Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette! Smoking, once the national addiction, has since been beaten into highly taxed submission by wave after wave of Surgeon Generals Reports, class-action lawsuits, and the painful, expensive deaths of some of its most ardent supporters.
And yet there was a time when smoking was considered suave, healthful, an aid to digestion, and a great way to keep North Carolina fat and sassy. Even though America's tobacco producers had a two-fisted attack plan for winning sales - a highly addictive product sponsored by government subsidies - they still spent millions advertising their cancer sticks and smudgepot fodder to a jonesing, highly irritable America. But how best to reach the sophisticated, worldly audiences of the 1930s and 40s? Comic strips, of course!

Ol' Judge Robbins wanders the world like Caine in "Kung Fu" - righting wrongs, ladling out portions of cheesecake, and extolling the virtues of Prince Albert, the coolest-burning tobacco. Note the importance the ad copy gives to making darn sure we know how smooth and cool and refreshing Prince Albert is. That's why we put ground up leaves in a bowl and set them on fire near our face. Because it's just so cool and refreshing.

Even photographs of stiffly posed models got into the comic act as word balloons inform us that even balding business executives use cigarettes to keep in top shape, just like famous athletes! Well, IS the 1930s we're talking about, when "keeping in shape" meant eating MORE red meat and laying off the broads before the big game. Remember - you can smoke all you want! The Camels ad says so!

A parade of sneering Death Row inmates jut their chins in the air to remind us that Prince Albert is the modern streamlined way to smoke! The 'hand rolled' guy seems particularly threatening; I guess Prince Albert makes for a better roll-your-own for a quick puff before that bank robbery or kidnaping. And let's not forget that Prince Albert slogan!

"The National Joy Smoke." This lasted until roughly 1967 at which time "the national joy smoke" went through some changes - it was still hand-rolled and mellow, but possession got you five to ten in the slammer, depending on the state.

Sexy blonde ditches a parade of unibrowed geeks and chinless losers to hurl herself at the happenin' dude with the Sir Walter Raleigh can! Don't be a geek - smoke a pipe! 'Nuff said?

Sir Walter is back with another weird exploration of gender relations as seen through a fuzzy haze of reeking pipe smoke. Hey, I wouldn't marry the guy either, he can't take the damn thing out of his mouth!

I love that graphic. So, why did America have such a love affair with the soothing, calming balm of the lit cigarette? Maybe because in the 30s and 40s they were freaked out of their minds.
Depression, polio, fascism, Bonus Armies, endless MacArthur press releases... check out the subtext of despair and lurking horror behind this cheery cartoon contest ad, in which our only salvation is the slim hope of a few thousand bucks from some weird famous signature identification contest. I'd be smoking too.