A couple of weeks ago, I posted something about smoking in video games. One of the games mentioned in an article about smoking in video games was “Bioshock: Burial at Sea.”
Well, I’ve been playing it, and noticed an ad in the game for cigarettes … an ad featuring a pregnant woman.
Now, if any of you have ever played any of the Bioshock games, you know there’s a lot of twisted advertisements in these games … really, openly racist ads, etc. If you understand the Bioshock world, you realize there is a lot of irony and dark views of the worst instincts to be found in current U.S. politics (Libertarianism, Objectivism, white supremacy and anti-immigration bigotry … if anything, the anti-Libertarian and anti-racism messages in Bioshock are more compelling today than they’ve ever been).
So, the ad with the pregnant woman falls right into the twisted, ironic world of Bioshock. “Bioshock: Burial at Sea” takes place in 1958. Is this ad that much different from real ads from the 1950s? It’s only slightly more extreme than this:
There is a lot of smoking in Bioshock Burial at Sea. In fact, in all of the Bioshock games, you can smoke a pack of cigarettes to gain more powers (called “Eve” or “Vigors” depending on the game), but it takes away a bit of your health. I don’t know if there’s enough cigarettes in Bioshock to actually kill yourself, but it would be an interesting experiment to try.
So, while I singled out Bioshock in my previous post about smoking in video games, the game does take a very twisted look back at real cigarette advertising and just how insane it actually was.
I hope I’m not stepping on Pepe’s toes here, but here is a rare submission from me about smoking.
George Case was a ballplayer I had never heard of before. Over the past few months, I’ve been reading the comments from his son in a baseball group I belong to. Some very powerful, poignant comments.
George Case was an outstanding baseball player, mostly for the Washington Senators, in the 1930s and 1940s. One of the reasons I had never heard of him before is that his career was very short — he only played nine full years and retired at the age of 31 due to back problems. But, he was very, very good. He led the league in stolen bases six times, stealing as many as 61 bases in a season during an era in which there weren’t a lot of stolen bases (In fact, in 1939, George Case led all of Major League Baseball in stolen bases with 51; the next highest total that season was 23 — wow, what a gap!). He stole 349 bases in that short career (averaging 41 steals a year over eight seasons), hit .282 for his career, made three All-Star teams, scored over 100 runs four times and hit over .300 three times.
According to Wikipedia, Case was “possibly the fastest player in baseball between the 1920s and the 1950s.” He got a handful of Hall of Fame votes, but his career was simply too short to get a lot of Hall of Fame attention. Case went on to own a sporting goods store and was a successful coach at Rutgers, then later coached for the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins.
One of the reasons George’s name keeps coming up in the group is that people like to post vintage smoking baseball smoking ads. Pepe’s done a couple of posts about these ads, and about how many of those baseball players died from lung disease or cancer. People like to make fun of these old ads, but there’s a dark undercurrent to them — these guys either wittingly or unwittingly were promoting a deadly product and many of them died from tobacco-related illnesses themselves (Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Gil Hodges, Joe DiMaggieo, so many others.). Often times when tobacco and baseball comes up, George Case III enters the discussion, talking about his dad and advocating very strong against smoking. He has a powerful story to tell.
George Case, like many ballplayers of his time, starred in cigarette advertising. Case promoted Camel cigarettes. He died of lung disease at the age of 73. He actually starred in a Camels ad along with Joe DiMaggio, a heavy smoker who died of complications from lung cancer.
George’s son, George Case III, has told some powerful stories about his dad’s tobacco use and his death from lung disease. Here are a couple of them:
I smoked when I was in college and had a health scare and was told to give up the cigarettes which I did “cold turkey.” 50 years later I’m so glad I did because I am now older than my father was when he died because of smoking. He lived long enough to know all three of our children, who loved him and enjoyed being with him. None of our grandchildren would have the chance to know Pop-Pop. Our grandchildren only have heard stories and seen photos of their great grandfather. If it hadn’t been for the cigarettes, I’m certain they would have loved being around their great grandfather listening to his baseball stories. They hear the baseball stories from their grandfather but it’s not quite the same, unfortunately!
