Back In the Day
When They Used To Market Cocaine
Through the 70s and 80s, one drug rules them all. That drug was cocaine.
Before it was rendered illegal, the sale of drug paraphernalia was big business. These vintage commercials show luxurious black sofas, sexy women, and lots of cocaine.
These advertisements, ripped from magazines such as Head, High Times, Rush and Flash offer a glimpse of the wide range of flashy gear and accessories offered to the cocaine connoisseur of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The 1970s were a weird time, not least because you could apparently advertise cocaine in magazines despite this being the first decade of President Nixon’s Controlled Substances Act.
In June 1971, Nixon declared a war on drugs. He said that drug abuse was “public enemy number one in the United States”. Which is right where all of these ads were published.
The devices and gadgets up for sale include the practical, such as a spray to ease irritated nostrils and products to keep the powder dry and free of clumps. Then there’s more performative and ostentatious gear, including gold-plated razor blades and ornately carved, ivory snorting straws. For a drug as classy and luxurious as coke, a rolled-up dollar bill simply won’t do.
While the War on Drugs was underway — Ronald Reagan popularized that infamous phrase — and cocaine was still very much illegal, selling and marketing paraphernalia (“Not intended for illegal use!”) was a legitimate and lucrative business.
Did you know that during the height of Pablo Escobar’s reign as the King of c0caine in the 1970s, just for fun, he actually put the “Coca” back into Coca Cola and had it smuggled into the USA? This is the sort of eye-opening fact you learn from watching Narcos, Netflix’s addictive new series. The folks over at Brooklyn-based art and culture website,
There were many products available for snorting cocaine – and on the market were a wide range of merchandise with hidden compartments that would be used to conceal your stash. Among them are jewellery items like rings for girls and dog tags for boys, pens, watches, stop watches – almost anything you can imagine. They are hollow and have the sole purpose of allowing the owner to carry around cocaine without getting caught. Items specific to cocaine use may have smaller compartments to accommodate those who would use them to snort just a little bit of the drug at a time – a “one hitter.”
Quite a different world back then, huh?