph of billboard for TIME Magazine (and P. Lorillard’s True Gold cigarettes) at unknown New York City subway station
Circa 1981

TIME: The time is right for the strong-tasting low tar…Real”

Photograph of billboard for TIME Magazine (and RJ Reynolds’ Real cigarettes) at unknown airport
Circa 1978

TIME: Where smokers discover the abundant taste of Golden Lights”

Photograph of billboard for TIME Magazine (and P. Lorillard’s Kent Golden Lights cigarettes) at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago
Circa 1980

TIME: Where Kent III taste is a newsworthy experience”

Photograph of billboard for TIME Magazine (and P. Lorillard’s Kent III cigarettes) at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago
Circa 1980

TIME: To your good health”

Photograph of billboard for TIME Magazine as a reliable source of medical information, at unknown airport
Circa 1982

“Light up your sales. Target-market impact. Prestigious national magazine. Newsweek

Advertisement by Newsweek seeking cigarette advertisements
United States Tobacco Journal
May 22 – June 7, 1981


Article by Kenneth E. Warner, PhD
The New England Journal of Medicine
February 7, 1985

“On November 7, 1983. Newsweek published a supplement “Personal Health Care” prepared by the American Medical Association (AMA) with financial support from the magazine. “This special supplement,” the text stated, “offers easily understandable information on good health from the most knowledgeable and dependable source available: the medical profession itself.” The supplement promised to discuss “the most important things” related to health and devoted full pages among its 16 pages of text to detailed advice on diet, exercise, weight control, and stress. Although the Surgeon General of the United States has labeled cigarette smoking “the chief, single, avoidable cause of death in our society and the most important public health issue of our time,” the AMA-Newsweek supplement mentioned cigarettes in only four sentences, none of which explicitly identified smoking as a health hazard. The same issue of Newsweek contained 12 pages of cigarette advertisements, worth close to $1 million in revenues.

“In response to an inquiry, a spokesperson for Newsweek said, “we naturally share concerns regarding smoking … but hope that you understand that there is just not enough space sometimes to do justice to all the subjects involved” (personal communication, Nov. 17, 1983). According to the science news editor of the AMA, “[The AMA’s] intention, expressed and argued, was to have a much stronger statement … [about] smoking. Newsweek resisted any mention of cigarettes … ” (letter from James Stacey to Dr. George Weis, Dec. 7, 1983)…”


Article by Kenneth E. Warner, PhD
The New England Journal of Medicine
February 7, 1985

“On November 7, 1983. Newsweek published a supplement “Personal Health Care” prepared by the American Medical Association (AMA) with financial support from the magazine. “This special supplement,” the text stated, “offers easily understandable information on good health from the most knowledgeable and dependable source available: the medical profession itself.” The supplement promised to discuss “the most important things” related to health and devoted full pages among its 16 pages of text to detailed advice on diet, exercise, weight control, and stress. Although the Surgeon General of the United States has labeled cigarette smoking “the chief, single, avoidable cause of death in our society and the most important public health issue of our time,” the AMA-Newsweek supplement mentioned cigarettes in only four sentences, none of which explicitly identified smoking as a health hazard. The same issue of Newsweek contained 12 pages of cigarette advertisements, worth close to $1 million in revenues.

“In response to an inquiry, a spokesperson for Newsweek said, “we naturally share concerns regarding smoking … but hope that you understand that there is just not enough space sometimes to do justice to all the subjects involved” (personal communication, Nov. 17, 1983). According to the science news editor of the AMA, “[The AMA’s] intention, expressed and argued, was to have a much stronger statement … [about] smoking. Newsweek resisted any mention of cigarettes … ” (letter from James Stacey to Dr. George Weis, Dec. 7, 1983)…”

“Good Medicine for Health Care Advertisers”

Advertisement by Newsweek seeking more health care advertisers for its special advertising section sponsored by the American Medical Association
Advertising Age

“Personal Health Care
Written by the American Medical Association” (44 pages)

Special Advertising Supplement
November 7, 1983

(Eleven pages of cigarette advertising were published in this issue)

“BENSON & HEDGES The Deluxe 100”
Cigarette advertisement by Philip Morris Inc.

