Collection: Kool Your Throat
In 1933, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company released Kools as its answer to the mentholated cigarette. Menthol cigarettes were introduced in the 1930s as specialty cigarettes to be smoked on occasion, aside from a smoker’s regular, unmentholated cigarette. Because menthol is a mint extract which triggers a sensation of coolness when it comes in contact with the mouth and throat, advertisers often touted menthols’ coolness as a contrast to the hotness of ordinary tobacco smoke. Implicit in this advertising technique are the harmful effects of smoking, sometimes referred to as “smoker’s hack” in Kools ads.
Instead of advising smokers to quit, however, these early ads for Kools from the 1930s to 1950s urged smokers to switch to a menthol brand to ease throat irritation. Early slogans for Kools covered by this theme include “Your throat will not get dry” (1933), “Throat comfort” (1934), and “In between others, rest your throat with KOOLS” (1938-1940). By 1940, the slogan was “Switch from Hots to Kools,” and in 1951 and 1952, a Sunday comics campaign was released. Across the board, the message was the same – Kools were soothing, comfortable, and relaxing.
Kools’ penguin mascot was used from the first days of the brand’s release. His cartoonish appearance, like Joe Camel’s, makes him an attractive figure to kids and young adults. The penguin was named Willie in 1947 to increase sales which had fallen after the war. However, Kools were still seen as a specialty product at the time, appealing only to those smokers hoping to avoid throat dryness or the irritating effects of their regular smokes. It wasn’t until the late 1950s, when Salem entered the scene as the first menthol filter in 1956, that menthols began to make up a large part of the market share. Government surveys in 2011 revealed that menthol cigarettes dominate 30% of the overall market, and over 80% of black smokers prefer menthol as opposed to 22% of non-Hispanic white smokers (1).
1. Wilson, Duff. “Advisory Panel urges F.D.A. to re-examine menthol in cigarettes.” The New York Times. 18 March 2011.