Today, when you see a women smoking, what comes to mind?
In the 1920’s a woman with a cigarette was a woman with appeal.
Power, Glamour, Cigarettes
After WWI, America went through a time period of great economic growth and inadvertently rapid consumerism. Modern technology, including the automobile, moving pictures, and radio, impacted the American culture. Women gained the right to vote, and the liberated woman shined through. Jazz and dancing, especially the Charleston, rose in great popularity; women’s clothing changed to shorter and sexier. SEX became the key word—women publicly flirted with men. This was a great time period for the arts, dance and music which impacted popular culture and enriched the consumer society.
How did the cigarette exemplify this time period of the new woman?
The symbol of the modern woman became the cigarette. A woman’s cigarette was elongated and sexy.
Before the 20th century, smoking was considered a dirty habit, and women smokers were frowned upon by society. Through the women’s suffrage movement, women’s desire for equality and freedom increased and the tobacco industry took advantage. As one of the greatest marketing tools, tobacco companies appealed to the vanity of women by promising weight loss. Advertisements conveyed a carefree and confident woman as they sought to speak to a woman’s sense of empowerment through the cigarette. The most successful tobacco company, Lucky Strikes, coined the following phrase in their ads:
“Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet”
Other tobacco companies piggybacked on Lucky Strikes women cigarette ads by linking cigarettes to equality, autonomy, glamour and beauty. Do cigarettes possess the same symbol for women as in the 1920’s, or have the motives for smoking changed?
“You’ve Come a Long Way Baby”, – Virginia Slims