Collection: Protects Your Health
This theme features a variety of ads professing health benefits for filter cigarettes, although filters did little to truly reduce the hazards of smoking. Indeed, tobacco industry chemists were well aware that most filters actually removed no more tar and nicotine than would the same length of tobacco. However, a series of Reader’s Digest articles worked to publicize these dubious health claims for filters in the 1950s.
One such article, entitled “How Harmful are Cigarettes?” (1950), notes that artificial filters “take out some nicotine” since people are “aware that nicotine is a killer” (1). The article states that silica-gel cartridges remove 60% of nicotine from cigarettes. This article spurred Viceroy to print advertisements a week later which read, “Reader's Digest tells why filtered cigarette smoke is better for your health.” These health claims sparked a boom in Viceroy cigarette sales as well as an onslaught of new filter cigarette brands flooding the market. Kent was introduced in 1952 with a filter made of treated asbestos on crepe paper. In 1953, L&M followed with a “miracle tip” and Philip Morris advertised its di-ethylene glycol (Di-Gl) filter cigarette as “the cigarette that takes the FEAR out of smoking.” In the next two years, Marlboro was re-released as a filter cigarette which targeted men (it had previously been a cigarette targeting women, with a “beauty tip to protect the lips”), and Winston was introduced with a hefty advertising budget of $15 million.
Leading the pack with health claims was Kent, with ads that read, “What a wonderful feeling to know that Kent filters best of all leading filter cigarettes!” (1958) and “You’ll feel better about smoking with the taste of Kent!” (1961). Ironically, Kent’s filter contained asbestos, a mineral known to cause mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer. In fact, the asbestos in Kent’s filter was crocidolite asbestos (also known as blue asbestos), which is often considered the deadliest form of the fibrous mineral.
1. Riis, R.W. Reader’s Digest. “How Harmful are Cigarettes?” 7 Jan 1999.