advertising · athletes

Sporty girls smoke Luckies…

From the series "Sports Girls" (C190), issued by the American Cigarette Company, Ltd., Montreal, to promote Gloria Cigarettes
From the series “Sports Girls” (C190), issued by the American Cigarette Company, Ltd., Montreal, to promote Gloria Cigarettes Issued by the American Cigarette Company, Ltd. (Montreal) Date: ca. 1889 Medium: Commercial color lithograph Dimensions: Sheet: 2 5/8 x 1 7/16 in. (6.6 x 3.7 cm) Classification: Prints Credit Line: The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick Accession Number: Burdick 257, C190.16

It’s odd now, in light of all we know about the health impact of smoking, to think about a positive connection between sports and cigarettes.

But that wasn’t always the case, especially for women.  Both smoking and being physically active were hallmarks of the independent woman. Yes, smoking’s allure was partly about weight loss but it was also about women’s new found autonomy, careers, and education.

According to the Center for Disease Control, “Tobacco advertising geared toward women began in the 1920s. By the mid-1930s, cigarette advertisements targeting women were becoming so commonplace that one advertisement for the mentholated Spud brand had the caption “To read the advertisements these days, a fellow’d think the pretty girls do all the smoking.” As early as the 1920s, tobacco advertising geared toward women included messages such as “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet” to establish an association between smoking and slimness. The positioning of Lucky Strike as an aid to weight control led to a greater than 300% increase in sales for this brand in the first year of the advertising campaign.”

Tobacco companies sought to tie their product to women’s independence and often featured women in sports. again, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s newly released collection here are some images of sporty women on cigarette trading cards.

For more see here.

And here’s a feminist case for quitting smoking in case you haven’t yet been convinced. I smoked for 10 years of my life, from 14 to 24, and quitting, for me, coincided with other efforts at getting stronger, fitter, faster.  I was amused the other day to see photos of Tour de France riders from many years past sharing cigarettes on their way up the mountains. So hard to believe that they didn’t know it hurt their efforts and that they really believed that smoking opened up the lungs.

Archery, from the Games and Sports series (N165) for Old Judge Cigarettes

3 thoughts on “Sporty girls smoke Luckies…

  1. This is fascinating, thanks for sharing! Always important to be reminded of how easily we can be made to believe something when there’s enough money and power behind it. I always think of the “Doctors smoke Lucky Strike” adverts when I wonder what we’re being fed these days that seems totally believable…

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