In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges that girls face around the world. Girls and women around the world face challenges unique to their gender- discrimination, violence, education disparities- but one issue that is often forgotten is tobacco.
Approximately 176 million adult women worldwide are daily smokers. In the U.S., 17.7 million females over the age of 15 are daily smokers, and 8.5% of girls in the U.S. age 15-19 smoke. Read more here>.
Big tobacco specifically targets women and girls with advertising that attempts to show smoking as glamorous and to portray smokers as independent, successful, and thin. Women often smoke or continue smoking in order to lose or control weight. Big Tobacco is well aware of this and many companies have had advertising campaigns focused on weight.
Advertising that targets women and girls often highlights smoking as glamorous, sophisticated, or sexy, all of which are particularly attractive to teenagers. Obviously, what is considered sexy or cool has changed dramatically over time, but tobacco companies have kept up with the trends, as a way to attract younger consumers. These ads are often found in magazines, many with youth readership like People, Time, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly.
Big tobacco has even capitalized on women’s rights movements and gender equality.
Tobacco companies go beyond just ads in an attempt to target girls. Many products, packaging, and flavors are designed to lure in female smokers, often in shades of pink. Big tobacco also sponsors parties and giveaways.
Tobacco advertising campaigns are targeted at girls early and often, at the cash register, in magazines, and at parties. To see more about tobacco advertising, watch our video “Don’t Be A Target”. Each year, more than 200,000 women in the U.S. and 1.5 million women around the world die from tobacco related diseases. This year on International Day of the Girl, be sure to think, talk, and tweet about how damaging tobacco and tobacco advertising are to women and girls.
Talk about this problem on twitter with #dayofthegirl and make sure to tag @AshOrg!
**Unless otherwise cited, the photos are courtesy of Stanford School of Medicine Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising. Please see their excellent resources, available here>.**