BOX 3–2
Summary Analysis of Cigarette Industry Advertising

“The cigarette industry has not voluntarily employed its advertising to inform consumers in a consistent and meaningful way about any of the following: (1) the technologies employed in fabricating the products, (2) the constituents added in the manufacturing processes, (3) the residues and contaminants that may be present in the combustible column, (4) the constituents of smoke that may be hazardous, (5) the addictiveness of nicotine, or (6) the health risks to which its regular customers and their families are inevitably exposed. Their advertising for low-yield products, instead, has relied on pictures of health and images of intelligence, and has misled consumers into believing filtered products in general and low tar products in specific to be safe(r) than other forms without knowing exactly why.”

SOURCE: Pollay and Dewhirst, 2000.

Business Week publicly criticized the industry on the issue of direct health claims. McAuliffe (1988) cites the following quote from the December 5, 1953, issue: “Why has the industry persisted in this negative form of advertising even when, as tobacco growers and others complain, it hurts the trade by making people conscious that cigarettes can be harmful?” (Anonymous, 1953).

Advertisements using health claims in Time and Life magazines, which had increased substantially in 1952 and 1953 (after the first cancer scare), dropped to pre-1952 levels in 1954 (Swedrock et al., 1999). There has been a steady increase since the early 1960s in the percentage of magazine advertisements using visual images of bold and lively behaviors in pristine environments (Pollay, 1989; Pollay and Dewhirst, 2000; see Box 3–2).


In a recent review of epidemiologic data on the disease risks associated with the changing cigarette, Samet (1996) concluded that low-tar and nicotine cigarettes, when compared with relatively higher-tar and nicotine cigarettes, were associated with modest decreases in lung cancer risk and similar cardiovascular risk. The data on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were inconclusive. For all diseases, smokers of lower-tar and nicotine cigarettes experienced substantially higher disease risks than persons who did not smoke. These findings were similar to those in a 1981 report of the U.S. Surgeon General (U.S. DHHS, 1981).

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