Earlier this week, James Urbaniak tweeted a link to this Christmastime horror from the 1950s: gift-cartons of cigarettes from Camel!
I’m not anti-smoking per se; I think everyone should be allowed to go to hell with themselves in the manner of their choosing, so long as it doesn’t abjectly affect those around them. Even so, to the modern eye this sort of ad reeks of strangeness.
Also, cigarettes were pretty cheap back then. So wouldn’t giving cigarettes be like giving someone socks, or a box of pencils? “Wow, Camels. These are like 50 cents a pack. Thanks a lot.”
Naturally, this ad piqued my curiosity. Were Christmas-themed cigarettes common back then, or was Camel the only cigarette company to go in such a direction? The answer is, no, they definitely were not the only company to suggest cigarettes for Christmas and create festive packaging for just this purpose (with a gift card built right in!). But Camel was one of the few to actually enlist The Big Man himself in their effort.
Here’s a similar ad for Lucky Strike from around the same time, with some bonus print ads extolling the virtues of giving cigarettes as Christmas presents. Remember, Lucky Strike means fine tobacco! So round, so firm, so fully packed, as my grampa used to say (though not in reference to cigarettes…).
Celebrities got into the act, too. Here’s an ad for Kent cigarettes featuring one-third of the cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show.