The Banning of Cigarette Commercials From TV (and Other Dangerous Products)

Cigarette Butts
Cigarette Butts | Source

On New Year’s night, 1971, millions of Americans were tuned in to NBC to watch the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. At 11: 59 Johnny went to a commercial break, something he had done thousands of times since he took over the Tonight Show in 1962. But there was something special about this break, a 1 minute commercial for Virginia Slims cigarettes. Cigarette commercials had been a mainstay of advertising in the first 25 years of television. But this commercial was different. It was the last cigarette commercial broadcast nationally in the United States. One minute later at midnight on January 2, 1971, The “Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act” went into effect. This law banned the advertising of cigarettes and tobacco product on television and radio.

The enacting of this law was part of a larger health campaign to discourage Americans from tobacco usage. It has been successful. Since the mid-1960s, the number of smokers has declined substantially. Smoking is now banned in most places and smoking related illnesses like heart disease, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases have declined. It has become a cleaner, healthier world. I appreciate the fact that I do not have to put up with somebody else’s secondhand smoke at work or when I am out to dinner.

While I understand that cigarette smoking has caused untold heartache, pain and suffering to millions of people who have contracted smoking-related diseases, the libertarian part for me is uncomfortable with the banning of cigarette commercials. We are a nation of free thinking adults who deserve to be able to make up our own minds about our actions. We don’t need a “nanny state” to tell us what we can or cannot do, or what we are allowed to see on television. We understand it is dangerous to our health. And was it really fair to the cigarette companies? Not only were they not able to advertise their product, but this event and the ensuing anti-smoking campaign, caused economic hardship on millions of their employees, vendors and communities. Also, the TV networks lost millions in advertising revenue.

Cigarette advertising was banned because cigarettes are dangerous to the smokers and the people around them. But what about other products that have similar attributes? Shouldn’t they be banned from advertising also? Listed below are three dangerous products which are big advertisers, Using the above logic they should also not be allowed to advertise on TV and radio.

Audi R8
Audi R8 | Source


According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, 43,443 people were killed in 2005 on US highways. That figure has declined in recent years due to the fact that better cars are being made. With that many people being killed and more being injured and crippled, it is a fact that automobiles are killers. Many car commercials show automobiles being driven faster than they should be going like the advertisement showing an SUV speeding through a parking garage.

A feature of many commercials, especially those for sport sedans and sports cars, show the car going way too fast on a winding, mountain road. It emphasizes speed and handling. These ads usually feature in small writing at the bottom “professional driver on a closed course”. However, it is certain that people will buy one of these cars and drive it like they see on the television commercial. He is neither a “professional driver” nor is he driving on a “closed course.” He is a danger to everyone else on the road.

The fact is states will give drivers licenses to anyone who can pass a simple test. That means there are a lot of subpar drivers on the road. Many of them are distracted by their radios, cell phones, GPSs, and other occupants of the car. These people are not careful drivers and they should not be encouraged to purchase a 2000 pound killing machine. That’s not even considering the people who get behind the wheel drunk. That leads us to my next item which should be banned from advertising on TV and radio.



In 2003, the US highways saw the deaths of 17,941 in alcohol related crashes and many others were hurt and maimed in accidents. Million have gotten diseases like cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease and ulcers from a lifetime of drinking. Also, countless lives have been ruined, jobs have been lost and families have been torn apart by alcohol. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 140,000,000 alcoholics worldwide. If this product is so dangerous, then why do we allow it to advertise on TV and Radio?

Well, the alcohol industry is one of the biggest advertisers on television, especially on sports broadcasts and shows that appeal to the male demographic. In 1999, the alcohol industry spent nearly $2 billion on advertising. Three quarters of that figure came from beer advertising. That figure has since increased. That’s a lot of money to spend to shill a product they can be deadly.

To its credit, the alcohol industry has been successful over the past 20 or so years in self-regulation. They saw what happened to the cigarette industry in the early 1970s and did not want the government to step in. They are careful to advertise only to people over the legal drinking age, they don’t put alcohol commercials on shows where children are the key demographic and they have promoted responsible drinking campaigns.

Even after this, they still market a dangerous product. And they somehow have managed to entice a new generation of drinkers with their advertising and commercials.

Onion Rings and a Big Fatty Hamburger! Yumm!
Onion Rings and a Big Fatty Hamburger! Yumm! | Source

Fast Food Restaurants and High Fat Foods

Let’s face it, watching TV these days will make you hungry. Commercials for fast food restaurants, pub chains, and fine dining establishments show prepared foods that are appealing, and delicious. There is even a popular cable TV network that shows how to prepare these delicious foods. What they do not advertise is that a constant diet of foods high in cholesterol, fats, refined sugars, sodium, and carbohydrates will take years off the average person’s life. Overeating these foods can lead to obesity, heart disease, cancers, diabetes and other serious maladies. Eating these rich foods has made us, as a nation, overweight. Even worse, we are raising a generation of children that are unhealthy. It is likely that it is just as dangerous and unhealthy to eat a Big Mac or a hot fudge sundae, as it is to smoke a cigarette.

* * *

So what do we do? I say very little. The three industries above have seen what the government has done to cigarette advertising and have gone out of their way to self regulate. The automobile industry has since the 1950s been on a campaign to build safer cars and they have succeeded. The fast food industry has begun to offer “healthy alternatives” and the alcohol industries’ efforts are detailed above. I am concerned as to whether their efforts will be sufficient to keep the “nanny state” off their backs. I hope it is. I am responsible enough to treat these products with respect. I am an American adult who can make his own decisions. I understand the dangers involved with using these products. I understand that when I drive, I have to drive carefully and defensively. I know that when I drink I have to be responsible and never drive drunk. Every time I eat a delicious, unhealthy food I make a conscious decision to consume it, and I am aware of the consequences. And my wife and I have gone out of our way to instill these values into our children.

If the alcohol, automobile and fast food industries do not succeed and succumb to the well-meaning but misguided people in our society and we let it happen, future generations may find these decisions have been taken away from them. Personal responsibility is one of the main characteristics of being an American. To lose this would be a shame.

Fred and Barney advertise Winstons!!

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Comments 14 comments

kay 4 years ago

Well obviously you just answered your own question at least partially. Fred and Barney like their Winston? Who are their advertising to? Kids obviously. The cigerrette companies advertise to young teens so that they can get them hooked young just incase something happens to burn their profits ( like banning their commercials). There is a baby on Indonesia smoking since 18 months. Kids are allowed to buy cigerrettes there. I agree there are other dangerous things like alcohol ( which I think was banned in the 1930s initially) but at least alcohol doesn't cause second hand illnesses, diseases, or cancers. It causes serious accidents true but cigerrettes can cause second hand cancer and is addictive. I think cigerrettes are too dangerous and anything that helps to get people to stop it welcome on my eyes.

billd01603 profile image

billd01603 4 years ago from Worcester Author

Thanks for reading kay

Lifes 2nd Chances profile image

Lifes 2nd Chances 4 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

I completely agree with your hub. Your point that if you allow choices to be taken away, it is a very slippery slope, is spot on. I chuckled when I saw autos and fast food in your list, I expected the alcohol. Very creative and true. You can not pick and choose what freedoms of choice we have. If we have the right to choose, then we have that right. It seems though that society needs specific groups that are encouraged targets. Smokers and cigarette companies are definitely the most popular and have been for ages. It's funny though, because two of the biggest driving forces in this country certainly do not want people to quit, and they are the insurance companies and the drug companies. They are making millions on this one product. Also, can you imagine what would happen to the Dept. of Revenue if tobacco sales were banned? The majority of the money paid for cigarettes goes to them in the form of taxes. The country would be crippled. Thanks for writing, C.

billd01603 profile image

billd01603 4 years ago from Worcester Author

Hey Life, thanks for reading! I never thought of what would happen to the insurance and drug companys should cigarettes be banned. And they would take away a huge portion of the tax revenue. In today's economy, that's one thing we can't afford.

Jim Bales 3 years ago

Why then is it also allowed to advertise mind altering drugs and other habit forming dangerous medications on radio and TV. The so called "legal" drugs are just as dangerous as the "recreational" drugs.

All these shootings across the nation are from people that are on psychotropic drugs.. Even the disclaimers say side affects are suicidal and homicidal thoughts. What makes that okay? Case in point...An upstanding citizen in Charlotte N.C. was on depression medication that pushed him over the edge and he murdered his little twin daughters in cold blood. He never would have done this had he not been medicated. Too many people are self diagnosing their own physical and mental conditions from these TV ads and running to the doctor who is just waiting for them to ask for such and such a medication. The Pharmaceutical companies are making it profitable for the Dr. to prescribe their drugs. This is true data.

billd01603 profile image

billd01603 3 years ago from Worcester Author

Another dangerous product! Thanks for bringing it up Jim Bales. Thanks for reading

Healthexplorer 3 years ago

Well while reading this hub I must think twice before supporting any act of smoking, as well aware of the issue that smoking is now became a criminal offense especially in smoking in public places and also we known with the fact that smoking helps to improves the risk of cancer and most probably it affect human lung and responsible for lung cancer.

Therefore we should avoid the act of smoking to reduce the risk of cancer and improves human health.

Augustus Foster 3 years ago

Oh, we most certianly could afford to lose the revenue, just stop electing those that like to spend so much.

billd01603 profile image

billd01603 3 years ago from Worcester Author

Thanks for reading Augustus

Que Scout profile image

Que Scout 3 years ago from Sydney Australia

Hi billd0 "Nanny State" is how the current government in Australia operates.

Tobacco advertising has been banned for more than 15 years, all packaging can only have the brand/type printed on the pack in plain text on one side, all sides must bear pictures of hospital patients and warnings. The packaging must be completely generic, without logos or color images. see

A packet of 20 cigs in Australia will set you back US$15 to $19.00 depending on the brand. The price is legislated to increase by at least 15% per year.

Australia's next plan is to stop the sale of cigarettes to people born after the year 2000. Effectively making the sale of tobacco illegal as time goes by.

billd01603 profile image

billd01603 3 years ago from Worcester Author

Que Scout, Thanks for reading and commenting. I understand cigarettes are dirty and dangerous. But as an adult I have the right to chose what I put in my body!!! I worry that the US will get like that. Large sodas are already illegal in New York City!

Que Scout profile image

Que Scout 3 years ago from Sydney Australia

Billdo - what no more Big Gulp in NYC ? Are you for real. Sounds like a good title for a Hub . lol.

billd01603 profile image

billd01603 3 years ago from Worcester Author

Yeah Que Scout, It was a shock to me too. Good thing I only go to NYC every few years.

Damien 3 years ago

How can Macanudo sponser Big Break on the golf channel? isn't this a violation?

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