Smoking made women independent

Notice the word-play. Inequality is almost spelled out right in the title of the ad.

Up until World War I, smoking was seen more as a man habit and women smoking were pretty much looked down upon in society. God forbid for a smoking woman on the street, that right there was pure terror.

But all that changed after World War I when the movement for the independence of women started getting stronger. With women now entering the workforce in massive waves, more and more independence and freedom were being asked – and granted – on a daily basis. Transformation was coming in the lives of women in the U.S in all kinds of forms.

One of these forms was smoking. Up until this point, women were largely an untapped market for cigarette companies, who decided to invest heavily into advertising smoking specifically for women, creating new brands specially designed and refined for a woman’s “fine throat”.

All the advertising being pushed by the companies failed in the end – largely because smoking for women was seen as a really bad habit and not accepted by society. Until Edward Bernays, the marketing genius we’ve talked about before in this blog, was called in.

Edward Bernays started promoting smoking not as a new habit – but as a sign of independence. He promoted smoking as being “an equal thing to do”, after all, the men were doing it, and he created numeros stunts which reinforced the idea that smoking was OK and it was a sign of identity and independence.

In 1923 only 5% of the women were smoking, in 1929 Bernays pulled a number of publicity stunts, one of which was getting a group fo women to smoke in front of a larger group of other women, during the 1929 Easter Parade in New York – which was a sign, telling the world, that is OK for women to smoke in public, the men are doing it also. More and more women picked up on their newly found independence, and by 1935 more than 18% were lightning up for equality.