In general, men tend to use tobacco products at a higher rate than women. Cigarettes were smoked by 35% of adult males and 6% of adult females. Such disparities could be attributed to physiological, particularly ovarian hormones, cultural, and behavioral factors. But did you know why the cigarette was invented?
Cigarettes were intended to be “a woman’s cigar,” as cigars were considered unladylike at the time. As a result, the -ette at the end of the word “cigarette” was added.
The History of Women and Cigars
The anti-tobacco movement was aimed primarily at women and children in the early twentieth century. Smoking was regarded as a filthy habit, and smoking by women was frowned upon by society. Women’s desire for equality grew stronger as the century progressed.
The suffrage movement gave many women a sense of entitlement and freedom, which the tobacco industry capitalized on.
Tobacco companies began marketing cigarettes to women during the 1920s’ burgeoning women’s movement. During the early twentieth century of first-wave feminism in the United States, the phrase Torches of Freedom encouraged women’s smoking by exploiting women’s aspirations for a better life. (Source: National Library of Medicine)
How Did Cigarettes Contribute to Equality
Cigarettes were described as symbols of emancipation and gender equality. It is used for expressing the natural desire for women to smoke and was used by Edward Bernays to encourage women to smoke in public despite social taboos.
The American Tobacco Company began marketing Lucky Strikes to women. Lucky Strike aimed to convince women of the benefits of smoking Luckies. They used advertisements featuring prominent women, such as Amelia Earhart, and catered to women’s vanity by promising slimming effects.
Most of the advertisements also portrayed women in a carefree and confident light, which would appeal to the modern woman of the 1920s. The advertisements became more extravagant, with paid celebrity testimonials and broad claims about how Lucky Strikes could improve your life. Their most aggressive campaign, urging women to reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet, directly challenged the candy industry. These aggressive campaigns were successful, and Lucky Strike became the most smoked brand within a decade.
Other companies replicated the American Tobacco Company’s successful advertising campaigns. In 1925, the Phillip Morris Company introduced Marlboro cigarettes. Marlboros were advertised as mild as May, with elegant ivory tips that appealed to women
In 1929, Edward Bernays decided to pay women to carry torches of freedom as they marched in New York’s Easter Sunday Parade. This was a surprise because women were previously only permitted to smoke in certain places, such as the privacy of their homes.
He was very picky about the women he chose to march with because while they should be good-looking, they should not look too model-y, and he hired his photographers to ensure that good pictures were taken and published worldwide.
When the footage and photos were released, the campaign was all over the news, and the women’s walk was seen as a protest for equality, sparked debate across the country, and is still remembered today. (Source: National Library of Medicine)
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