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Walter Armstrong Walter Armstrong

Images: How the Original MAD Men Mocked Cigarette Ads

In the '60s, before Big Tobacco became Public Health Enemy No. 1, cigarette advertising blanketed the known world. MAD magazine lampooned the whole stinking business.

3 Substance

MAD magazine was a humor magazine in the same way that Mark Twain was a comic: sui generis. During its heyday in the 1960s and ’70s, when its circulation reached over 2 million, MAD‘s broad satire had its way with the official self-loving version of America shoved down the throats of the masses by the media industrial complex. At a time when TV and advertising were creating pop culture for a consumer society, MAD‘s mission was guided by the conviction that in America a sucker is born every minute. And the magazine offered these suckers a manual on how they were being snookered.

Nothing was immune from MAD mockery, and the magazine’s readership, which included many teenagers, got a sophisticated education in skepticism. The breaking of American traditions and customs that is known as “the Sixties” was, in a small part, likely inspired by former MAD teens, some critics say.

MAD‘s longtime editor, Al Feldstein, died in May at age 88. Today, a New Yorker blog pays tribute to his audacious comic assault on America with a look at the magazine’s parodies of cigarette advertising, which at the time kept consumer magazines and TV shows fat and happy. After the US Surgeon General’s 1964 landmark report on the catastrophic health consequences of smoking, ordering that a warning be placed on cigarette packages, Big Tobacco began altering not only its commercial messages but its products, such as adding filters to cigarettes.

MAD magazine was not impressed, using satire to focus attention on the absurdity of selling a product that kills with pastoral images and minor modifications.



“Lucky Strikes separates the men from the boys…but not the girls,” read a 1963 Lucky Strikes ad. In MAD’s hands, it became “Likely Strifes separates the men from the boys…but not from the doctors.” Photo via



In a direct attack on Big Tobacco execs, this ad highlights the hypocrisy of the salesman who would never waste money on his own product. “Cigarette Finks say, ‘Smoke. Smoke—till you have no chest to feel’”—as in the Chesterfield brand. Photo via


Home page image: “Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch,” read a 1963 Tareyton ad. In MAD‘s hands it became “Us Cigarette-Makers will fight rather than switch.