The Daily Heller: You Must Realize, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Posted inThe Daily Heller

When Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach wrote the song “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” tobacco smoke actually got into a lot more places, including the throat, lungs and, indeed, the entire pulmonary system. In 1966 voluntary innocuous health warnings with ambiguous messages began to appear on cigarette packages. By 1970 the government lit a match under the tobacco companies and mandated stricter warning labels.

Realizing the cachet of cigarettes was coming to an end, in 1970 the celebrated publishing industry art director and master of all things stylish, Harris Lewine (1921–2016), wrote, art directed and produced Good-Bye to All That, a paean to tobacco’s golden age(s). Designed by the late Alan Peckolick, the narrow, paper-over-boards cover was made to resemble the iconic Lucky Strike “flat seventies” cigarette tin from the ’20s and ’30s on the front with, ironically, a 1970s “Caution” label on the back. (The so-called “hazardous to your health” notice prefigured more vividly worded and illustrated warnings to come.)

Metallic silver endpapers, an echo to the silver foil that lined the original tins and packs, were the crowning tip-of-the-hat to the days when smoke-filled rooms and lungs were the height of masculinity, soon to be followed by a female smoking revolution.

The first quotation in the book, designed in the manner of the warning label, paradoxically sets the tone: “For thy sake, tobacco, I would do anything but die” (Charles Lamb, 1830).

A mixed message: Lewine knew the dangers of smoking but adored the graphic and advertising riches (or, rather, smoke and mirrors) the tobacco industry used to sell its wares. The book is filled with color plates (below) of tobacco art and photos of celebrities from stage and film that promoted the addictive leaf to the public.

You don’t have to be woke to know that butts are bad for you and the tobacco industry has done everything in its bank account to keep profits high and breathing hard. But speaking of butts, Lewine’s book, like cigarettes, was packaged to entice. It still satisfies, too.