Cigarette Ad Role Models

Stories of Tragedy and Regret

When Congress banned cigarette advertising from TV and radio, effective January 1, 1971, the tobacco industry shifted its cigarette advertising to the print medium.  Magazines such as TIME, Newsweek, US News & World Report, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, Popular Science, EBONY, Rolling Stone, Glamour, and Mademoiselle all published numerous cigarette advertisements in every issue throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.  Along the way, editorial content on the dangers of smoking virtually disappeared from their pages.

A cover story in Newsweek in 1977 entitled, “What causes cancer?” included a table “Cancer and the Environment: Ten Top Suspects” in which the major carcinogens were listed in alphabetical order. Arsenic was first; tobacco smoke, ninth.  Another Newsweek cover story, “Keeping America fit,” featured an ad on the back cover for Merit cigarettes.  In 1990, US News and World Report asked, “What causes heart disease?” yet devoted most of the story to cholesterol, with only a passing reference to cigarette smoking. In 1986, publisher Gloria Steinem, the founding publisher of Ms., defended her magazine’s acceptance of cigarette advertising even in its annual health issue, claiming that it could not otherwise remain in business.

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.