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The Cigarette

In the first half of the twentieth century, cigarette smoking became a widespread habit firmly engrained in American culture. Ennobled by its heroic association with soldiers in each of the World Wars, associated with a new sense of freedom and equality by young women in the 1920s, and generally considered a slightly illicit but forgivable moral transgression, cigarette smoking has remained ubiquitous in popular forms of visual media such as movies, art, and advertising, past and present. As a result, anti-smoking campaigners since the 1960s have been compelled to challenge the perception that the behavior is commonplace and integral to everyday life. Anti-smoking advertisements often use what insiders call "deglamorization" and "denormalization" strategies, designed to work against the allure of cigarettes and upset their routine presence in popular culture. By using negative or denunciatory images of the cigarette, for example, they send messages that de-emphasize and discourage the aura, appeal, and attractiveness of tobacco use. These messages warn viewers that the cigarette is dangerous, addictive, and deadly. An alternative, moralistic strategy features the cigarette as a threat to traditional social values such as deferred gratification, self-control, and personal responsibility.


Blue poster with multicolor lettering. Title at top of poster. Visual image is a cigarette on a blue background. The whole image appears to be shattered, with many cracks and disjointed or missing pieces. This anti-smoking advertisement from the New York Department of Health in the 1980s, designed to appeal to the smoker, uses sophisticated graphic design techniques to encourage the viewer to stop smoking. The image of the cigarette superimposed on a shattered sheet of ice metaphorically illustrates the need to "break the habit" of smoking -- a common mantra in smoking cessation campaigns. Reflecting the style and polish of commercial advertising, this poster is significant because it provides a graphic illustration for the behavioral change it advocates. The image symbolizes breaking through the icy control of nicotine addiction, offering a liberating and implicitly empowering outcome.


Black poster with white and fuchsia lettering. Initial title words at top of poster. Remaining words in left center. Visual image on poster is an illustration of a cigarette that has been snuffed out and is now wrinkled and bent. Logo and address for publisher in lower right corner of poster.The National Smoking Control Programme, a comprehensive long-term plan for smoking control spearheaded by the Ministry of Health in Singapore in 1986, created this poster in response to pro-tobacco forces that emphasized the First Amendment personal freedom of smokers to smoke and tobacco companies to advertise their products. The "Towards a Nation of Non-Smokers" campaign emphasized nonsmokers' rights by using the image of the cigarette to their advantage. In this poster, the reply to the question, "Mind if I smoke?" is made more emphatic by the larger font and red color. Set against the black background, the image of a smashed cigarette symbolizes the ultimate goal of the program: the complete elimination of cigarette smoking in order to promote public health.


Poster concerned with the harmful effects of smoking. A skeletal hand holding a cigarette.Concerned with the harmful effects of smoking, the World Health Organization and the Union Internationale Contre le Cancer (UICC) created this poster of a skeletal hand holding a cigarette. As an independent non-governmental organization founded in 1933, UICC objectives are to advance scientific and medical knowledge in research, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer, and to promote all other aspects of the campaign against cancer throughout the world. The skeletal image in this poster, a symbol of death, is a common feature in a variety of public health campaigns against alcohol use, venereal disease, and drug abuse. The image is designed to create an association between the behavior and its ultimate consequences. In this case, the textual message contrasts with the negative connotation of the image by recommending, "Stop smoking, improve your health."


Poster concerned with the harmful effects of smoking; the shoes of a victim are extending from a pile of cigarette butts.This poster, created by the World Health Organization for Russian distribution, offers a striking image of a victim whose shoes extend from beneath a pile of cigarette butts. This symbolic representation of the dangers and deadliness of smoking warns the viewer, "Even the best cigarettes can be your tomb." The image incorporates a number of visual strategies common in anti-smoking campaigns, including an image of death (in this case entombment), an emphasis on the repulsive quality of cigarette butts themselves, the cumulative health effects of smoking cigarettes (in this case death), and the responsibility of the individual in the act of smoking.


Black and white poster with black lettering. Visual image is a black and white photo reproduction featuring a smoldering cigarette sitting in an ashtray. Title, caption, and publisher information superimposed on photo below the ashtray.Created by the American Cancer Society, a nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem, this poster uses a witty approach to a serious matter by juxtaposing image and text. By placing the image of an ashtray and a lipstick-stained cigarette above the words "Lady Killer," the poster associates the commonplace activity with its deadly consequences. The everyday image of the ashtray is spotlighted, as if to expose the subject matter. Combined with the text, the message challenges the predominant glamorization of smoking without alienating the cigarette-smoking viewer. There is also an explicit message of support for the smoker in the fine print.



Anti-Smoking Campaigns: Introduction < The Cigarette > The Smoker > The Non-Smoker and Smoke-Free Environments > The Celebrity