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The History of Cigarette Packaging

The History of Cigarette Packaging

Cigarettes have long been part of global and American culture. From its early beginnings as a “harmless,” even “healthy” pastime to its current recognition as a less-than-desirable hobby, cigarettes are not going anywhere any time soon, for better or for worse. One of the interesting things to consider, however, is how cigarette packaging has evolved since the introduction of cigarettes to the greater American markets. Let’s take a look.

Early On: 1920s – 1930s

Cigarettes were initially marketed as a trendy pastime. One of the ad campaigns run by Lucky Strike in the 1930s asked consumers, “Do You Inhale?” as if to imply that if you didn’t partake in cigarette smoking, you simply weren’t part of the “in” group. The cigarette packaging reflected this as well. Illustrations of fit, young military men were often used to show that smoking cigarettes was manly, and even patriotic. Lucky Strike cigarettes ran ads featuring its cigarette packaging as well as beautifully illustrated, voluptuous, rosy-cheeked women to show that all the most attractive people were enjoying a cigarette on the daily.

World War II

Cigarette smoking was a common pastime for soldiers during WWII, despite the fact that these men needed to be in prime physical shape. The science was simply not known at the time. Cigarette packaging was used as a way to encourage the public to purchase war bonds, with companies like Lucky Strike and Camel running cigarette packaging and ad campaigns designed to show the public that our young men, who smoked frequently, were the epitome of health and stoicism, and you could be too, if only you would purchase a pack and a war bond.

The Hippie Era – 1960s

Cigarette packaging switched over from illustrated packs featuring dashing young soldiers to a more clean-cut, word-focused cigarette packaging style. Marlboro cigarettes adopted its famous font and red-and-white theme, while Virginia Slims entered the market, often using slim, swanky women with beehive hairdos and diamond rings to entice that audience to partake in purchasing cigarettes.

The Joe Camel Era – 1980s

From 1988 to 1997, Camel cigarettes used a mascot, Joe Camel, as the mainstay of its cigarette packaging. Joe Camel was the epitome of “cool,” for the time period, a quirky camel illustration who often wore funky sunglasses or other funky attire as part of his illustration. However, in 1997, an internal investigation of Camel cigarettes found that Camel was intentionally using its cigarette packaging as a way to market cigarettes to youths, something that the Surgeon General and lawmakers eventually deemed illegal.

The Present – 2000s

Since the outlawing of Joe Camel on cigarette packaging, global lawmakers and health professionals have teamed up to use cigarette packaging as a positive force in getting youth and adults alike to either steer clear of smoking or quit altogether. All cigarette packaging must now contain multiple, easy-to-read warnings stating that smoking cigarettes will cause cancer, amputation, and a multitude of other horrible side effects. Likewise, many cigarette brands are now required to use gruesome pictures and colors of the side effects of smoking as their cigarette packaging.

Kristin Goett
Blogger, supports sustainable and innovative packaging initiatives. Always looking for what sets a design apart from its counterparts.