Air filter advertisement by Bionaire Incorporated

“Reach for a world of flavor. MERIT”
Cigarette advertisement by Philip Morris Inc.

“Carlton is lowest.”
Cigarette advertisement by the American Tobacco Company

“When you know what counts. Kent”
Cigarette advertisement by the P. Lorillard Tobacco Company

Cigarette advertisement by the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company

Cigarette advertisement by Philip Morris Inc.

Cigarette advertisement by the American Tobacco Company

“You never had it this fresh! BRIGHT”
Cigarette advertisement by the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company

“Winston. America’s Best.”
Cigarette advertisement by the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company

The 4 mentions of smoking in the 18-page Personal Health Care supplement:

“If you smoke, you should discuss the risks with your doctor.

“Those in the following categories should consult their physicians before beginning exercise:

…Heavy smokers (more than 20 cigarettes per day).

“…Don’t smoke in bed.

“…If you smoke cigarettes or drink alcoholic beverages, you should consult your physician about these habits during the term of your pregnancy.

“Join the AMA and Newsweek for an historic house call on 22 million Americans”

Advertisement by Newsweek touting a special advertising supplement on health sponsored by the American Medical Association
Advertising Age

“Personal Health Care
A guide to health, fitness and nutrition” (42 pages)

Special Advertising Supplement Written by the American Medical Association
October 29, 1984

(Three pages of cigarette advertising were published in this issue)

“If you smoke please try Carlton.”
Cigarette advertisement by the American Tobacco Company

Cigarette advertisement by Philip Morris Inc.

Cigarette advertisement by Philip Morris Inc.

”Smoking.  As far as the medical profession is concerned, there is no question that smoking is the most common preventable cause of death in this country. In fact, in the summer of 1983 the governing body of the American Medical Association, its House of Delegates, adopted as policy a commitment to work with the profession, with government and educators to bring about a ‘smoke-free society’ by the year 2000.

“Cigarettes are most dangerous, but pipe tobacco, cigars and smokeless tobaccos all pose the same dangers, differing only by degrees.

“The health hazards of smoking have been documented since the surgeon general first reported on it in 1964

“Today, smoking is associated with some 340,000 premature deaths a year, including 30 percent of all cancer deaths. Mi lions suffer from debilitating chronic disease caused by smoking. It is a major risk factor in cardiovascular disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and cancer of the lung, throat, mouth, esophagus, pancreas and bladder. It can also cause problems ranging from minor respiratory infections to stomach ulcers.

“Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of complications and slower fetal growth, spontaneous abortion, premature delivery, and death of the fetus or newborn.”

Strategies for a Healthier, Happier, and Longer Life” (27 pages)

Special Advertising Supplement by Bob Mathias
TIME Magazine
October 8, 1984

“This special section on fitness and well-being was produced in cooperation with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) on the occasion of national Family Health Month (October) during which family doctors are encouraging people to take a close look at their family eating habits, physical fitness, mental health and possible hazards in their homes.”

Cigarette advertisement by the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company

“Come up to KOOL”
Cigarette advertisement by the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company

“NEW! Introducing Carlton Slims…Elegant, with the class of Carlton.”
Cigarette advertisement by the American Tobacco Company

“VIRGINIA SLIMS You’ve come a long way, baby.”
Cigarette advertisement by Philip Morris Inc.

Cigarette advertisement by the American Tobacco Company

“The lowest stands alone. NOW. THE LOWEST.”
Cigarette advertisement by the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company 

“True 100’s Innovation!”
Cigarette advertisement by the P. Lorillard Tobacco Company 

“…On October 8, 1984, Time published a similar special health supplement, produced in cooperation with the American Academy of Family Physicians. The text contained no references to cigarette smoking. The Academy claims that Time removed discussion of the health hazards of smoking without the knowledge of the Academy (letter from Dr. Robert McGinnis to the editor of Time, Oct. I 7, 1984). The October 8 issue of Time contained eight pages of cigarette advertisements…”

