Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Living the High Life

What unites this selection of mid-century strip cartoons publicising Camel cigarettes is a focus on high risk activities or occupations. Eternal vigilance and self-discipline in the face of the force of gravity is not for the faint-hearted and each character testifies to the therapeutic value of smoking. The message is that Camel is the choice of the strong and the brave and by association a little of that may rub off on us less adventurous smokers. Beneath that, yet another message is that surely we smokers can show a little courage of our own and not be intimidated by public health fanatics and their alarmist talk of heart, lung and respiratory disease. Today’s smokers are mature enough to know their own minds and handle a little risk, look death in the eye and continue undaunted to enjoy the pleasure of a fine cigarette. These were early days in the epic battle for hearts and minds between the tobacco manufacturers and the medical establishment but the time for civilised discourse had passed and matters were destined to get a lot dirtier. In a later phase, prefigured by the footnote to these ads (More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette), the manufacturers would co-opt and corrupt a small army of doctors to counteract the health warnings of their fellow professionals as we shall see in a future posting. 

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