Cigarette advertising: the era of coolness and Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone

TELEVISION advertising, logos splashed over Formula One racing cars, tennis players wrapped in advertising and some rather classy full-pagers in magazines: the days when cigarette advertising was almost everywhere.

These were the day when tables in public houses had chunky ashtrays ready-and-waiting to be stocked with ash and butts by drinkers. In many homes, the clear glass ashtray was a common feature on the coffee table. You could even walk into banks with a cigarette in your mouth and ask the cashier for a twenty pound withdrawal whilst exhaling puffs of smoke. Clouds of smoke from behind the bike sheds at school meant if the teacher was fast enough, they’d be able to catch the sneaky rascals and confiscate the cigarettes; the confiscated products was an ideal stress relief prescription to puff-on in the staff room whilst downing a cup of coffee. Cigarettes appealed to the very very young to the very very old, from school children to pensioners.

Make no doubt about it, smoking was made to look cool. Let’s think about this: many celebrities smoked and looked cool, but if there was one person who made you want to run to the corner shop and buy a pack of 20, that person would be Rod Serling. Rod who? Rod Serling: remember The Twilight Zone, the sci-fi series? Rod was the creator of The Twilight Zone, but more importantly, when Rod introduced each episode of The Zone, he was usually coolly smoking a cigarette; sharply dressed in a suit and tie, his vocabulary oozed detail and intelligence as he delivered a flawless intro – the omission of the burning cigarette would have knocked his coolness factor score down a couple of points.

Is there still that aura of coolness whilst puffing on a cigarette? Whilst the advertising has disappeared in a puff of smoke (sorry) and packets are now shut away out of display in shops, I can’t help thinking that there’s still something quite cool about them: having a smoke whilst sitting outside a trendy city coffee shop, a cigarette with friends whilst enjoying a glass of Merlot in the garden during the barbecue season, a wind-down cigarette after a posh three course meal or just having chillout time with oneself in the front garden can maximise the coolness factor. Cigarette advertising is now non-existent, but the aura of coolness can still be recreated, with or without company.

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