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Football and Tobacco

John Simkin

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The tobacco companies discovered that cigarette cards were a great way to obtain brand loyalty. In 1896 the first football set appeared. Footballers & Club Colours was published by Marcus & Company, a small firm in Manchester. Over the next forty years millions of these cards were produced in an attempt to identify football stars with smoking.

Some football stars such as Billy Meredith and Bill Shankly made it clear that they maintained their fitness by neither smoking or drinking alcohol. However, others such as David Jack, openly stated that he was a chain-smoker. It was also common for newspapers and magazines to publish photographs of football players smoking.

In the 1930s Dixie Dean promoted Carreras Clubs, "the cigarettes with a kick in them". According to Joyce Woolridge: "Dean, pictured in the publicity with a lighted cigarette clamped firmly between his lips, was obviously chosen for his appeal to working-class men; Clubs were a budget brand at five for two pence."

It was common for footballers to smoke in the early 1950s. Jackie Milburn pointed out in his autobiography that he rushed off to the Wembley toilets for a cigarette before the 1951 FA Cup Final and found that four of his Newcastle United teammates were already there having a smoke.

Although he did not smoke himself, fitness fanatic, Stanley Matthews appeared in an advertisement for Craven A cigarettes in 1954. The advertisers attempted to link his "smooth ball control" with the "smoothness of Craven A". This was at a time when research was being published showing a link between smoking and cancer and Matthews was criticized for appearing in cigarette advertising.


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