Collection: Mouth Happy
Menthol cigarettes were introduced in the 1930s as special-purpose cigarettes. Menthol is a mint extract which triggers a sensation of coolness when it comes in contact with the mouth and throat. Advertisers for these brands 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. The small print on of the Spud ads in this theme reads, “Your mouth will keep as fresh as a May morning. They have a way all their own of cooling smoke . . . Sifting out irritants . . . Giving you dewy-fresh flavor.” This text implies that other cigarette smoke is too hot and contains harsh irritants. Instead of advising smokers to quit, however, these 1930s ads urged smokers to switch to Spuds. One such advertisement advises consumers to smoke Spuds so as not to “let heavy smoking make your mouth ‘quit’ the party.” Other ads in the theme liken smoking Spuds to eating foods that require an acquired taste, like Roquefort cheese, mushrooms, olives, or caviar. Still another ad alerts young smokers that they can keep their mouths fresh and cool with Spuds for a “heavy date.” Though only some of the ads are part of the “Be ‘Mouth-Happy’” campaign, all of these ads concentrate on the mouth – from taste, to breath, to throat irritation.
While menthol cigarettes are not actually cures for sore throats or the common cold, the menthol additive does act to temporarily reduce the irritating properties of nicotine and other cigarette byproducts inhaled through cigarette smoke, providing a smoker with the illusion that menthols contain curative powers (1). Indeed, the history of the invention of menthol cigarettes finds its roots in sore throat treatments: When Lloyd “Spud” Hughes stored his cigarettes in the tin already containing the menthol crystals meant to cure his sore throat, he stumbled upon a tobacco recipe which struck him rich – and which still makes the industry millions of dollars to this day – mentholated cigarettes. After his chance discovery in the 1920s, Hughes began marketing his mentholated cigarettes as “Spuds” and patented the process of treating tobacco with menthol in 1925. In the summer of 1926, the Axton-Fisher Tobacco Company began manufacturing Spuds for Hughes.
1. Benowitz, N. and Samet, J. “The Threat of Menthol Cigarettes to U.S. Public Health.” The New England Journal of Medicine. 2011.