I was thinking, as I answered a comment on my last post, about the abundance and diversity of wonderful cigarette packet designs that we used to enjoy (I barely scratched the surface in my post). And that led me on to thinking about the producers; the tobacco companies that existed in the UK and Ireland back in the ’50s to ’60s period, and indeed, into the ’70s, before the gradual swallowing of all the smaller companies by the internationals.
There were some lovely names.
Companies like WD & HO Wills, which was one of the bigger ones, John Player, Carreras, Gallaher, PJ Carroll, Sullivan Powell, Rothmans, Churchman, Dunhill, to mention but a few.
There were a lot of smaller operations, too, making specialised and / or bespoke cigarettes. Ian Fleming’s iconic spy James Bond famously had his cigarettes specially made with his own choice of tobaccos by a small specialist company, Morland & Co., a company which did actually exist, and was where Ian Fleming himself bought his cigarettes.
Then of course there were all the pipe tobacco manufacturers, who seemed to operate for the most part as a separate business entirely from the cigarette makers. Not having been a pipe smoker, I can’t remember many names, but Ogdens comes to mind, as does Condor, and there were loads more, if the display shelves were anything to go by. And that’s just UK. Almost every country in the world had a tobacco industry and their own indigenous producers. So up until relatively recently, we had literally hundreds, maybe even thousands of separate, individual companies producing cigarettes, cigars and tobacco. Most, if not all of whom spent a portion of their profits advertising their wares as being the best available on the market.
That in turn led me on to thinking about another post I wrote a short while ago, about how the American tobacco companies are being forced (by law) to publish a series of full-page newspaper advertisements, plus TV advertisements, making ‘confessions’ (doubtless helpfully written for them by Tobacco Control) about how they had colluded to deliberately deceive the public about the ‘dangers’ of smoking.
And thinking about those two subjects concurrently, I couldn’t help but wonder where the concept of ‘Big Tobacco’ came from. Because these people in Tobacco Control would have us believe that the cigarette companies have been colluding since the 1950s in some huge conspiracy. But in the 1950s, there were hundreds upon hundreds of cigarette companies around the world. Are we to accept that all these companies (who were in competition with each other) had some master plan known only to themselves? And that they had all conspired in this dastardly plot? Or are we supposed to think that the executives of all these companies were, to a man, liars, cheats and murderers? And that they were all telling the same lies?
If we were discussing any other international product manufactured by hundreds of different companies (shampoo, for instance), and suggested that somehow all these diverse companies were working to an agreed hidden agenda, there would be jokes about tinfoil hats and David Icke flying around. But because it’s tobacco, we’re supposed to suspend all critical thinking and accept what we’re told as fact.
But it seems to me that there never was any ‘Big Tobacco’, at least not until recently when a few of the big boys swallowed up many of the smaller companies. And their ‘lies’ were just normal advertising .
‘The greatest thrill in motoring’.
Obviously a gross exaggeration, but that’s what companies did, and if you chose to believe it, well, more fool you. However, I don’t recollect anyone insisting that Ford should have regaled their potential customers with statements like “In reality, Fords are as dull as dishwater”, or shown them gruesome pictures of auto accidents, or given cautions like “You must realise that there’s a possibility that in the event of a front-end shunt that the engine block will probably end up in the passenger compartment, crushing your chest and eviscerating you – there’s no safe level of driving, you know.”
What company in their right mind would do that?
The tobacco companies at the time did no more and no less than every other company operating in that era, yet now they are expected to don sackcloth and ashes and indulge in public self-flagellation. At their own expense.
Such is the logic (and spite) of Tobacco Control.
‘Big Tobacco’? The idea that all tobacco companies around the world were all part of some conspiracy to get us addicted to, and keep us addicted to their lethal product seems a little far-fetched, does it not? Positively Machiavellian, and definitely straying into tinfoil hat territory.
No, they were just normal companies doing what normal companies do, until a cabal of single-issue fanatics decided to make them the subjects of a long-running witch hunt (with the ultimate aim of destroying them entirely).
‘Big Tobacco’ as an entity is a myth, just like so much of the anti-smoker narrative.