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Wrapping Death & Disease in Red, White & Blue

July 02, 2014

As we’ve seen time and time again, tobacco companies will take advantage of any opportunity to market their deadly and addictive products.

On Independence Day, we offer a look at just a few of the times Big Tobacco has shamelessly exploited our national pride to sell cigarettes. What these ads leave out, of course, is that tobacco use isn’t a path to freedom, but to addiction, disease and death – 480,000 deaths a year, according to the latest Surgeon General’s report on tobacco and health.

Red, white & blue all over

This 1974 Liggett & Myers ad shows that tobacco companies have long exploited iconic images of freedom and sold smoking as an “American tradition.” [View Larger]

When it comes to associating tobacco with an idealized America, Philip Morris set the standard with its Marlboro cowboy. [View Larger]
In Marlboro country, patriotism has meant barbeque, a rodeo – and, of course, cigarettes. [View Larger]

While the Marlboro Man rides no more (at least not in the U.S.), Marlboro products still come wrapped in red, white and blue. [View Larger]

Other brands – including e-cigarettes – have followed suit by leveraging patriotism for profit. [View Larger]


For our national holiday, Camel Snus seized upon the ultimate American concept – freedom. [View Larger]

Leading e-cigarette brand blu (owned by tobacco giant Lorillard) consistently uses the tagline “Take Back Your Freedom.” [View Larger]

“American Grown”

Just the name of USA Gold cigarettes says a lot. A recent mailing headlined “Proudly made in the U.S.A.” features patriotic imagery, including a section on American farmers. [View Larger]

Natural American Spirit also exploits goodwill toward American farmers – and distracts from the deadly and addictive nature of their cigarettes – by highlighting that their tobacco is “Grown on American Soil.” [View Larger]

Skoal even encourages us to “Dip American,” as if the origin of the tobacco somehow makes it less harmful. [View Larger]

Thanks to Trinkets & Trash at Rutgers School of Public Health and Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising for providing the images.