Reader’s Digest: A rare, albeit hypocritical, exception

First published in 1922, Reader’s Digest had the largest circulation (over 9 million) of any magazine in the US by mid-century, a distinction it held until 1984 when TV Guide surpassed it. Virtually alone among magazines that regularly published articles about cancer, Reader’s Digest included articles about cigarette smoking as early as 1938. With the publication in December, 1952 of the article “Cancer by the Carton” (excerpted from a polemic by Roy Norr, “Smokers are Getting SCARED!” in Christian Herald in October, 1952), Reader’s Digest began a no-holds-barred attack on cigarette smoking. In the tradition of legendary journalist George Seldes (1890-1995), whose newspaper, In fact, published scathing exposes of the clout of the tobacco industry in the mass media in the 1940s, Norr published a newsletter on the tobacco industry, cigarette advertising, and the dangers of smoking. In the June, 1962 issue of Reader’s Digest, which contained a summary of Smoking and Health, the ground-breaking report published three months earlier by the Royal College of Physicians, the publishers of the United Kingdom edition announced that the magazine would cease accepting cigarette advertising; cigarette ads were never included in Reader’s Digest in the U.S.  This ban was not without its skeptics, however. In his cover article for the March-April 1964 issue of the magazine Fact, reporter Arthur E. Rowse wrote that the Digest‘s founding publisher, DeWitt Wallace, was a “pleasure-hating puritan, which is why the Digest was against smoking back in the ’20’s, before a really sound case had been made by the prosecutors. True to form, the Digest recently ran an article extolling the ‘safety’ of American automobiles in the same issue with 20 full-page, color ads for various cars, at $55,675 a page.”

Consumer Reports, which has never accepted any kind of advertising since its inception in 1936, is the only other major magazine that crusaded against cigarette smoking in the 1950s and 1960s.


Advertisement for the June 1962 issue of Reader’s Digest
The New York Times
May 23, 1962

“Lung Cancer and Cigarettes–The Latest Findings” (7 pages)

Article by Lois Mattox Miller
Reader’s Digest, U.S. Edition
June 1962

“Asked for tobacco industry comment on the June ‘Reader’s Digest” article, George v. Allen, President of the Tobacco Institute, said…

”’This article purports to give “the latest findings” concerning lung cancer and cigarettes. If true, this would be of intense interest to us and everyone else. Unfortunately, the fact is that the article is merely a review of still another review of old material that has appeared in past years…

“‘This is true also for the March report of the Royal College of Physicians in London, from which the “Digest’s” article is largely drawn…”

Tobacco, The International Weekly
May 25, 1962

“Smoking and Health: The Doctors’ Report” (12 pages)

Article by Lois Mattox Miller
Reader’s Digest, United Kingdom Edition
June 1962

“Cancer by the Carton” (3 pages)

Article by Roy Norr
Condensed from “Smokers are Getting SCARED!” in Christian Herald, October, 1952
Reader’s Digest
December 1952

“Smokers Are Getting SCARED!” (3 pages)

Article by Roy Norr
Christian Herald
October 1952

(Source: Googlebooks)

Newspapers, too, aggressively sought lucrative cigarette ad revenue

In 1975, more than a decade after the publication of the US Surgeon General’s Report on the devastating health consequences of cigarette smoking, George Gitlitz, MD, a vascular surgeon and past president of the Broome County, New York Medical Society, wrote the first of over a dozen letters to the editor and the publisher of The New York Times challenging them to discuss on the newspaper’s editorial page their reasons for continuing to accept cigarette advertising and to acknowledge the irony of repeated editorial accusations of financial self-interest by doctors while profiting from the promotion of the major preventable cause of disease and avoidable medical costs. Dr. Gitlitz’ correspondence with The Times was published in December 1983 in the New York State Journal of Medicine in the first theme issue by a medical journal on the world cigarette pandemic:

But The Times and other major daily newspapers were far from passive recipients of tobacco industry largesse. They aggressively courted cigarette advertisers in tobacco industry trade publications and boasted of helping to promote cigarette sales. In the Center’s 2018 exhibition “Big Tobacco in the Big Apple: How New York City became the heart of the tobacco industry…and anti-smoking activism,” The Times’ ties to cigarette companies is explored in greater depth:

