The beguiling story of the most popular American college song of the late-19th century
The Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society has a library of over 300 books on the manufacture, use, and promotion of tobacco from the 19th century to the present. Most were acquired from Benjamin Rapaport, a prolific author on pipes and the foremost authority on antiquarian tobacco books. Other books were donated by Franklin Dunn from the collection of his late brother Tom Dunn, an expert on pipes. In the spring of 2023, while perusing a volume of TOBACCO, a weekly British tobacco trade publication for importers, exporters, manufacturers, and retailers, from 1888, I was intrigued by an article reprinted from a Chicago newspaper, about a song, “My Last Cigar,” whose popularity was exceeded only by “Home Sweet Home.”
This exhibition traces the history of efforts by the tobacco industry to encourage women to smoke cigarettes. At the turn of the 20th century, cigarette smoking was socially unacceptable for women but was gaining a foothold with American men, who still preferred cigars. Lucy Paige Gaston, founder of the Chicago Anti-Cigarette League, decried smoking by women on the grounds that it undermined family values and the moral fabric of society The potential for widespread adoption of smoking by women occasioned public alarm. New York City’s Sullivan Ordinance of 1908 made it unlawful for women to smoke in public, but the ban was largely ignored…
Communicating information through the mass media about ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer is essential to improving the nation’s health. Yet throughout the 20th century, tobacco companies were among the top advertisers in the most widely read news magazines. This made for many ironic juxtapositions of front cover stories on cancer and back cover cigarette advertisements. This exhibition presents examples of such two-faced coverage from the Center’s collection.
Consider the devastating reality of smoking not just on the United Kingdom—cigarettes are still the nation’s leading preventable cause of death in 2023, killing 76,000 a year—but also on the royal family: Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI, was just 52 when he died from lung cancer. Charles’ father, George V, and grandfather, Edward VII, also died of smoking-related diseases, as did his granduncle Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor. Queen Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret, who smoked heavily, died at 71 from severe lung and heart disease…Doubtless mindful of the devastating toll taken by smoking on his own family, Prince Charles became an outspoken anti-smoking advocate… The public would be wise to follow the example of Charles III by not having anything to do with tobacco companies or their new products. God save the King.
Throughout the 20th century and to the present day, millions of fathers have died from heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer due to smoking, even as the tobacco industry denied that cigarettes could even cause a cough. Meanwhile, cigarettes were advertised on billboards in almost every sports arena and stadium, as well as day and night on TV and radio until banned from the airwaves in 1971, and from then increasingly in newspapers and magazines and at entertainment venues.
Whether in the form of cigarettes, cigars, or spitting tobacco, nicotine is a frequently fatal addiction that the tobacco industry has always downplayed. As if we hadn’t learned the lessons of history, today e-cigarette makers are reeling in a new generation of addicts under the guise that these devices may be safer than cigarettes. Notice that these companies haven’t pulled a single pack of their cigarette brands off the shelves. This is an industry that desperately wants to keep us hooked on nicotine in any form, because it is hooked on making money by addicting others.
An extraordinary, possibly one-of-a-kind 114-page flip book of several different Camel cigarette advertisements translated into 29 languages for placement in ethnic-language newspapers in New York City. Introduced in 1913, Camel was the first popular national cigarette, and by 1915 it had become the top-selling brand. Its main competitors were the American Tobacco Company’s Lucky Strike (a brand introduced in 1871) and Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company’s Chesterfield (1873).
In 1952, using the popular new medium of television, the P. Lorillard Co. sponsored “scientific” demonstrations to show the efficacy and implied health benefits of its KENT Micronite filter. The campaign also featured advertisements in medical journals. Although the ads did not disclose the composition of “Micronite,” the material that Lorillard touted as “so safe, so effective it has been selected to help filter the air in hospital operating rooms” and that was used “to purify the air in atomic energy plants of microscopic impurities” was asbestos.
New York City, where former Mayor Bloomberg led efforts to pass the nation’s strictest clean indoor air laws, highest cigarette taxes, and most stringent limitations on retail signage for tobacco products, has been transformed into a marijuana paradise. The corner candy stores and newsstands of my youth have been replaced by weed shops.
