Magazine article Variety

IN THE 1920s, AMERICANS SMOKED LESS THAN THEY DO NOW. WHY DOES GATSBY TELL ANOTHER STORY?

Magazine article Variety

IN THE 1920s, AMERICANS SMOKED LESS THAN THEY DO NOW. WHY DOES GATSBY TELL ANOTHER STORY?

Article excerpt

The Great Gatsby (PG-13, Time Warner) is based on a novel that mentions smoking eight times.

In contrast, the latest film version features more than 150 smoking incidents. It has already delivered 2.5 billion tobacco impressions to today's theater audiences.

The Gatsby name has long been exploited to promote smoking. Three stars from the 19H9 version of Gatsby were signed up to advertise Camel or Lucky Strike cigarettes: Alan Ladd (Jay Gatsby), Ruth Hussey (Jordan Baker) and Shelley Winters (Myrtle Wilson).

Brown & Williamson, now part of British-American Tobacco, registered "Gatsby" as a cigarette brand in 197H, the same year Paramount released the third filmed version of Gatsby. From the 1970s to the 1990s, RJ Reynolds, Philip Morris and Lorillard consumer-tested Gatsby brand names and advertising.

But the association with 1920s smoking is phony. As the chart below shows, Americans in the Jazz Age smoked less than Americans smoke today.

Why do we think "everybody" smoked in the past? Movies from the 1930s, HOs and 50s were made amid secret tobacco deals with studios and millions in payoffs to top film stars, all designed to drive cigarette sales. Films shaped by the tobacco industry back then shape our memories today.

Later, in the 1970s, after tobacco ads were banned from TV, the tobacco industry started placing its product in Hollywood movies, including many kid-rated films. Once-secret tobacco industry documents show product placement campaigns continued for at least twenty-five years, into the 1990s. …

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