Fifty year ago today, the Royal College of Physicians published a report on the effects of smoking which clearly linked the habit to cancer, bronchitis and other health problems. Although it came several years after the ground-breaking research by Richard Doll and Austin Bradford Hill which first raised the issue, it was this report which really marked a major shift in British attitudes towards smoking. Change was not instantaneous, but in 1965 cigarette advertising had been banned on TV and by 1971 health warnings appeared on cigarette packaging for the first time.
In time, smoking would be progressively marginalised – banned from public transport, places of work and finally from enclosed public places such as bars, restaurants and pubs. Truly a spectacular fall from grace. As a major area of public health, smoking is of great interest to us and its many facets are well represented in our collections. Here are an eclectic group of objects associated with smoking’s ‘better’ days.
He may have been one of England’s players, but this was surely not the secret of Stanley Matthews’s success. In this advertisement from 1952, Stanley swears by the cigarette that’s “kind to your throat”.
Ashtrays are one of the most potent symbols of communal, public smoking. This example was said to be the last branded ashtray from London’s famous Groucho Club – the others having been ‘pocketed’ in the run up to the 2007 ban.
Signage can also hint at the changing status of smoking. This sign tells of a time when it was felt necessary to gently remind visiting smokers of the appropriateness of their surroundings.
Finally, rather than pay out in coins, this arcade game rewarded the lucky winner with a cigarette. A prize indeed for all those 11 year olds who presumably could access it along with everyone else! And there were certainly winners. The flat, dry remnants of chewing gum all along the underside of the game evoke visions of happy punters, swapping one habit for a rather more dangerous one.