The official blog of the Lung Institute.
The History of Cigarette Culture
At the turn of the 20th century, the mass production of cigarettes was in its infancy. The most common tobacco products used in America were cigars, pipe tobacco, and chewing tobacco. According to the 1888 ninth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, tobacco was suspected of causing health problems, but also thought to have beneficial medicinal properties. Many scholars and physicians of the day advocated tobacco use for its perceived effects on concentration and performance, and to relieve boredom and bad temper.
Tobacco advertising has always been based on creating a demand for something not naturally craved—nicotine. Tobacco is an acquired taste, particularly with respect to the smoke.
By the year 2000, tobacco had been universally recognized as the highly addictive and devastating gradual poison it is. Although cigarette use in the United States has sharply declined since its heyday in the 20th century, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in the late 1990s there were approximately four million tobacco-caused deaths per year worldwide. That’s an estimate increased to about five million in 2003, six million in 2011, and expected to reach eight million per year by 2030. Tobacco companies continue to rake in vast profits from the developing world.
The earliest cigarette advertising involved newspaper advertisements, trading cards, and recognizable symbols like Bull Durham’s bull logo pasted on billboards everywhere and endorsed by celebrities. The R.J. Reynolds Company in 1913 introduced teaser ads that kindled interest by hinting at the arrival of something great and unusual: “The Camels are Coming!” and “Camels! Tomorrow there will be more CAMELS in this town than in all Asia and Africa combined.” That Camel campaign became the standard for cigarette advertising, eventually drawing in more women through targeted campaigns including the “Lucky Strike Girls” and endorsements from actress Jean Harlow.
When health concerns about smoking rose in the 1950s, tobacco companies introduced filtered cigarettes said to reduce tar levels and continued through the sixties to produce a “safer cigarette.”
The cigarette industry will continue to thrive through advertising and gimmicks to fool people into smoking, by using additives to make cigarettes more addictive, and by marketing in developing countries with less oversight and fewer laws restricting sale and advertisement to young people considered “minors” in America and Europe.
The U.S. surgeon general’s report in 1964 revealed the clear link between smoking and cancer. By 2000, the smoking rate had dropped to half that of 1960. Unfortunately, the things that harm us are often the same things we enjoy most, and many people still choose to smoke.
Most people who try to quit smoking last no more than a few weeks because of the addictive nature of nicotine. The more cigarettes smoked each day, the worse the addiction. Cigarettes remain easy to acquire, and withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, depression, anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and insomnia conspire to discourage kicking the habit. Some people find a nicotine medication helpful for managing nicotine dependency and withdrawal symptoms while trying to quit smoking. Support from family, friends, and healthcare professionals can also play an important role in escaping nicotine addiction.
Millions of people quit smoking annually, and about 47 percent of smokers try to quit each year. This is not surprising given that the number one cause of preventable death in the worldwide is smoking. Smoking kills over 400,000 people every year, and 50,000 more die from secondhand smoke. A lifetime of smoking can lead to a variety of lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and interstitial lung disease. If you smoke, please quit for your own health as well as that of your loved ones.
When you quit smoking, your lungs bounce back slowly, and with a little help from you, they can once again function properly. Sticking to a plan will yield greater benefits after you quit. If you or a loved one suffers from a smoking-related disease and want to learn more about treatment options, contact the Lung Institute online, or call (800) 729-3065.