October 1, 2021
A look back at 5 old ‘health-focused’ ads which exemplify how times have changed.

Once upon a time salesmen were able to peddle "magic" potions on street corners or out of gypsy carts. "Roll up roll up - get your elixirs here!"

Today we take a look at some ads from the past which once upon a time were considered "health-focused" but today are not only hilarious, but they would not not make it past the Advertising Standards Authority or the FDA.

They say that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it, Dr Danielle Jones told Medworld of fake medical influencers "Often these fake medical influencers are actually selling something: “everything your doctor didn’t tell you!” Posing the question how much has really changed?

Lucky Strike (1930)

This ad was part a Lucky Strike campaign which contended that "20,679 physicians" thought the cigarettes to be "less irritating." The Centre for Tobacco Products now oversees the implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FDA.GOV)

Cocaine Toothache Drops (1885)

During this time dentists and surgeons used cocaine as an anaesthetic for its pain-relieving qualities (webmd.com).

Ritalin (1957)

CIBA originally marketed its stimulant Ritalin as a cure for depression, rather than an inability to focus, like in this 1957 ad (webmd.com).

Dr. McLaughlin's Electric Belt (1900)

Tens of thousands of electric belts were sold in the United States alone between the 1890s and the 1920s, and it was even listed in a 1906 Sears catalogue. (atlasobscura.com)

Fleischmann's Yeast  (1933)

An ad where Dr. Pietro Bosellini advises the use of yeast can cure bad skin (Duke University Archives).

These advertisers have used doctors to convince their audiences that what they are selling is healthy, serving as a reminder not only of the persuasion of advertising but also the power, trust, and responsibility that comes with the title of 'doctor.'

If fake medical influencers selling things are the "snake oil traders" of 2021, then this is why as Dr Danielle Jones (a doctor with over 2-million online followers) explained “The more doctors we get online, then the more doctors we have speaking about evidence-based medicine the better!”

Article by
Medworld Journalist

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