Collection: Mild as May
Tobacco companies have been advertising their particular brands as “mild” since the first half of the 20th century. From the start, smokers were aware that smoking irritated the throat, causing discomfort or “smoker’s hack.” Though serious health effects of smoking, like lung cancer, emphysema, and heart attack, were not yet identified in the first half of the 20th century, the seemingly benign side effects such as sore throat and cough were certainly bothersome to smokers. To counteract the sentiment that certain cigarettes were “harsh” and thereby worse for one’s health, cigarette companies began touting “mildness,” a ploy that has lasted well into the 21st century. By reassuring smokers that a particular brand was “mild,” tobacco companies succeeded in hooking consumers and preventing them from quitting.
In the 1930s, Philip Morris used “mildness” in an attempt to attract women, classifying Marlboros as “Mild as May.” Similarly, the American Tobacco Company, always struggling to maintain Lucky Strike’s female consumer base due to the brand’s inherently unfashionable packaging, employed the slogan, “Mildness and Character” along with images of beautiful, sophisticated, rich women. But a cigarette advertised as “mild” was by no means restricted to a female audience. Indeed, in the 1940s and ‘50s, Liggett & Myers drove home the “mildness” message in many of its Chesterfield ads that featured males. A good portion of these Chesterfield ads even included celebrity endorsements from famous men, including Ronald Reagan.
The deception continued and became increasingly prevalent as low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes gained ground in the 1970s. At this time, Brown & Williamson released Kool Milds in an attempt to attract the health-conscious smoker. B&W continued advertising Kool Milds heavily until 2010, when FDA regulations prohibited tobacco companies from using misleading monikers such as “low” and “mild.” Since this new regulation, Kool has followed other brands in color-coding its cigarettes to indicate “mild” or “low-tar.” It has now repositioned Kool Milds as Kool Blue.