Collection: Do you inhale?
To inhale or not to inhale? Is that the question? The ads in this theme certainly imply it is, but in an era when most adults smoked, those who didn’t inhale from their cigarettes were often ridiculed as “sissies.” According to Lucky Strike’s 1931 ad campaign, “every smoker inhales— knowingly or unknowingly.” With this claim, Lucky does not mean to insist that smokers should quit; Rather, Lucky claims that its cigarettes are the only brand safe enough to inhale. Additionally, Lucky explains that the “purifying [toasting] process removes certain impurities” so as to “safeguard those delicate membranes!” While this Lucky Strike ad campaign was short-lived, lasting only one year from 1931 to 1932, it strongly influenced the cigarette industry.
Ten years later, in 1942, Philip Morris followed in Lucky’s footsteps. Using their beloved spokesperson, Little Johnny, Philip Morris printed ads with a variation on the “Do You Inhale” theme, featuring slogans ranging from “You can’t help but inhale” to “Inhale? Sure, all smokers do!” Some of the Philip Morris print advertisements and television commercials of the era went as far as to borrow the exact phrase used by Lucky Strike a decade earlier: “Do you inhale?” The inhalation theme would continue in Lorillard’s 1949 ad campaign for Embassy cigarettes, which touted a “milder smoke” that allowed smokers to “inhale to your heart’s content!”
It was untrue that either Lucky Strike or Philip Morris was “safe” to inhale, but both brands were right about one thing: the tobacco contained in American cigarettes is easily drawn into the lungs. The tobacco smoke in cigarettes has a relative low alkalinity (with a pH of about 5.3) compared to the high alkalinity of pipes and cigars (with a pH of about 8.5). The higher the smoke’s alkalinity, the more difficult it is for a smoker to inhale – the smoke becomes too irritating, and the lungs are unable to accept the smoke at all. With cigarettes, smokers are able to inhale the harmful smoke, which is still irritating, and absorb the carcinogens and nicotine at a higher level. Many of today’s proponents of anti-cigarette litigation call for alkalinity levels in cigarettes to be raised in order to lessen the amount of irritants inhaled.