For nearly three decades following the publication of the landmark Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health in 1964, hospital administrators, medical staffs, and the Ameridcan Hospital Association itself all dragged their feet in prohibiting smoking in health care facilities. Even after Congress banned smoking on airlines in 1988 and after many major cities passed clean indoor air laws restricting smoking in public places, few hospitals discouraged patients, visitors, medical personnel, and other employees from smoking. In 1991 The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) mandated that hospitals be smoke-free by December 31, 1993…with exceptions for patients whose physicians wrote a note in the chart permitting it. This exhibition presents examples of artifacts and images of a hopefully bygone era.
This exhibition retraces the battles over smoking in the nearly 60 years since the Surgeon General’s report, as seen through the eyes of the nation’s newspaper editorial cartoonists. The exhibition evolved from a research poster at the 10th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Beijing, August 24-28, 1997 and an invited presentation in Toronto on June 29, 2001, at the combined conventions of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) and the Association of Canadian Cartoonists. Leaders of the AAEC encouraged the creation an exhibition, which debuted at the association’s 2004 convention in Lexington, Kentucky and traveled to eight other cities over the next four years. The exhibition featured original artworks of more than 80 editorial cartoonists and the headlines that inspired the trenchant cartoons. From 2020 to 2022, the exhibition was digitized, updated, and expanded to include over 100 artists.
Although most adults and adolescents know that smoking can cause lung cancer, most are not aware that cigarettes take an even greater toll on the heart. This exhibition looks at what government health agencies, medical schools, medical societies, the mass media, health organizations, drug companies, and pharmacy chains have done—and have not done—to reduce the devastating cardiovascular consequences of cigarette smoking.
This single-item exhibition spotlights the oldest item in the Center’s collection. Read and hear what the first newspaper advice columnist, John Dunton, had to say about the health effects of smoking…in 1691
Pharmaceutical companies have educated physicians to prescribe medications to treat smoking-related diseases while failing to reinforce the need to talk to patients about stopping smoking–which could reduce the need for medications. This exhibition features examples of prescription drug advertisements in medical journals with stereotypical images of smokers.
This exhibition features stories of tragedy and regret of nine ordinary men and women who were models in cigarette ads….and two celebrities dying from lung cancer who appeared in anti-smoking TV commercials.
From the diamond to the gridiron, tobacco companies invested heavily throughout the 20th century to associate cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco with athletic prowess, as illustrated in these sport-by-sport exhibitions based on items from the Tobacco Industry Sponsorship of Sports Collection of the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society.
This exhibition is drawn entirely from the Center’s Children and Tobacco Collection, which consists of candy cigarette, cigar, and chewing tobacco products sold in candy stores the world over throughout the 20th century. The exhibition also highlights examples of cigarette marketing aimed at teenagers and children. For instance, in the 1980s video game arcades featured Pole Position and Super Monaco GP, popular auto racing games with real cigarette brand logos on the racecars. This exhibition fncludes an interview with Dr. Rick Richards, who was instrumental in getting these logos out of video games.
Corporate sponsorship of dance troupes, opera companies, concert tours, film festivals, and art exhibitions at leading museums and libraries was pioneered in the 1950s by Philip Morris, maker of America’s top-selling cigarette, Marlboro, as a way to distract from the growing body of medical evidence of cigarette smoking’s deadly toll. This exhibition reveals the deep-seated addiction of leaders of art museums to money from cigarette makers…to the present day.
Created in 1970 in response to the underpayment of women athletes, the Virginia Slims Tennis Circuit was also an opportunity for cigarette maker Philip Morris to promote a new brand aimed at the liberated woman. This exhibition traces the use of tennis in cigarette marketing and the efforts by Doctors Ought to Care and other activist groups to throw tobacco out of sports.
Aiming to reduce adolescents’ exposure to cigarette advertising, the British Parliament banned radio and TV tobacco commercials in 1965, and the United States Congress followed suit in 1969. in the United Kingdom in 1965 and in the US in 1969. But cigarette makers circumvented the restrictions by increasing cigarette ads in the print media and on billboards at sporting events, many of which were televised. Creativity in cigarette marketing reached its zenith in the 1980s when advertising agency owner and art collector Charles Saatchi thought of an entirely new kind of campaign to promote the brand Silk Cut. Inspired by the slashed canvases and punctured metal sculptures of artist Lucio Fontana, the visual puns for the words “silk cut” made it the best-selling cigarette brand in the UK.
