“Doc, when I started smoking, EVERYONE was smoking. It was the thing to do. This,” – he says, pointing to the permanent hole in his neck – “proves it wasn’t the thing to do.”
My patient with the laryngectomy exaggerates a bit. In 1964, just over 50 percent of adult white males in the United States smoked cigarettes. That is down to a shade over 20 percent now. There is a lot of societal and legislative pressure to push that number further down.
Why did so many people smoke and what made it so acceptable? One clue is the advertising that was prevalent as smoking rates were climbing in the first half of the 20th century. Smoking was glamorous! It made you thin! Celebrities, movies stars, cute kids, teenagers, and athletes all appeared in the advertisements. “More doctors smoke Camels!” declared a series of ads. “Science proves they are milder!” It was a different time.
Want a glimpse into that era? The Lane Library at Stanford University has a remarkable collection
of vintage advertisements collected by Dr. Robert Jackler. (People with Flash 9 installed on their machines, including staff inside of Froedtert, might not be able to view the link.)
It makes me wonder, what advertisements from today will be collected and ridiculed in 50 more years? Fast food? Gas-guzzling cars? Coffee shops? Who knows?