What I Now Know About The Cigarette Industry In Summer 1974


So why am I the kind of person who’ll read They Satisfy, Robert Sobel’s 1978 history of the cigarette industry in America? It’s because of passages like this:

There was a plethora of new brands in the summer of 1974, most of which were unimaginative and soon were discontinued. For years Lorillard had attempted to find a counterpart to Marlboro — a full-flavored smoke witha western motif. It had marketed Maverick, Redford, and Luke, all of which failed. Now it introduced Zach, which in tests featured a pack that looked like blue denim. Zach lasted less than a year. Brown & Williamson had even less luck with Tramps, an attempt to cash in on a revived interest in Charlie Chaplin. Although Chaplin’s face and form weren’t used in commercials, the company paid the retired actor two cents per pack in royalties so as to be able to suggest the connection. American Tobacco had Safari and Super M Menthol; L&M tried the market with St. Moritz, and Philip Morris produced Philip Morris International. This last smoke, a longer version of the old standard, did find a following, but the others were gone by early 1975.

And now my mind is captivated by the scene in Tobacco Industry Master Command, sometime around February 1974. “Gentlemen,” says the President of Tobacco, a burly guy who insists on people calling him “The Head Honcho” believe he thinks that makes him sound approachable and friendly before he kicks their knees in. “This is 1974! It’s a turbulent year! Nixon’s destroying the national belief that government can be a useful force, and America is about to finish the last Skylab mission! What are we going to do to get more people to smoke?”

And one meek fellow from Lorillard says, “We were thinking, maybe, we could try a blue denim-y package?”

A guy from Brown & Williamson says, “I don’t want to brag, but, we have a little project in mind wherein we’re going to just start giving Charlie Chaplin money without getting anything specific in return!”

The guys from American Tobacco and L&M were dozing through the question, but the Philip Morris guy said, “Um … maybe … do the same stuff, only more?”

And the President of Tobacco leans back, puts his feet up on the desk and says, “Boys, I don’t know who, but someone who walked into this room today just had the best cigarette idea of 1974.” Everyone else applauds The Head Honcho, or else.

And that’s why I read these kinds of books.