Fact Check

Is This a Real Philip Morris Ad Featuring Mother and Baby?

"Proud mothers, please forgive us if we too feel something of the pride of a new parent."

Published Sep 30, 2022

 (UCSF Library)
Image Via UCSF Library
Claim:
A vintage Philip Morris cigarette ad featured an illustration of a mother holding her baby and the slogan, "Born gentle."

Fact Check

Vintage magazine ads are a popular target of parody because of their naivete and naked commercialism. Indeed, there are so many of each making the internet rounds at any given time that it can be difficult to tell the difference between the real and the fake.

The example below, an old Philip Morris cigarette ad aimed at women, mothers in particular, has landed in Snopes' inbox more than once. Given how unthinkable a tobacco ad linking smoking to motherhood is in today's world, many who encounter it are flabbergasted to learn it's real:

"Born gentle. New Philip Morris … gentle for modern taste."

The above advertisement, dated 1956, has been archived in the University of California San Francisco collection of tobacco industry documents. It can also be viewed, in its original context, in the Feb. 13, 1956, issue of LIFE magazine (courtesy of Google Books).

The ad copy reads as follows:

Born gentle

Proud mothers, please forgive us if we too feel something of the pride of new parent. For new Philip Morris, today's Philip Morris, is delighting smokers everywhere. Enjoy the gentle pleasure, the fresh unfiltered flavor, of this new cigarette, born gentle, then refined to special gentleness in the making. Ask for new Philip Morris in the smart new package.

New Philip Morris … gentle for modern taste

The ad also turns up in a display by the University of Alabama's Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society of tobacco ads targeted at women. Of the "gentle for modern taste" Philip Morris ads in particular, the center's website noted:

Perhaps the most evocative advertisements of this collection, these mid-century Philip Morris advertisements encapsulate the boundless domestic bliss and optimism that permeated the Post-Second World War years. Their unmistakable aesthetic, a mixture of oil paint and watercolors, evokes the timeless genteel aspects of feminity and grace. All the highlights of womanhood in 1950s America are present, a loving husband, the healthy adorable babies, the domestic harmony, hints of undiminished marital love affairs, and stylish evening elegance. Of course, Philip Morris cigarettes are the thread that binds this ideal world together and are indispensable and ever present in any upstanding home of good taste and standing.

Welcome to the good old days, when men were men, women were women, and babies enjoyed secondhand smoke.

It's easy to see why such ads lend themselves to parody. It's a leap, but not an impossible leap, conceptually, from hawking cigarettes to new mothers to hawking bottled beer for infants, for example. And why not market beer to oversexed men for "when you need to get her drunk"? Which naturally brings to mind the utility of a handgun marketed exclusively to women to shoot "depraved creeps."


Sources:

“Did Heineken Advertise Beer to Babies?” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/heineken-beer-ad-babies/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2022.

“'When You Need to Get Her Drunk’ Budweiser Ad.” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/budweiser-get-her-drunk/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2022.

Inc, Time. LIFE. Time Inc, 1956.

Industry Documents Library. https://www.industrydocuments.ucsf.edu/tobacco/docs/#id=hkbb0040. Accessed 30 Sept. 2022.

“Is This a 1950s Women’s Magazine Ad for a Handgun to Shoot ‘Depraved Creeps’?” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/1950s-magazine-ad-colt-cobra/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2022.

The Feminine Mystique – The Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society. https://csts.ua.edu/women/feminine/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2022.

David Emery is a Portland-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.

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