In the latter half of the 20th century, New York City became the global headquarters of the tobacco industry and its allies. Led by Philip Morris, maker of the world’s best-selling cigarette, Marlboro, and by Loews, maker of the leading menthol brand, Newport, cigarette manufacturers wielded enormous influence among opinion leaders and the general public alike until well into the 2000s by means of extensive advertising in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, popular magazines, and ethnic newspapers; in theater, opera, and dance programs; on billboards in sports stadiumm; on the largest billboards in Times Square and throughout the city; on the city’s buses, subways, and taxis; and in countless bodegas, newsstands, candy stores, bars, supermarkets, and pharmacies. This exhibition explores the outsized influence of the tobacco industry in New York City and the hard-fought battles of the 1990s and 2000s to pass clean indoor air laws and restrictions on cigarette marketing.
From 1914 to 1918, a global conflict involved more than 70 million soldiers and cost over 16 million lives. Tobacco also went to war, packed in every doughboy’s knapsack. Through patriotic advertising and the distribution of free cigarettes to soldiers by the Red Cross and other health organizations, cigarettes replaced cigars and chewing tobacco as young men’s favorite vice. This exhibition chronicles the use and promotion of tobacco products in World War I.
By the 1960s, menthol cigarette brands were especially popular among African Americans, to whom they were heavily marketed. Three brands—Brown & Williamson’s KOOL, Lorillard’s Newport, and R.J. Reynolds’ Salem—made up the lion’s share of the market. Not a single advertisement for a non-menthol brand ever appeared in the leading African-American magazine EBONY, which never published an article on the leading preventable cause of death among African Americans: cigarette smoking.
Other marketing strategies included advertising on billboards, in minority newspapers, and on point-of-purchase signage in convenience stores and gas stations. Cultural events included the KOOL Jazz Festival and gospel and jazz concerts sonsored by Philip Morris’ Benson & Hedges cigarette brand. Philip Morris was a prominent sponsor of meetings of Black newspaper publishers, Black journalists, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This exhibition exposes the depth and breadth of the targeting of African Ameicans by the tobacco industry.
In the first two decades of the 20th century, cigarette smoking became one of the great unifying elements of society. Movies were becoming the top entertainment medium, and on the screen people from every walk of life were enjoying cigarettes. Tobacco companies soon enlisted the top movie stars of the day to endorse their cigarette brands. This exhibition, an online version of one that was presented at the BAMA Theatre in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, September 10-27, 2006, consists of advertisements from the collection of the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society and an original film of smoking scenes in movies from the 1930s to the 1960s, “Puff Your Cares Away.”
In 2014, The Cancer Network, online home of the journal ONCOLOGY, invited Alan Blum, MD to produce an illustrated history of efforts in the U.S. to counteract tobacco use, cigarette marketing, and the tobacco industry. The resulting timeline, nearly all of the illustrations in which are from the collection of the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society, was published in four parts over two years.
A slide presentation and a video of a gallery tour provide highlights of the only exhibition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of the landmark Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health on January 11, 1964 by Alabamian Luther Terry, MD. The exhibition, which included over 130 artifacts and original documents from the collection of the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society, debuted in October 2013 at the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library of The University of Alabama before traveling to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, the Texas Medical Center Library in Houston, and the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Library in New Orleans.
In the 21st century, the increase in melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, has paralleled the dramatic rise in tanning bed use, not unlike the frightening rise in lung cancer in the 20th century as cigarette smoking increased. This exhibition presents a historical overview of the use and promotion of sunlamps and tanning beds, which the American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Dermatology have not done enough to discourage.
This exhibition features more than 100 anti-smoking postage stamps issued by 65 countries from the collection of Dr. James Lutschg, which he donated to the University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society in 2009. The exhibition was originally displayed in 2010 at the medical libraries of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Buffalo as part of a national campaign for a U.S. postage stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication on January 11, 1964 of the landmark U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health by Alabamian Dr. Luther Terry.
