Have you ever considered how women were introduced to smoking? What if we told you that it had to do with an entire public relations stunt that linked women’s smoking to women’s liberation? That women were all being asked to buy into the idea that smoking offered them a kind of freedom men had always enjoyed and that somehow smoking, especially in public, became tied to the idea that this made women equal. And that women bought it.
Two important things to note: At the beginning of the 20th century, only women thought to have loose morals smoked in public. Smoking was considered a male domain.
How did it go down? Well, Edward Bernays worked for Lucky Strike cigarettes in 1920 and was hired to expand sales. He decided to target women. Curious to know what his game plan was? First, he concluded that women didn’t care for the green packaging and because making a change to the packaging was too expensive, he instead hit up the fashion industry and pulled strings to have the same dark green color inserted into women’s fashion. He then capitalized on the energy of the suffrage movement and arranged for young women to march down Fifth Avenue in NY for the 1929 Easter Day parade smoking in an act of defiance. This linked Lucky Strike cigarettes to women’s liberation iand resulted in cigarettes becoming referred to as “torches of freedom”. The emphasis of the women marching was on equality, not cigarettes. This is important to note because suddenly you were sold on an idea instead of a product and by buying that product you were now supporting that idea. Only that product, as we now know, is responsible for 16 different kinds of cancers and loads of other health risks.
From then on, cigarette companies tailored their ads to women, even pregnant women.
Bernays work is regarded as one of the most "successful" PR stunts in American history.
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For discussion: Humans tend to think of their beliefs as the result of rational analysis but this is not entirely true; how are our opinions subtly influenced by the media? What kinds of things are we being asked to buy into today that more likely than not are harmful? How much do you question the ads you see today? The majority of women do not smoke, but how much do you think advertising has affected the women that do? Today, marketing of nicotine-containing products is regulated in most jurisdictions. Do you agree with this regulation?