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How an American propagandist taught women to smoke
How an American propagandist taught women to smoke

In our time, a woman with a cigarette does not surprise anyone, but even at the beginning of the twentieth century it was unthinkable. For example, in the United States, smoking was considered vulgar and unworthy for a decent lady.

The situation was changed by a man named Edward Bernays, who, commissioned by the tobacco company Lucky Strike, not only legalized smoking, but also made it popular among women. In the eyes of the young ladies of that time, the cigarette became a symbol of freedom and a manifestation of protest against the world of men.

Freud's nephew

Bernays Edward was born in Austria to a Jewish family. His uncle was the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, and his great-grandfather was the chief rabbi of Hamburg. As a child, Bernays moved with his parents to the United States, where he became a professional advertiser. In his work, he combined the concepts of "crowd psychology" developed by the scientist Gustav Le Bon and the developments of his famous uncle.


Bernays reached great heights in the profession, and during the First World War, the US government recruited him to explain to ordinary Americans the importance of their participation in this conflict. Edward and his colleagues did it. American soldiers died on the battlefields, businessmen earned money, and Bernays gained tremendous experience in influencing the consciousness of the masses.

Father of PR

After the war, Edward Bernays creates his own advertising agency and successfully copes with all the tasks assigned to him. He was the first to advertise not a product, but a legend associated with it. Bernays convinced Americans that drinking orange juice and eating bacon and eggs in the morning was good. Through his methodology, he made the car a symbol of success and an attempt by the middle class to reach the upper strata of society. Bernays was able to create conditions in which people themselves searched for the goods.


When he was ordered to promote expensive pianos on the market, the advertiser contacted the architects and persuaded them to include separate rooms for the musical instrument in the plans for future townhouses. While promoting velvet fabric, Bernays began to organize exhibitions in Paris, to which he attracted fashion couturiers. From France, the fashion for velvet spread to the United States.


Bernays is the creator of such a concept as PR (Public Relations), by which he understood the introduction of a product and a phenomenon, without which an ideal life is impossible. In 1925, he published Propaganda, and LIFE magazine listed him as one of the most influential Americans of the 20th century.

Women are a new market

By the 30s of the twentieth century, the overwhelming majority of the male population smoked in the United States. The tobacco companies were making huge profits. The market was fully occupied, and the manufacturers only had to compete with each other. In 1929, the president of the American Tobacco Company, George Washington Hill, hires Edward Bernays, who, together with the advertiser Albert Lasker, decides on the unthinkable.

Advertisers are proposing to make smoking popular with women. In the United States, smokers were condemned by society and culture, which means that in order to embrace this huge sales market, you just need to change the culture. Lucky Strike cigarettes were chosen for the role of the brand, the name of which in translation from English means "unexpected luck" or "successful strike".


We decided to start with a loud action. In 1929, during the Easter holidays in New York, a march of feminists hired by Bernays marched next to the Statue of Liberty. For the event, he brought in renowned feminist Rud Hale. In her speech, she stated:

"Women! Light your torch of freedom! Fight another sexist taboo!"

The cigarette has been declared as a symbol of the freedom of all women. Interestingly, when selecting candidates for the procession, preference was given to girls with a pleasant, but not model appearance. This was done to make it easier for ordinary women to associate themselves with the protest.The action made a splash and, according to the American Women's Medical Association, raised cigarette consumption among women from 5% to 12%.

Slimming and beautiful life

Smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes was presented not only as a beautiful and elegant, but also a healthy process. Advertising posters claimed that tobacco promotes weight loss and improves teeth. According to their beliefs, the smoke killed harmful germs in the mouth. To consolidate the opinion in the mass consciousness, the slogan was invented: "Choose Lucky, not sweets."


Cinema and pop stars were attracted to the advertising campaign. They had to convey to women that smoking is an indispensable attribute of a beauty from high society who leads a free lifestyle.


The Lucky Strike pack of cigarettes was the green color popular at the time. As he began to go out of fashion, Edward Bernays was attracted by couturiers who, through exhibitions and green accessories, brought him back to the peak of popularity. When World War II broke out, Lucky Strike underwent a rebranding.

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The brand of cigarettes was popular among women, and the green color, due to the association with military uniforms, began to be perceived as too masculine. The Lucky Strike tutu turned white, but here, too, the advertising genius got out of hand. It was stated that copper is used for painting the packaging, and this metal is now more needed at the front.


Edward Bernays died in 1995 at the age of 103. Since the 60s, he retired from commerce and became involved in propaganda in politics. In many ways, it was Bernays' activities that shaped the modern look of Western civilization with its merits and demerits. He turned advertising into a science and proved that it is not the news itself that matters, but how it is conveyed to people.

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