According to George Case III, his father only ever lost a race to Jesse Owens himself, who also died of lung disease:
From personal experience I can tell you this. My dad was the fastest player in the major leagues during his baseball career. And he was a heavy smoker. At the time, it probably had very little affect on his running, as he was a young man. The only person to ever defeat my father in a race was Jesse Owens (at the time, “the world’s fastest human”) – also a heavy smoker. HOWEVER, cigarette smoking did catch up to my father and Jesse Owens, later in life. The last few years of my dad’s life, he needed to have a portable oxygen tank and could barely walk across a room without getting winded. He used to say “if it hadn’t been for those damn cigarettes” My father died of emphysema and Jesse Owens died of lung cancer. If the dangers of cigarette smoking were known at the time, I’m certain the vast majority of athletes who smoked, never would have. Unfortunately, too late for so many – like closing the barn door after the horse had escaped!
(Surprisingly, even Pepe didn’t realise Jesse Owens had died of lung cancer, but sure enough George III is right. He did. He smoked over a pack a day and died at the age of 67.).
So, I appreciate George III’s advocacy and his passion and his honesty, and Pepe does, too. His dad sounds like he was an amazing man and an amazing ballplayer somewhat lost in the sands of history.
Magazines are split on taking tobacco advertising; quite a few refuse while others continue to take it. Very few newspapers will take tobacco advertising (believe it or not, while tobacco advertising is banned on television, there is no law against ads in newspapers; newspapers just don’t take national tobacco ads.).
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids specifically targeted SI because it’s a magazine read by a lot of kids and teens. SI’s latest Swimsuit Issue contained two cigarette ads, three smokeless tobacco ads and two ads for e-cigarettes. (I can attest to the e-cig ads because it my head exploded when I saw a Blu e-cig advertisement in SI featuring its brand on a woman’s bikini bottom.)
According to Tobacco-Free Kids, SI has more than 1.6 million teen readers.
From the group’s website:
As young readers browse through the magazine, they’ll get messages that cigarettes are fun, chewing tobacco makes you a real man and e-cigarettes are the cool new thing. Most of all, these ads mask the reality of deadly and addictive tobacco products by associating them with sex, glamour and sports, as the tobacco companies have long done.
Unfortunately, Sports Illustrated gives tobacco companies access to its youth readers on a weekly basis.
The magazine’s Sportsman of the Year issue in December was another major offender, with five tobacco ads (two for smokeless tobacco, two for e-cigarettes and one for Newport cigarettes). Featuring World Series pitching hero Madison Bumgarner on the cover, it provided tobacco companies another opportunity to link smokeless tobacco with baseball.
Tobacco-Free Kids also points out the irony of featuring smokeless tobacco ads in the Madison Bumgarner edition as in the past year, one baseball legend, Tony Gwynn, died of salivary gland cancer after a lifetime of chewing and another famous ballplayer, Curt Schilling, battled oral cancer after a lifetime of chewing.
I hope SI dumps the tobacco (and e-cig) ads eventually, but I won’t hold my breath .. and here’s why. SI just got read of its entire photography department and will only use freelancers from now on in order to cut costs. The publishing industry as a whole is hurting, partly because of the cost of paper, partly because it’s never recovered from the recession of 2008, but mostly because more and more people are going to the Internet to get their news.
As an aside, one of my biggest triumphs in my personal anti-tobacco campaign was I helped get tobacco advertising removed from Discover magazine. Years ago, I used to subscribe to it, and I was fairly pissed off when i saw a full-page ad in Discover for American Spirit cigarettes. While SI is read by a lot of teens, Discover is a magazine popular with both teens and preteens. I pointed this out to Discover. I got a free subscription out of it and an apology and a promise that they were pulling all the tobacco ads from now on (I’m sure many more people than me complained about the cigarette ad in the magazine.).
Ireland, a longtime leader in the tobacco control movement (Ireland was actually the first countries to impose a nationwide smoking ban way back in 2004, which may or may not have had anything to do with the decline of the pub industry in that country, depending on who you ask), is making a push to force cigarette companies to remove all their branding from their packages and sell cigarettes in plain packaging only.
Australia has already taken this step, and New Zealand is the other country considering it. Australia was sued by several tobacco companies but ultimately, the Australian Supreme Court upheld the law. Tobacco companies are fighting New Zealand’s law, too, so Ireland can be assured that if they try a similar law, they will be taken to court.
(I’m guessing that because of the First Amendment, a similar law would likely not be upheld in the U.S.)
At this point, the legislation has passed the Irish Cabinet. Leading the cause in Ireland is Dr. James Reilly, the Irish Minister of Health and an ardent tobacco opponent. He wants to get the Irish smoking rate under 5 percent by 2025 (currently, it is at 22 percent).
The thought behind the plain packaging is that each cigarette package is a miniature advertisement for their product. If you remove the packaging logos, then you will no longer have ubiquitous advertising for that product every time someone remove a pack of cigarettes out of their pocket.
Not an outrageous concept, because really, what cigarette company do you think of when you see this to the left? See you already know what the brand is, even without the brand name in the logo. The logo has become that recognizable.
Dr. Reilly says:
The introduction of standardised packaging will remove the final way for tobacco companies to promote their deadly product in Ireland. Cigarette packets will no longer be a mobile advertisement for the tobacco industry.”
British American Tobacco, obviously opposed, responds that there’s no evidence plain packaging would lower smoking rates and that it would just play into the hands of black marketeers, who could sell any tobacco product in any box, without anyone knowing the wiser:
“There is no credible evidence that plain packaging will work in terms of stopping children taking up smoking or encouraging current smokers to quit,” the firm said.
“Instead, Minister Reilly’s plain packaging bill will simply play into the hands of the criminals who are ready and waiting to supply people, regardless of their age, with cheap tobacco products.”
I have no idea if removing branding will decrease smoking and is an effective tactic toward combating smoking. Somewhat on the fence on this, but I find it an interesting debate.
My old Oregon friend Bill posted this on a Gil Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame page.
As I posted a few weeks ago, a lot of baseball players endorsed cigarettes. I found literally dozens of ads of baseball players endorsing either chew or cigarettes — and a hell of lot of them died young of cancer.
Gil Hodges was only 47 when he died in 1972. He literally keeled over dead from a massive heart attack while golfing. He was also a chain smoker. I’ve often wondered if he would have long ago been in the Hall of Fame had he lived and continued to manage and had his face and profile out there. He was 10th all time in home runs when he retired, an integral part of a number of Dodger champion teams, and arguably the best first baseman in the National League during the 1950s. On top of that, he managed a World Series-winning team with the Mets in 1969. But, he was quickly forgotten when he died. He was good, but wasn’t quite as good as Duke Snider, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron and a few others. Still, when you see guys like Tony Perez, Ron Santo and Orlando Cepeda in the Hall of Fame, it’s really hard to believe Hodges can’t get in. (And my point stands that one of the reasons Santo got in was he had a high-profile job for many years as an announcer.).
Hopefully, that will be cured soon. Gil Hodges is on a short list of serious contenders for the Hall of Fame from the Veterans Committee. He is such an obvious oversight.
Anyway, I always cringe at the irony of stars endorsing cigarette products — stars who later died of cancer such as Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne. Or in the case of Gil Hodges, heart disease.
OK, I honestly thought I had seen every insane cigarette ad there was, but thanks to the Respiratory Health Association and Lungchigaco.org, I’ve found some more.
They’ve got a game going called “Tobacco Madness,” in which two insane cigarette ads are paired against one another, and you have to pick the one that is the most nuts. (It took me a while to get the links straightened out to this. The bracket is tiny, but if you click on this, it should be readable.)
Here’s some of the more insane ads blown up in a slideshow. Really demented stuff. I mean the ad tying e-cigs to breast cancer awareness is really the most twisted one I’ve seen:
This made my head just explode. At first, I thought this was some old magazine ad for Doral cigarettes (looks very 1960s), but according to TobaccoFreeCA, this ad was actually placed in the Sunday comics section of newspapers.
Wow, just unbelievable to me. Not even trying to be remotely subtle about marketing to kids.
There’s talk that the FDA may do something similar later this year or early next year in the U.S., but I suspect whatever they do when it comes to powerwalls, it will probably be pretty subtle.
What made this story especially funny is one of the more stupid comments I’ve ever seen on Topix (a news aggregation site which is where you can find a lot of these stories easily). The comment reads:
Someone needs to remind these anti-American, Nazi oriented political scum of the Constitution. Smoking is not the issue it is the freedom that is being eroded. It should be a capital offense to violate the Constitution.
I guess he didn’t actually bother reading the story … because he would have noticed that the story took place in the UNITED KINGDOM.
Also, a capital offense to violate the Constitution? So, does that mean he thinks Bush, Cheney, Nixon, Reagan, Kissinger, Oliver North, half the Watergate conspirators and Jan Brewer should have all been put to death?