Friday, August 31, 2007

Nobody has died because of not smoking, but why take a chance?

Tobacco is a poison. Quit smoking!
Ignat'ev N., 1957

This is a very famous soviet poster dated 1957. It already became a part of Russian culture and launched a powerful meme known to everybody.

The bold yellow letters say: “Tobacco is a Poison. Quit Smoking!” The small information block in the center declares: “Nicotine extracted from 4 cigarettes kills a rabbit, and it takes only a 100 cigarettes’ worth of nicotine to kill a horse”. Images of dead animal bodies complete the heartrending picture.

Immediately after the release of the poster numerous jokes were born. They involved animals consuming various substances with deadly consequences, like “A drop of nicotine kills a horse, or blows a hamster up to infinity”.

The pack of cigarettes in the right upper corner is one of the major tobacco brands popular in the Soviet Union: “Kazbek”, named after the Kazbek Mountain on the Caucasus. The pack layout features distinctive horseman and the mountain’s background. This is another truly brilliant graphical work, which could easily compete with the famous “Gitanes” design… if only the tobacco was good. But it was not, as at that time rural population was smoking home-grown tobacco of an awful quality and even in the cities filters were not common until 80s.

The big burning cigarette on the poster is a typical cigarette design of the era – small tobacco fill and a large empty tip made of cardboard. A smoker had to crumple the tip in a certain way so that tobacco grits did not get into his mouth while inhaling.

And now this poster has new life, as many smokers, who dream about quitting the deadly habit nowadays, often hang reprints of this poster at their workplaces because of its humorous nature and historical background.