Legal highs: new book looks back at 20th century cigarette and alcohol ads

A new book from Taschen looks at how we advertised alcohol and cigarettes in the last century and offers some fascinating insights into our changing attitudes towards fags and booze.

Smoking in the UK is now so out of fashion, that it’s hard to imagine that advertisements for tobacco brands were only fully banned (the last area being sponsorship of snooker and Formula 1 tournaments) as recently as 2005.

An initial ban began earlier than that, of course, with cigarette ads removed from TV and radio in 1965, and health warnings appearing on packets from 1971. But anyone growing up in the 1980s and 90s will remember the clever, much-celebrated, ads for brands including Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges, which got around the strict ad regulations of the time with ambiguous, surreal imagery that was nonetheless seductive.

Alcohol is now facing similar regulations in terms of how it is advertised – always drink responsibly, folks – which has seen the drinks industry also forced to come up with increasingly imaginative ways of promoting its tipples.

This was not always the case, of course, as a new book published by Taschen and co-authored by Steven Heller and Allison Silver, which charts a history of alcohol and cigarette across the 20th century, demonstrates.


Milton Keynes