On June 21, 1977, The New York Times announced that it would sharply limit “the size, format and type of information contained in the advertising of pornographic films.” Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger called such ads, which accounted for $750,000 in revenue the year before, “as much a blight in print as the display for pornographic films are a blight on our city streets.” Ads for mail-order firearms and diet pills are also unacceptable at The Times. Yet until 1999, cigarette advertisements presented no such problems for the newspaper. To the contrary, The Times aggressively sought cigarette advertising in the tobacco industry trade press, as Alan Blum, MD, relates in this commentary recorded in 1986. Even in 2023, The Times still accepts advertisements for sports and arts events and exhibitions sponsored by cigarette manufacturers, as well as for events at which smoking is encouraged, such as cigar dinners. (01:24)

Like the national broadcast networks ABC, CBS, and NBC, which fought against Congress’s proposed ban on TV and radio cigarette commercials in 1969 (a bill sought by the tobacco companies to halt the impact of anti-smoking ads that had been mandated by the Federal Communications Commission in 1967 as the result of a lawsuit by attorney John Banzhaf III asking for an application of the Fairness Doctrine to counter unopposed cigarette advertising), The New York Times and other print media corporations long resisted entreaties to stop accepting cigarette ads. A typical response to repeated letters in the 1970s and 1980s from George Gitlitz, MD, a vascular surgeon from Binghamton, New York was this reply from The Times’ Advertising Acceptability Manager James P. Smith on January 20, 1975: “…[W]e have made an earnest effort to protect our readers. However, until Congress decides, if ever, that an total ban is both necessary and enforceable, adults who have been thoroughly informed of the dangers of cigarette smoking will have to decide for themselves whether they want to accept the risks involved.” In this commentary recorded in 2022, Alan Blum, MD, shows the final cigarette advertisement published in The Times, fully 35 years after publication of the Surgeon General’s report that implicated cigarette smoking as a principal cause of lung cancer and other diseases. (01:43)


Advertisement by The New York Times touting the selling power of its Home Entertaining special Sunday section for the P. Lorillard Tobacco Company’s TRUE and KENT cigarettes
United States Tobacco Journal
November 22, 1981

I saw it in The Times Ad pitch

“I saw it in The Times… Life styles are made, not born.”

Advertisement by The New York Times
United States Tobacco and Candy Journal
November 22, 1983–December 7, 1983


Advertisement by the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinal touting the newspapers’ reach in promoting a new brand of cigarettes (Satin by P. Lorillard Tobacco Company)
Advertising Age

“Not all our readers are ‘movers and shakers’…yet”

Advertisement by USA Today highlighting children as targeted readers
Advertising Age
Circa 1990

“What do AT&T, RJR, IDS, CBS, and 3M have in common?”

Advertisement by USA Today touting RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company as a major advertiser
Advertising Age
Circa 1990

“KENT Sports Business” (7 pages of examples)

Long-running weekly advertisement in the form of a sports news column, sponsored by P. Lorillard Tobacco Company for KENT cigarettes
The Wall Street Journal
October  22, 1982; January 7, 1983; April 29, 1983; November 16, 1984


Advertisement by TIME, Inc for People Magazine
United States Tobacco Journal

“Over 8 million smokers enjoy the flavor of People.” (2 pages)

Advertisement by TIME, Inc. for People Magazine
United States Tobacco Journal
(“The news publication of tobacco/confectionary/sundries distribution”)
January 22, 1981

“Come out Smokin.'” (2 pages)

Advertisement by TIME, Inc. for Sports Illustrated
United States Tobacco Journal
(“The news publication of tobacco/confectionary distribution”)
May 22-June 7, 1981

“Who can help tobacco advertisers keep a step ahead in the race to sell their products?
Sports Illustrated…”

“COPY INSTRUCTIONS” for Philip Morris’ Merit Menthol cigarettes, RJ Reynolds’ Salem Full-Flavor Menthol cigarettes, and Lorillard’s TRUE, KENT, and Golden Lights cigarettes (3 pages)

COPY INSTRUCTIONS for Metropolitan Sunday Newspapers GRAVURE sections:

Insert orders from Leo Burnett USA, advertising agency for Philip Morris Tobacco Corporation, for placement of a full-page color advertisement for Merit Menthol cigarettes in the October 18, 1978 issue of The Miami Herald‘s TROPIC Magazine, September 21, 1978.

