Advertising cigarettes to women and children

Written by  Facing Cancer Together
  • Bookmark and Share

Dr. Shou Ling Leong, an educator at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, explains that smoking cigarettes in the past was something that only men did, not women and children. But clever advertising campaigns targeted to women and children changed that.


Advertising played a key role in getting Americans hooked on tobacco, and glamorized the habit in magazines, on billboards and even at sporting events.

But, it was advertising campaigns like Virginia Slim’s “You’ve come a long way baby” campaign that encouraged smoking among women, playing off of a theme of equality with men.

These campaigns were so successful, in fact, that by 1965 the number of women who died of lung cancer surpassed the number who died of breast cancer in the U.S. And, smoking-related deaths are still the leading cause of death today.  Scroll down to watch the video.

Cigarette companies also targeted children with ads that featured cartoon characters like Joe Camel. “If you look at the data when they rolled out Joe Camel, the number of teen smokers went up. They know that if they can get them hooked at an early age before they know the dangers of smoking, they’ll have them for life because it is very hard to quit,” says Dr. Leong.


That’s why prevention is so important with children, teens and young adults. Programs that reach out to kids about the dangers of smoking in schools and communities can help prevent some kids from starting the habit.

“About 440,000 people die each year in the U.S. due to smoking-related illness. So, this is a very major health problem for us,” explains Dr. Leong. “But, if we look at the evidence, there is good news. 50% want to quit and we in the medical community want to help them.”

Dr. Leong says that there are several resources right here in our community that people can utilize to help them quit smoking. From smoking cessation programs, to counseling or group support, there are many places to turn for information and encouragement.

She also highlights a great resource that is free 24 hours a day and 7 days a week- The PA Quitline: 1-800-QUIT NOW

cigarettesDr. Leong says, “There are a lot of resources out there and I think we as a community working together, we should be able to help people quit smoking.”

Related stories:
A brief history of smoking
Tackling the physical, mental and social aspects of tobacco addiction
Options for quitting
Butt out for good
How doctors communicate with their patient about smoking

Related Video

1 Comment