10 Bizarre Cigarette Commercials

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Back in the day, almost everyone smoked cigarettes. Tobacco profits were instrumental in the growth of the original 13 colonies, and on into the 20th century, tobacco companies helped found hospitals, universities and other grand institutions. Even doctors as late the 1950s touted the benefits of cigarettes. Then came the groundbreaking warning from the U.S. Surgeon General in 1964 that . . . cigarettes are bad for your health! A few years later, in 1971, cigarette commercials were banned on American TV.

Thanks to YouTube, we can watch some of these commercials that today seem absurd, with doctors smoking in hospitals, cartoon characters taking smoke breaks and more. Sit back and enjoy 10 bizarre cigarette commercials. Please remember that smoking is not allowed in the theater.


10. Young Bob Barker Hawks Cigarettes

The question on everyone’s mind after watching Bob Barker of The Price is Right fame promote these cigarettes: Just how much are they?


9. Cigarettes As Christmas Gifts

This man has a dilemma, as his Christmas list seems to grow longer every year. His solution: Give the people on the list cigarettes. A perfectly sensible solution in 1958, maybe, but the irony in hindsight is hilarious. Keep it up, guy, and that Christmas list won’t be quite as long in a few years.


8. Beverly Hillbillies Smoke Break

Here’s Buddy Ebsen, in a Beverly Hillbillies cast advertisement from the 1960s, firing up a cigarette. Of course, back then, people didn’t know smoking slashed your lifespan. Wait a minute … didn’t Ebsen live to be 95 years old? Maybe cigarettes aren’t so bad for you after all. Then again, maybe Ebsen was only “acting” like a smoker in this commercial.


7. After Exercising, Fire It Up

Yes, anything seemed possible back in the days of cigarette commercials. Here a young woman does something good for her body, riding a bike, but follows up with a cigarette.


6. Smoke While You Water Ski

Two people smoke while water skiing. Really. They’re not smoking in the boat that pulls the skiers — these people are smoking Oasis cigarettes and water skiing. And they’re skiing within feet of trees, which looks incredibly dangerous.


5. Cigarettes and Special Effects

The interesting thing in this commercial isn’t that a tobacco company was trying to sell cigarettes, but the good special effects for the day.


4. Smoker Gets the Girl

This commercial positively oozes sleaze, but let’s give it a pass in that regard because it’s more than 40 years old. But it makes you wonder which commercials that air today will seem ridiculous 40 years from now. And talk about a completely different era in terms of safety awareness. What man today would leave his girlfriend, alone, in a deserted area, with a complete stranger, while he hiked off to get gas?


3. Cigarettes and Public Relations

This is a bizarre anti-smoking commercial done by an advertising firm to promote an anti-smoking law in Utah. Great retro feel, all the way down to the miniskirts on the flight attendants, it’s not hard to imagine a planeload of passengers in the 1960s chain-smoking their way through a flight.


2. Flintstones and Cigarettes

Gee, Fred, Barney and Wilma all huffing on cigarettes. Of course they didn’t know any better – they lived back in the Stone Age. Even though the Flintstones was originally billed as an adult TV show, you have to wonder how many kids took up smoking as a result of cigarette ads on The Flintstones.


1. Doctor Endorses Cigarettes

This video is notable on several different levels. First, here’s a cigarette commercial, banned on American TV since 1971, showing someone smoking in a hospital, where smoking has been banned for many years, with someone supposedly knowledgeable about health, a doctor, endorsing cigarettes. And he favored Camels. What, was he too good for Chesterfields?


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The author is a longtime professional journalist who has interviewed everyone from presidential contenders to hall of fame athletes to rock 'n' roll legends while covering politics, sports, and other topics for both local and national publications and websites. His latest passions are history, geography and travel. He's traveled extensively around the United States seeking out the hidden wonders of the country.