Smokes for Women

In 1968, Phillip Morris USA introduced the Virginia Slims brand of cigarettes. In 1971, the Ligget Group introduced Eve cigarettes. Both were marketed specifically to women during the nascent years of the Women’s Liberation movement.

In the Seventies, not only was it acceptable to smoke, it was downright cool. Smoking evoked sophistication and glamour, and cigarette companies used that excuse to target the female demographic. Both Eve and Virginia Slims cigarettes were longer and slimmer than traditional cigarettes, to appeal more to women. Advertising campaigns were also geared towards women. Ads for Virginia Slims showed black and white photographs depicting humorous scenarios of 19th century women, frumpy and burdened with housework, sneaking a cigarette and, upon being discovered by their men, getting the comeuppance they supposedly deserved. These fictional scenarios were contrasted with a color photograph of the liberated woman, glamourous and sophisticated in designer clothing, freely enjoying a cigarette accompanied by the slogan “You’ve come a long way, baby.” From a marketing perspective it was gold, but a report by the Surgeon General of the United States witnessed a correlation between the increase of smoking among teenaged girls and sales of these cigarettes marketed to women. Ads for both Virginia Slims and Eve were commonplace in women’s magazines of the time, including my mother’s copies of Better Homes and Gardens that I frequently perused for images to cut out for elementary school projects.

Virginia Slims and Eve cigarettes are still produced today, but you never hear about them anymore. The advertising campaigns are practically non-existent, overshadowed by the backlash against tobacco companies and the health issues caused by cigarettes. In an age where women are CEOs of businesses and hold office in national government, women of today don’t need to be pandered to in an effort to sell something that isn’t good for them anyway.

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