Collection: Pure & Clean
Tobacco companies have claimed that their cigarettes are “pure” or “clean” for decades. In the 1930s, the question of purity was more about sanitation during production and manufacture, as was the case for Chesterfields, or about additives in tobacco, as was the case for Old Golds. Later, after the “health scare,” purity referred to how “clean” a cigarette’s smoke could become after filtration.
In the early 1930s, Chesterfield began advertising its cigarettes as “PURE,” touting the “cleanest ‘bill of health’ any cigarette could rate.” Ad copy compared Chesterfield cigarettes to “pure food, pure milk, pure water,” thereby aligning cigarettes with these everyday necessities for living and for maintaining health. One of these ads claims that Chesterfield cigarettes are “scientifically purer” in every way. It claimed that the paper wrapped around Chesterfield tobaccos is “so pure it burns without any taste or odor,” and cites a “highly scientific process” which allows Chesterfield to reach “a state of purity unmatched” by other cigarette brands. Another ad hones in on the paper-making process, and includes an illustration and an explanation of how Chesterfield’s paper is made: “the linen pulp of the flax plant is washed over and over again in water as pure as a mountain stream.” In addition, Chesterfield claims that “every ingredient” in its cigarettes and “every method” used in their manufacture is checked by scientists; “Even the factory air is washed, and changed every 4 ½ minutes. More purity!” a number of ads exclaim.
Also in the early 1930s, Old Gold used the slogan “Pure tobacco… no artificial flavors” as a method for claiming less throat irritation. It is interesting to note that recently, the health focus has again shifted toward additive-free cigarettes, as is the case with Natural American Spirit.
Later, after the introduction of the “health scare” and the influx of filter cigarettes on the market, many tobacco brands began describing the smoke inhaled through their filters as “pure” or “clean.” In 1959, for example, King Sano boasted “America’s purest tobacco taste.” (King Sano’s name alone harkens back to the Chesterfield ads of the 1930s and their preoccupation with sanitation.) Other filter brands also hopped on the pure and clean bandwagon. Fleetwood cigarettes advertised “a cleaner, finer smoke.” One Fleetwood ad from 1943 depicts a kitten licking its paw above the caption, “Every puff of Fleetwood smoke Cleans Itself!” In the 1960s, Parliament ads reached out to women with the slogan, “if you like things neat and clean, you’ll like Parliament,” referring to the smoke filtered through Parliament’s recessed, hi/fi filter.
These claims of purity present pure tobacco as safe, and distract consumers from what should be the real concern: tobacco in its purest form is deadly.