Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cigarette Companies Blow Smoke in Women's Eyes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cigarette Companies Blow Smoke in Women's Eyes

Article excerpt

At first glance, two billboards high above a Boston expressway could pass for giant travel posters. On one, a winsome blonde frolics on a beach. On the other, an attractive brunette poses in front of a waterfall.

But look again. These slender young women have nothing to do with travel and everything to do with another T word, tobacco. They are models for cigarette ads, designed to hook women -young women in particular - on nicotine.

"You've Got Merit!" reads the first sign, hinting that smoking bolsters self-worth. "B Kool" urges the second. Nearby, a third cigarette billboard reads, "It's a woman thing." Tobacco companies have long held a special spot in their hearts for women, courting them aggressively. Tactics include everything from marketing slim cigarettes with the now-famous slogan, "You've come a long way, baby" to underwriting women's political events. As the tobacco industry faces mounting lawsuits, fines, and public bans on smoking, its messages to women are growing bolder. Instead of the feminine tone of earlier ads, filled with daisies and meadows, new ads often take a more masculine approach tinged with defiance. One double-page ad in the current Mademoiselle - a magazine with many teenage readers - shows a young woman at a pool table. She says, "I'm not all sugar & spice. And neither are my smokes." Hollywood is playing its part, too, as more actors and actresses light up in movies. In "My Best Friend's Wedding," Julia Roberts smokes repeatedly. Although her role as a romance-wrecker gives her a slightly bad-guy persona in the film, her beauty and popularity make her influential, on-screen and off. The proliferation of no-smoking laws represents heartening progress. Just last week, California instituted the nation's toughest antismoking measure, banning smoking in nightclubs, bars, and hotel lobbies. …

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