Women and tobacco: Smoke and mirrors

Women did not start smoking because they are naive, badly informed or attracted by advertisers or peer pressure.

Sharon Anne Cook, distinguished professor at the University of Ottawa is the author of Sex, Lies and Cigarettes, a new book that traces the relationship between Canadian women, tobacco and popular culture from 1880 to 2000. She says that woman take up smoking because it is a kind of help for them.

Sexy Smoking Woman

Provocative woman smoking

The relationship between women and smoking is not so simple. It is not only a concern of tobacco advertisers enticing women to become users of their products. For many years women smoked cigarettes to shape their own changing identities, said Cook, who has never smoked a cigarette.

Women use cigarettes not only to enjoy smoking or to relax, but also to express their feelings or mood. Sometimes the pose of a smoker can say about her spirit at that moment. A smoking person can put her hands to make striking gestures or hold the cigarette near her face in the defiant “flag position.”

Cigarette smoking for women is the way to express her exasperation or to be that one among boys in the workplace. Nowadays smoking is considered by women to be a method to curb appetite and stay slim.

A 1928 ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes, a brand that became a best-seller in the US, stated “Have a Lucky instead of a sweet”. The campaign was developing in an amazing way: it did not filch consumers from other cigarette brands, but gained on in creating demand. In the 1970s and ’80s, cigarettes were sold as “thin,” “slight” or “slim.”

A woman with a cigarette either in her hand or mouth could be an actress – she may be a rebel or an obedient, or careerist who wants and is able to be on a par with men.

Cook says that smoking is a sort of demonstration of temper, presentation of your sternness.

As before, young women remain adherents of smoking in Canada – 6.78 % of Ontario women aged 15 – 19, as well as 9.26 % of women aged 20 – 24, are daily smokers, in accordance with Health Canada data from 2009, when there were nearly 2.6 million female smokers in Canada in comparison with 3.1 million male smokers.

Smoking celebrities are often photographed with a cigarette. Sometimes it is looking like they enjoy the process of smoking and sometimes by means of smoking they demonstrate their self confidence and charm.

In the 1960s, women smoked cigarettes to show their equal rights with men and to suppress stress. Smoking at that time was common in female professions, such as nursing and teaching. The teachers in a staff room had a possibility to smoke and did not miss such a chance.

Feminist writer Judy Rebick said that in those times everybody smoked and it was unusual not to smoke.

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