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When and how did tobacco marketing target women?

Posted by on 1/22/2021
When and how did tobacco marketing target women?

Before World War I, very few women smoked. In the “macho” society of the time it was socially unacceptable for them to do so. However, as women were increasingly incorporated into the work forces, and movements demanding equal political and social rights gained significant space, tobacco became part of the liberalization process that was beginning.


During the 1920s, the tobacco industry in the United States strengthened its industrialization and needed to expand, so it became necessary to attract the female public because many of the men already smoked, but before that, a strategy had to be devised that would help to overcome the taboo that was woman consumption of cigarettes. 


In this context, an aggressive advertising campaign was designed that, for many, constitutes the basis of modern marketing in terms of the knowledge of the public to be captured. The idea was to associate cigarette smoking with women's liberation struggles, in full swing at the time since just nine years earlier the right to vote had been approved in the United States; the idea was to make the cigarette a symbol of freedom, explicit or hidden desire of most of the women of the time. 


The perfect moment came on March 31, 1929, the day of the Easter Parade in New York. For that date, the American Tobacco Company planned that a group of young and beautiful women would join the parade, mingling with the rest of the people and that when they passed by where the authorities were, they would take out a cigarette, light it and begin to smoke. They had previously leaked to the press what would happen in order to generate expectations among reporters covering the popular event and to ensure that photographers captured the women smokers in the best possible way. 


As expected, the next day the press, including the New York Times, made headlines with the news of what happened at the parade. Over the days, the event became a manifestation of the female desire to "light the torches of freedom" to "fight against another taboo", one of the many that they would have to overcome throughout history. 


The fact that women smoked became socially accepted in a very short time and the cigarette became a symbol of their freedom.


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