Collection: Throat Doctors
It was common in the late 1920s and early 1930s for tobacco companies to enlist “throat specialists” as endorsers of their products. The public was worried about throat irritation due to smoking, and tobacco companies hoped that support from physicians, especially otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors) would ease general concern. The none-too-subtle message was that if the throat doctor, with all of his expertise, chose to smoke a particular brand or to recommended a particular brand, then it must be safe. Unlike with celebrity and athlete endorsers, the doctors depicted were never specific individuals, because physicians who engaged in advertising would risk losing their license. It was contrary to accepted medical ethics at the time for doctors to advertise, but that did not deter tobacco companies from hiring handsome talent, dressing them up to look like throat specialists, and printing their photographs alongside health claims or spurious doctor survey results. These images always presented an idealized physician – wise, noble, and caring. This genre of ads regularly appeared in medical journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, an organization which for decades collaborated closely with the industry. The big push to document health hazards also did not appear until later.
In this theme, otolaryngologists urge consumers to “give your throat a vacation” with Camels in 1931, and as late as 1950, the throat specialists are pictured examining a smoker for her “Camel 30-day mildness test.” In a 1930 advertisement, Robert Ripley, of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” fame, performs a cigarette test on “a group of throat specialists” and digs up “certified proof” that they prefer Old Golds. From 1948 to 1952, a number of actors dressed as otolaryngologists, identified by the head mirror, recommend De-Nicotea filters for a “less irritating” smoke. Chesterfield jumps on the band wagon in 1952, and even Kool’s Willie the Penguin dresses up in otolaryngologist garb and poses in front of a diploma awarded to “Doctor Kool” in 1938. All of these brands used the specialized field of otolaryngology to present their cigarettes as healthful rather than harmful. It is ironic that they all manage to reveal the negative potential of cigarettes in the process by admitting, through their use of doctors and medical claims, that there are health concerns surrounding cigarettes to begin with.