Edward Bernays (1891-1995) is largely considered the founder of public relations (or “engineering consent,” as he called it) but is not known very well outside of the marketing and advertising fields. A nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays was the first to theorize that people could be made to want things they don’t need by appealing to unconscious desires (to be free, to be successful etc.). Bernays, and propaganda theorist Walter Lippman, were members of the U.S. Government’s Committee on Public Information (CPI), which successfully convinced formally isolationist Americans to support entrance into World War I. While propaganda was commonly thought of as a negative way of manipulating the masses that should be avoided, Bernays believed that it was necessary for the functioning of a society, as otherwise people would be overwhelmed with too many choices. In his words:

Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group.

[Source: Bernays, Propaganda, 1928, p. 52; available here.]

After WWI, Bernays was hired by the American Tobacco Company to encourage women to start smoking. While men smoked cigarettes, it was not publicly acceptable for women to smoke. Bernays staged a dramatic public display of women smoking during the Easter Day Parade in New York City. He then told the press to expect that women suffragists would light up “torches of freedom” during the parade to show they were equal to men. Like the “You’ve come a long way, baby” ads, this campaign commodified women’s progress and desire to be considered equal to men (relevant clip starts at 3:00):

“Cigarettes were a symbol of the penis and of male sexual power…Women would smoke because it was then that they’d have their own penises.”

Here are some of the news photographs of women smoking publicly during the Easter Parade:

[Photos via.]

The campaign was considered successful as sales to women increased afterward. Cigarette companies followed Bernays’s lead and created ad campaigns that targeted women. Lucky Brand Cigarettes capitalized on recent fashions for skinny women by telling women to “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”:

Marlboro, in stark contrast to the Marlboro Man ads we’re familiar with today, started the “Mild as May” campaign to encourage women to take up smoking cigarettes that were appropriately mild and easier to smoke:


Chesterfield, in a 1930s ad, argued that “women started to smoke…just about the time they began to vote”:

A later ad for Phillip Morris tells women to “Believe in yourself!”

Cigarette makers also worked to teach women how to smoke properly. Ads often depicted women in the act of smoking. Some companies, like Philip Morris, even held smoking demonstrations for women:
[Via.]

The article describes how a “pretty registered nurse” is touring the country to teach women proper smoking etiquette. The article also lists “men’s pet peeves” and “women’s pet peeves” for men and women smokers. (Full text after the jump below.)

Together, these efforts to conflate smoking with freedom and make smoking acceptable for women created a new set of consumers and reinforced Bernays’s argument that demand could be created.

Article Text:

To a small group of members of the Society of New York State Women, Florence E. Linden, pretty registered nurse and ex-actress, recently lectured on the etiquette of cigaret smoking. The women were mostly over 49. The lecture was mostly about habits and manners which make smoking objectionable. The anomaly in these statements derives from the fact that 99% of women over 45 do not smoke and that the lecture was sponsored by Philip Morris & Co. During the past year, Miss Linden ahs toured the country lecturing to clubs, department store employees, nurses, charm school students on smoking manners. Women are the greatest potential market for future increases in cigaret sales. But women’s bad smoking habits have furnished the anti-women-smoking campaigners with their best ammunition. Therefore, in her lectures, Miss Linden smartly stresses all the things not to do with a cigaret. Men’s pet peeves against women smokers are 1) messy ways of opening packages; 2) affected mannerisms; 3) puffing like a steam engine; 4) lipstick smears. Women growl at men smokers for 1) using dishes; 2) dousing butts under faucet and then dropping in sink. To smokers of either sex Miss Linden advises: when smoking in bed use closed type of ash tray (smoking in bed caused hundreds of deaths last year); in the woods grind butt out against tree; on lawn let butt burn to ashes; for additional hints on smoking posed by Miss Linden.

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