Tobacco's history in Hollywood

The U.S. tobacco industry has a long, documented history of collaborating with the U.S. film industry to promote smoking and tobacco brands. The history includes four main periods:

1920s to 1950s | From the advent of talking pictures to the end of the so-called "studio system," tobacco companies provided most of the national advertising for Hollywood films in newspapers and magazines and on radio. They also put most Hollywood stars under advertising contracts.

1950s to 1970 | As television eclipsed movies, the tobacco companies bought and sponsored their own programs. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, despite tobacco industry efforts to cover up the facts, the public learned more about the health risks of smoking — and cigarettes lost some of their on-screen glamour.

After 1970 | In 1971, the U.S. banned broadcast advertising of tobacco products. Smoking within TV dramas immediately dropped by 70 percent. The tobacco companies then returned to systematic product placement campaigns in Hollywood, affecting hundreds of mainstream movies. For strategic tobacco marketers, it was at least as important to get smoking back into the hands of stars as it was to push a particular brand.

The new century | The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between state attorneys general and domestic tobacco companies prohibited tobacco product placement in entertainment accessible to kids. Despite this legally-binding agreement, however, on-screen smoking climbed until 2005, U.S. films remain a major recruiter of new young smokers around the world, and reports of tobacco industry product placement in films persist.

Explore this site to learn more about how tobacco bought its way into movies and how we can get it out, once and for all.