FACT CHECK: Does This Image Show An Old Winston Cigarette Ad Targeting Pregnant Women?

Hannah Hudnall | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows an old Winston cigarettes ad targeting pregnant women.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence the ad was created by Winston. It was created for a photoshop contest centered around “bad ads.”

Fact Check:

In the 1930s and 40s, before clear links between smoking and lung cancer had been discovered, tobacco companies used a variety of methods to sell their products to as many consumers as possible, including claims that tobacco was good for your health, according to Metro.

One image claims to show an old Winston cigarette ad targeting pregnant women. The ad includes an alleged testimonial from a pregnant woman that reads, “People are always telling me that smoking causes low birth weight. Talk about a win-win-win! An easy labor, a slim baby, and the Full Flavor of Winstons!”

Smoking while pregnant can have a number of negative health effects on the baby, including low birth weight, which can lead to other serious health issues for the child, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (RELATED: Did Germany Make This Ad About Food Insecurity In America?)

Though Winston cigarettes were, according to the company’s website, first introduced by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco company in 1954, there is no evidence the company ever created the ad shared on Facebook. The ad could not be found in a collection of “outrageous vintage cigarette ads,” compiled by CBS News in 2014, nor Business Insiders’ 2016 list of “outrageous tobacco ads that would be illegal today.”

Timothy Dewhirst, a professor at the University of Guelph with a research focus on internal tobacco industry documents, noted in an email to Check Your Fact that the Surgeon General’s warning featured on the alleged advertisement would only be included in cigarette ads from the 1980s and later, while the ad’s creative design appears to be from the 1950s.

“The Surgeon General’s warning, as seen, reflects a specific health warning because of U.S. Congress enacting the Comprehensive Smoking Education Act of 1984 (Public Law 98–474),” explained Dewhirst. “So, the use of this warning would normally suggest an ad from the mid-1980s or later.  Yet, the creative of the alleged ad does not match this period, and the scrutiny an advertiser would likely face for attempting such claims at this time makes it unlikely that the alleged Winston ad is genuine.”

Robert Jackler, a professor at Stanford University and the founder of a group called the Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising, concurred with Dewhirst’s conclusion, telling Check Your Fact in an email that the ad is a “spoof” and “not a genuine Winston ad.”

Through a reverse image search, Check Your Fact found the image actually stems from a “Bad Ad” photoshop contest hosted by the website DesignCrowd in 2012. “In tonight’s contest, your task is to create a failed ad campaign- a parody of an ad that wasn’t quite right in one way or another, as in the themepost,” reads the contest’s rules. The image shared on Facebook won first place.

Hannah Hudnall

Fact Check Reporter


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