In 1950s America cigarette smoking was the epitome of cool and glamour. Hollywood icons such as James Dean and Humphrey Bogart were never without one. Screen beauties such as Audrey Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich made smoking look sensual and sophisticated. Even a future president – Ronald Reagan – was handed free packs of Chesterfield during his B-movie days. By the late 1950s around half of the population of industrialised nations smoked – in the UK up to 80% of adults were hooked. The product was cheap, legal and socially acceptable.
Cigarettes were originally sold as expensive handmade luxury goods for the urban elite. It was not until mass-production methods coupled with aggressive marketing that the industry began to see off traditional pipe-smoking and tobacco-chewing habits, particularly in the United States.
When smoking was cool, cheap, legal and socially acceptable