Insert orders from William Esty Company, advertising agency for RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, for placement of a full-page color advertisement for Salem Full-Flavor Menthol cigarettes in the October 18, 1978 issue of The Miami Herald‘s TROPIC Magazine, September 21, 1978.

“POSITION REQUEST” from P. Lorillard Tobacco Company for TRUE, KENT, and Golden Lights cigarette advertisements in The Miami Herald‘s TROPIC Magazine, 1978.

“Insert orders” is the term for the request submitted to a publication by the advertising agency responsible for the placement of an advertisement. These three insert orders, two of which were submitted on September 21, 1978 to The Miami Herald with cigarette advertisements for publication in the October 18, 1978 issue of its Sunday TROPIC Magazine, request that they be placed in a prominent position in the magazine. William Esty Company requests that the Salem advertisement not be placed near editorial content “incompatible with cigarette advertising.” The third example of insert orders, a “POSITION REQUEST” from “LOEWS THEATRES INC. (LORILLARD DIVISION)” commands that “NO LORILLARD AD IS TO APPEAR ADJACENT TO, OR WITHIN AN ARTICLE DEALING WITH MATTERS ANTITHETICAL TO TOBACCO.” As the publisher of Miami Magazine, Sylvan Meyer [1922-2001], who provided these items to Alan Blum, MD, in 1979, observed at the time, “They weren’t asking them not to publish articles against smoking—they were telling them.”

“THE TOWN THAT HAS EVERYTHING: Plenty of high-paying jobs, low taxes, not much crime, four colleges, a symphony and an industry that kills 115,000 people a year.” (13 pages)

This cover story by John Dorschner in the March 18, 1979 issue of TROPIC, the Sunday magazine of The Miami Herald, features interviews with civic leaders of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in which they express unalloyed pride in RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, the mainstay of the city’s economy. Unlike the issues immediately before and after this one, there were no cigarette advertisements. Indeed, all other issues of TROPIC that year contained cigarette advertising. In a telephone call that week by Alan Blum, MD to the newspaper’s managing editor, he confirmed that cigarette advertisers were informed in advance when the story would be published.

A few fearless leaders

Reader’s Digest, Fury, In fact, and CONSUMER REPORTS were among the few exceptions in the print media to report unequivocally about the growing evidence that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer.


Article by George Seldes (1890-1995), pioneering investigative journalist, who doggedly exposed the suppression by magazines, newspapers, and even health organizations of coverage of studies linking cigarette smoking  to cancer

July 28, 1947

“Three cheers for George Seldes: One cheer for the American press” (8 pages)

Cover story by Carl Jensen (1929-2015)
Published by The Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi
September 1987

“The great tobacco ad ban debate: It’s time to treat it as a life-or-death story” (28 pages)

Cover article by Alan Blum, MD
Published by the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi
December 1986

Other articles (and numerous letters to the editor) include the following:

“The tobacco shell game”
by Mike Moore (1938-2022)
Editor, The QUILL

“A newspaper kicks the habit”
by Harris Rayl (1953-2019)
Editor and publisher, The Salina (Kansas) Journal

“A ban on advertising would be ineffective…And dangerously paternalistic”
by Scott Ward
Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
and witness in behalf of the tobacco industry in the August 1, 1986 House Subcommittee hearing on cigarette advertising
(In 2013, Ward was sentenced in federal court in Philadelphia to 25 years in prison for producing child pornography.)

“Attack on tobacco ads”

Editor & Publisher
“The Oldest Publishers and Advertisers Newspapers in America”
February 21, 1987

“SMOKING AND LUNG CANCER: A point-by-point review of the whole range of evidence” (19 pages)

June 1963

“The Great Smokescreen” (11 pages)

Article by Arthur E. Rowse
fact, Volume one, Issue two
March-April 1964

“A…pressing question is why the mass media saw fit to ostracize lung-cancer news. And the answer is that, while newspapers are in business to inform the public, sometimes informing the public can be bad for business. More and more it is getting to be true that he who pays the piper calls the tune. The history of how the mass media covered–an apt word–news about the link between cancer and cigarettes is an object lesson in the inherent limitations of American journalism.”

