A Smokers' War

Cigarettes and the First World War

Cigarettes Before 1914

At the turn of the twentieth century, cigarettes were a rising, though not yet dominant, form of tobacco consumption. Driven by large scale production and mass marketing, cigarette sales climbed year after year. In 1906, an estimated 277 million cigarettes were sold across Canada – around 45 per person.

This rise was not without resistance and a notable prohibitionist movement, spearheaded by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), emerged. Driven by health and moral concerns surrounding tobacco usage, the WCTU had modest success (notably the adoption of the Tobacco Restraint Act in 1908 which prohibited the sale of tobacco to minors) and remained vocal up to the eve of the First World War.

Catapulted by the outbreak of the war and the mass mobilization it entailed, cigarettes would quickly reach new heights…

Image: “Canadians Returning from Front Line Trench.” Collections CCGW, 2015.10.13.01.