Cigarettes and tobacco advertising in their heyday

cigarette advert c1950s

Cigarette advertising was widespread until the mid-20th Century because so many people smoked that there were brand wars between cigarette manufacturers. This page focuses on the innovative ways that cigarette manufacturers used to advertise, but does not touch on the more widely-known bill-board posters. The page concludes on tobacco advertising being made illegal.


By the webmaster, based childhood observations, firsthand contributions and additional research

Advertising cigarettes must have been a great help to small shops as the cigarette manufacturers paid well for the privilege of keeping their names in the public eye.

The most successful way of advertising: cigarette cards

Cigarette manufacturers would put attractive and informative cards into their cigarette packets to encourage people to buy their particular brand. These cards were known as cigarette cards and have their own page.

Cigarette sales outlets would supply free books to serve as albums for complete sets of cards, so there was always pressure to complete a set, so to complete an album - and of course to buy more cigarettes. Since no-one could tell in advance which cigarette packet would contain which card, there was always pressure on smokers to buy the brand that was most likely to contain a card that would complete a set - and to continue buying if the card in a packet was not what was needed for the set.

Page from a cigarette card album c1930s

A cigarette card album of the royal family

Examples of other ways of advertising cigarettes and tobacco

Cigarette advert for Players cigarettes on a wooden waste bin, c1930s

A large wooden waste bin with the Player's logo on its side.

Rubber doormat outside shop advertising Capstan cigarettes, c1930s

Rubber doormat outside a tobacconist advertising Capstan cigarettes.

Paper bags printed with an advert for Sharrow's snuff, c1930s

Paper bags advertising Sharrow's snuff.

Support wall below a shop window advertising St Bruno tobacco, 1940s

Support wall below a shop window advertising St Bruno tobacco.

Old moveable cigarette advert stand for pavement

Moveable advert stand for pavements outside sales outlets for tobacco.

Cigarette advert for Senior Service cigarettes on the back of a pack of playing cards, c1930s

Playing card. one of a pack with the reverse of each card advertising Senior Service cigarettes.

Cigarette advert for Players cigarettes on the open/closed swing tag in a glass shop door, early to mid 20th century

A cigarette advert for Players Cigarettes on the swing tag of a glass shop door, stating whether the shop was open. The open swing tag in the photo would have been reversed when the shop closed. There would also be an advert for Players on the 'closed' side.

Note the gas lamp in the porch.

Advert in a 1939 magazine for Craven A cigarettes

Advert in a 1939 magazine for Craven A cigarettes. The selling point was that they were supposed to be kinder on the throat.

Advert in a 1943 magazine for du Maurier filter-tip cigarettes

Advert in a 1943 magazine for du Maurier filter-tip cigarettes. At that time filter tips were rare or perhaps it was that no-one took dangers of tobacco seriously.

Tobacco advertising banned

Television advertising of tobacco products was banned in the UK in 1965 under the Television Act 1964, which was reinforced by an EU directive in the 1980s. Other advertising, such as press and billboard, was governed by a self-regulatory agreement with the Government.


Text and images are copyright

Photos taken by the webmaster in the following locations:
Beaulieu Motor Museum, Dinefwr House, Eastbourne Museum of Shops, Swansea Bay 1940s Museum, The Black Country Museum, Tilford Rural Life Centre, 1940s event, Winchester Museum

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