Tobacco ads are notorious for broadcasting what can only be called the “Big Lie” – how else could the inhalation of smoke of any kind be compared to breathing in “mountain air?” In these advertisements, smoke is presented to consumers as “fresh” and “clean,” and particular brands are advertised as “springtime fresh” or even “the refreshest.” Ads offering freshness continued well beyond the 1950s, portraying verbal or visual themes of outdoor recreation, mountain air, clean rushing streams, and more.
Early on, the freshness theme became grist for the industry’s “tit for tat” advertising. Indeed, while The American Tobacco Company advertised that Lucky Strikes were better because they were “toasted,” R.J. Reynolds countered that their Camels were superior because they were “naturally fresh: never parched, never toasted!” Camel also offered an alternative meaning of the word “fresh” by heavily promoting its cellophane wrapper, intended to keep cigarettes from going stale on store shelves.
Freshness was also commonly used as a kind of code-word for healthfulness. Slogans used in tobacco ads called to mind the “cool” of ice or the fresh healing virtues of springtime mountain pastures. “Kool” and other menthol brands were also supposed to deliver a kind of hospital-like sense of sanitary safety, and one company implied cleanliness in its very name. “Sano” cigarettes didn’t last very long: they didn’t deliver as much in the way of tar or nicotine as more popular brands and their marketing skill lagged behind that of the bigger players. By contrast, menthol brands grew in popularity after the postwar “health scare,” and many other forms of “health reassurance” were offered (space-age filters of myriad sorts, promises of low-tar and/or nicotine deliveries, eventually “lights,” etc.).