Rowse, an assistant city editor at The Washington Post, compiled the content for the article, “Smoking and news: Coverage of a decade of controversy,” published by the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) in its Summer 1963 issue (see link below). The article was critical of the lack of prominent attention given by newspapers to coverage of the growing number of reports on the adverse health consequences of smoking, the relative lack of coverage of smoking by magazines, and the silence on smoking by most newspaper editorial pages. But Rowse refused the use of his byline because of editorial revisions of his manuscript.

Explanatory statements by Rowse and CJR editors published within the article included the following:

“’The revisions in my manuscript fail to recognize two things: (1) the full significance of the scientific evidence against smoking and (2) the extent of indirect as well as direct influence of tobacco interests on news coverage in all media. I would particularly like to point out the contrast over the years in editorial attention to advertiser-related’ smoking hazards and the attention given to such noncommercial menaces as polio, tuberculosis, influenza, suicide, and murder, all of which together kill fewer people each year than lung cancer.’

“For its part, the Review (1) does not believe its function is to evaluate the scientific evidence and (2) does not believe that Mr. Rowse’s conclusions about industry influence on the press were justified by either his facts or the other facts available.”

Rowse also refers to a specious article in Cosmopolitan Magazine touting the health protection of cigarette filters. That article,  “Rumor and Truth About CANCER,” published in the May 1956 issue, can be viewed here:


“WHY DICK CAN’T STOP SMOKING: The Politics Behind Our National Addiction” (15 pages)

Cover story by Gwenda Blair
January 1979

“TOBACCO STRIKES BACK: A SPECIAL REPORT  The Cigarette Makers’ Secret Comeback Strategy” (42 pages)

Nine articles
May/June 1996

NOTE: In spite of its hard-hitting report against the tobacco industry, MOTHER JONES has the dubious distinction of being arguably the only magazine to resume accepting cigarette advertisements in the 2000s. Reynolds American (formerly RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company) has promoted its “natural, 100% organic tobacco” American Spirit cigarettes in the magazine. 


Advertisement by Reynolds American for American Spirit cigarettes
November 2021


Advertisement by Reynolds American for American Spirit cigarettes
April 2021

NOTE: VANITY FAIR is one of several magazines published by Condé Nast that still accept cigarette advertising, such as for American Spirit. Others include WIRED, GQ, VOGUE, GLAMOUR, and Golf Digest. For several years in the 2010s, Condé Nast was one of four “Publishing Partners” of the cancer research fundraising organization Stand Up 2 Cancer.

WIRED, GUEST EDITOR BILL GATES WANTS YOU TO FIX THE WORLD” / “CAMEL CIGARETTES  MEMORIES MOMENTS IMAGINATION  TASTE IT ALL “/ “One goal: end cancer. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center ‘Making Cancer History'” (3 pages)

Cover, WIRED Magazine
Advertisement by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for Camel cigarettes
Advertisement by the Unversity of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
December 2013

Click to view the companion exhibition

Final thought

“Cancer Moonshot? We already have, but don’t appreciate an important pathway”

Commentary by Alan Blum, MD
The Birmingham News
August 21, 2016

“This year more than 480,000 Americans will die from smoking-caused diseases, including over 160,000 from heart disease and 160,000 from lung cancer. And the number is growing…

“We landed a man on the moon in 1969. We’ve known even longer how to prevent over a third of cancer deaths. Let’s not keep pretending otherwise. We all have a personal responsibility to prevent teenagers from taking up cigarette smoking and to help our friends and relatives who still smoke end this irredeemably harmful addiction.”

Covering Cancer?


Curated by Alan Blum, MD

Professor and Endowed Chair in Family Medicine
Director, Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society
College of Community Health Sciences
The University of Alabama School of Medicine, Tuscaloosa

“Covering Cancer?” is Copyrighted 2022


Original design by Kevin Bailey, MA

Collections Manager and Digital Archivist (2018-2022)
Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society
College of Community Health Sciences
The University of Alabama School of Medicine, Tuscaloosa

Technical assistance and updated design (2023) by Bryce Callahan

Undergraduate student majoring in computer engineering
Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society
College of Community Health Sciences
The University of Alabama School of Medicine,

© Copyright - The Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society