After its debut in June, 2009 at the National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Phoenix, Arizona, this walk-through installation of a mock pharmacy was expanded for display at the Buffalo Museum of Science in Buffalo, New York in November, 2009. The drug store’s contents consist entirely of point-of-purchase cigarette promotions from the 1970s to the 1990s from an actual convenience store, The Nutmeg Shoppe, in Hartford, Connecticut.
The Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI) was formed in 2000 as the result of the settlement of a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of non-smoking flight attendants by Florida attorneys Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt in October 1991 against cigarette manufacturers. The flight attendants sought damages for diseases caused by their long-term exposure to tobacco smoke in airline cabins. This exhibition features original advertisements and photographs depicting passengers smoking on airlines, newspaper and magazine articles, editorials and political cartoons.
Throughout the 20th century, the season of giving did not elude the pervasive reach of tobacco companies. Even Santa Claus was recruited as a cigarette salesman. This exhibition highlights a small fraction of the Center’s collection of magazine advertisements, mailings, and point-of-purchase promotions in which Christmas became synonymous with smoking.
This exhibition explores the corrupting influence of cigarette advertising in the pages of the Journal of the American Medical Association from the early-1930s to the mid-1950s, as well as the decades-long complicity of the AMA with the tobacco industry–well into the 1980s–to ignore or deflect concerns over the adverse health consequences of cigarette smoking.
“When ‘More Doctors Smoked Camels’: Medical Claims in Cigarette Advertisements, 1888-1988,” curated by Alan Blum, MD, was on view at the Jones Library [now the Texas Medical Center Library], Houston, Texas from November 1988 to February 1989. The exhibition takes its name from an RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company advertising campaign in newspapers and on radio from the late-1940s to the early-1950s: “More Doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” The advertisements in this exhibition were selected from more than 1000 uncut magazines and medical journals collected by Doris and Alan Blum beginning in the late-1970s during his residency in family medicine at the University of Miami. Each advertisement reflects the irony of promoting cigarettes by using an appeal to health. Dr. Blum first wrote about medical claims in cigarette advertising in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1980: Blum A: Medicine vs. Madison Avenue: Fighting smoke with smoke (commentary). JAMA. 1980;243:739-740.
[Note: With the advent of online collectibles websites in the late-1990s, substantially similar exhibits of acontextual old cigarette ads purchased by hobbyists on ebay have cropped up at the Lane Medical Library in 2007 and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2019 (with a nearly identical title to the Texas Medical Center exhibition in 1988).]
Although more than 1,750 colleges and universities in the United States alone have become smoke free campuses over the past 20 years (including nearly 1,500 that claim to have adopted entirely tobacco-free policies), progress in reducing cigarette, smokeless tobacco, and hookah use among U.S. university students has slowed. Prevalence may be as high as 25%. Globally, reported smoking prevalence among university students ranges from 14% in Brazil to 60% in Bangladesh. Coordinated strategies to diminish the influence of the tobacco industry in academia are lagging and require greater attention by tobacco control proponents. This illustrated exhibition explores the history of smoking on college campuses and efforts to end it. A little-studied obstacle to reducing tobacco use among university students and to exercising leadership in public health has been the financial relationships between the tobacco industry and academia, such as the presence of cigarette manufacturers at campus job fairs and investments in tobacco companies by university endowments.
This exhibition is comprised of items relating to Dr. Alan Blum’s editorship of the Medical Journal of Australia (1982-1983) and the New York State Journal of Medicine (1983-1985), during which he produced the first three theme issues at any medical journal about the world cigarette pandemic. The exhibition features complete scanned copies of the three issues and the letters to the editor in response to the issues, as well as a video interview about the challenges encountered in producing the issues during an era of foot-dragging by organized medicine, academia, the mass media, and the public health community alike, fearful of attacking the politically powerful tobacco industry. Also included are correspondence with the authors of the articles in these issues, letters from national and international public health leaders, news coverage of the issues, and reviews of The Cigarette Underworld, a book based on the first tobacco theme issue at the New York State Journal of Medicine. A search feature for this archival material will soon be added.