Deconstructing Cigarette Ads in a Counter Advertising Workshop

Frank Baker,
media educator

Tobacco on Television

In 1967, the Fairness Doctrine required that all TV stations broadcast 1 anti-smoking public service announcement (PSA) for every 3 cigarette ads that aired. These PSA’s were very effective in the war against smoking.

In 1969, Congress proposed a ban on all cigarette advertising on TV and radio. As expected, the tobacco companies were initially against it. However, they soon realized that a ban on TV commercials would free up funds for other types of advertising, and would also remove the anti-smoking PSA requirement. Rather than fight the inevitable, they decided to cooperate, and the proposal was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970.

The ban took effect on January 2, 1971, in order to give the cigarette companies one final chance to advertise during the New Year’s Day bowl games on TV.

Virginia Slims: the last
cigarette ad on TV:
1/1/71 aired on NBC’s
The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson
just before midnight
(ad featured model/actress Veronica Hamel, who went on to star in NBC’s Hill Street Blues)

Comedienne Joan Rivers on an
early “Tonight” show, with
Johnny Carson and his ever
present cigarette. He died of
emphysema 1/23/05. (NY Times)

A brief history of smoking on American television.

Even though overt commercials are history, smoking can be found on TV today:

Smoking on “The Simpsons”

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