Cigarette Packaging

We have a range of cigarette packing in from different decades in our History of Medicine Collection.

In 1949, Richard Doll, a researcher working for the Medical Research Council, and Bradford Hill, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene, began looking at lung cancer patients in London hospitals. The patients were asked about family history, diet and previous diseases. In 649 cases of lung cancer, two were non-smokers. Doll immediately gave up his own five cigarettes a day habit.

Doll and Hill extended their research to Cambridge, Bristol and Leeds and, after speaking to some 5,000 people, found the same results. In 1951, the researchers wrote to 59,600 doctors and asked about their smoking habits. They kept a watch on the doctors' health and published the results in 1954.

Doll and Hill followed up their work and, by 1956, the link was proven: more than 200 heavy smokers had died in a four-year period while the incidence among non-smokers was negligible.

A range of measures have been brought in to tackle smoking, and one of these has been the changes in legislation about cigarette advertising and packaging. Our collection shows how, before the 1950s, packaging carried no health warnings, and was brightly coloured, with appealing artwork. Gradually over time, warnings were added, which were initially small, and then became more prominent. The most recent packaging in our cabinet shows graphic pictures of people suffering from the effects of smoking alongside the warnings. Packaging is now completely plain.

Listen to Paul Aveyard, Professor of Behavioural Medicine at the University of Oxford, here: