1970: Cigarette Advertising Is Banned By Congress

Lillian Eggers, television queen of 1940, advertising for cigarettes in Philadelphia. (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

It's no joke. Until 1971, tobacco companies ran commercials for cigarettes on television and radio. At that time, just under 50% of the U.S. population smoked despite mounting evidence that it was detrimental to one's health, largely because the cigarette ads of the era made smoking seem pretty cool. Thanks to the ban on cigarette commercials, attitudes about smoking have come a long way, baby.

Big Tobacco's Big Business

In 1969, the tobacco industry was the single largest product advertiser on radio and television. Every brand had its own, well, brand: Marlboro promoted their cigarettes using the Marlboro Man, a rugged, all-American cowboy who oozed masculinity; Virginia Slims appealed to the modern woman with images of the sexy, independent lifestyle she craved; and Camel ads, featuring the Joe Camel character, gave off a hip beatnik vibe. Cigarette companies even sponsored television and radio shows in the 1950s and 1960s. Lucky Strikes had tremendous success with this form of marketing, often targeting women who feared gaining weight with the slogan "Brought to you by Lucky Strikes: Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet."

Tobacco companies sponsored events and touted endorsements of their own, most infamously Camel. In 1946, they gave free cartons of cigarettes to doctors and then asked them which brand they preferred. Naturally, the overwhelming majority named Camel, allowing the company to claim in a series of ads that "More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarettes." Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, Barbara Stanwyck, Hank Aaron, Frank Gifford, Joe DiMaggio, and Frank Sinatra all appeared in cigarette ads.