UCSF Hosts Exhibit on Historic Tobacco Advertising

November 19, 2007
News Office: Lauren Hammit (415) 502-6397

The UCSF Library and UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education are currently hosting an exhibit of historic cigarette advertising and promotional items.

Titled "Not a Cough in a Carload — Images from the Tobacco Industry's Campaign to Hide the Hazards of Smoking," the exhibit tells the story of how, between the late 1920s and the early 1950s, tobacco companies used false medical claims and deceptive imagery to reassure the public of the safety of their products.

Curated by Robert Jackler and Robert Proctor, two Stanford University experts on tobacco industry marketing, and artist Laurie Jackler, the exhibit will run through Feb. 29. It is located on the fifth floor of the UCSF Library at 530 Parnassus Ave., San Francisco. Library hours are Monday through Thursday, 7:45 a.m. to midnight; Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to midnight.

"This exhibit is an excellent representation of how the tobacco industry misled the American public for decades about the health effects of cigarettes," said Stanton Glantz, Ph.D., internationally recognized tobacco-control advocate and UCSF professor. "Unfortunately, they are still doing it today, albeit by subtler methods."

According to Glantz, questions about the health effects of smoking became a topic of widespread discussion early in the last century, so tobacco companies undertook a multi-faceted campaign to allay the public's fears. References to smoker's cough and cigarettes as "coffin nails" began to appear in the popular vernacular. In response, tobacco marketers employed endorsements by vigorous-appearing singers, Hollywood stars, athletes and patriotic American figures like astronauts and past presidents. Physicians, scientists and nurses were depicted as satisfied and enthusiastic partakers of the smoking habit.

Other strategies included contradictory health claims and the fear of weight gain. Pseudo-scientific medical reports, promotions and surveys were employed to support the advertising, which ran in medical journals of the time, Glantz noted.

"This exhibit complements the UCSF tobacco document digital library, giving graphic representation to the more than 7 million documents that describe the careful research that goes into the development of the tobacco industry's advertising campaigns," said UCSF University Librarian Karen Butter.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to defining health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

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