In the last two years – R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris USA – two of the nation’s largest tobacco companies, have launched new marketing campaigns depicting cigarette smoking as feminine and fashionable, rather than the harmful and deadly addiction it truly is.
The leading cancer killer of women is lung cancer, having surpassed breast cancer in 1987. Smoking puts women and girls at greater risk of a host of deadly diseases including strokes, emphysema, heart attacks and other cancers.
Next month, Silk Cut is launching a new line of super-slim cigarettes in packaging that resembles a perfume box in an attempt to attract women smokers.
The company’s use of the words “super-slim” is an attempt to create a link between weight loss and cigarettes in the minds of teenage girls desperate to stay thin, says Martin Dockerell of ASH.
The Japanese owned company, Gallaher, that produces Silk Cut, describes its new brand as bringing “elegance and quality” to the super-slim cigarette sector.
A spokesman for the company denies targeting teenage girls.
“Selling cigarettes to anyone under 18 is illegal, and we pay the most diligent attention to ethics,” he said. "This is nothing more than the entry of Silk Cut into a super slim market in a conventional cigarette pack.”
For nearly 100 years, tobacco companies have tried to associate smoking with slimness and glamour. In the 1920s, advertisements urged women to “Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet.”
Philip Morris introduced Virginia Slims in the 1960s, the first cigarette brand created for women and launched the “You’ve come a long way, Baby” marketing campaign which linked smoking to women’s liberation.
“One of the last marketing tools left for tobacco companies is wrapping cigarettes in attractive, fashionable packaging,” said Elspeth Lee, head of tobacco control and Cancer Research UK.
More women than men die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, caused primarily by smoking. It has become the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.
According to estimates by Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, 253,128 kids became regular smokers in 2008 of which 84,376 of them will die prematurely from their addiction.
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of preventable deaths in the US, claiming the lives of more than 400,000 people each year. About 90 percent of cigarette smokers become addicted before the age of 19 according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year tobacco companies were accused of deliberately manipulating menthol levels in cigarettes depending on whom they were marketing them to. Lower levels of menthol was used to hook young smokers who preferred a milder brand, while using higher levels of menthol was used to hook lifelong adult smokers.
“Big Tobacco’s blatant targeting of women is an extension of a decades-long campaign of fraud and deception designed to addict children and adults to its deadly products,” said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “Congress must empower the FDA to regulate tobacco products to stop the harmful practices of an industry that has had free reign for far too long.”
The report, “Deadly in Pink: Big Tobacco Steps Up Its Targeting of Women and Girls,” was issued by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. #