Cigarette sales peaked in the 1960s and have drastically declined since then.
Tobacco products were once displayed across billboards and magazine covers. Smokers could enjoy the pleasures of lighting up a cigarette just about anywhere. At one point even pregnant women were encouraged to smoke.
Fortunately much has changed since then – we take a look at some of the weird reasons people started smoking back in the day.
1. Torches of freedom
Before the 1920s, women who smoked were seen as immoral. Smoking a cigarette and the various techniques used to smoke were seen as a display of masculinity. However, jumping on the bandwagon of the Suffragette movement, the American Tobacco Company was eager to tap into the female market. Cigarettes therefore became depicted as symbols of liberation and independence for women.
2. Social acceptance
Cigarette sales peaked in the 20th century – people were allowed to smoke in the office, the cinema, at restaurants, indoors and outdoors. Once women were able to smoke freely, smoking became a social norm. Adolescents smoked regularly – doctors even recommended it.
Smoking was once considered as an act of elegance and sophistication. Men were seen lighting cigarettes dressed in tailored suits, while women held long, sleek cigarette holders. Smoking became a signal of one’s status and class. Businessmen in the 1960s were rarely seen without a cigarette in their hand. Brands like Virginia Slims designed their cigarettes to be thinner than other brands, to match the slimmer and more elegant hands of women.
4. Celebrity influence
Audrey Hepburn holding a sleek, black cigarette holder on the posters of Breakfast at Tiffany’s has become an iconic image. People aspired to be like the celebrities on the silver screen. Hollywood stars like Rock Hudson, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and even former US president Ronald Reagan were used as celebrity endorsements for various cigarette brands.
5. Weight loss
Coffee and cigarettes are often considered the diet of models. Instead of reaching for food, many smokers would light a cigarette. Scientifically, certain receptors in the brain, when triggered by nicotine, send a chemical that notifies the brain that the body is “full”. The brain views food and nicotine as rewards. Fear of weight gain is one of the main reasons why smokers are reluctant to quit.
6. Medical endorsement
Back in the day, before the dangers of smoking were widely known, doctors encouraged smoking. Certain brands, claiming that their cigarettes were gentler on the throat and teeth, had doctors and dentists recommending their use. Even pregnant women were encouraged to smoke to help deal with pregnancy jitters.
7. Military rations
In many countries, cigarettes were, and still are, part of military rations. A lot of of cigarette advertising was aimed at the men in the military. Soldiers took up smoking to overcome boredom or to help deal with the anxieties of wartime.
8. Peer pressure
Similar to the people who started smoking in the military or those who wanted to appear sophisticated, people took up smoking as a way to form a bond with their peers. They lit a cigarette so as not to feel left out or be viewed as “uncool”. This was often how teenagers started smoking.
9. Coping mechanism
Many people believed that smoking would help them deal with stress and feelings of anxiety. Smoking cigarettes was used as a coping mechanism for many people, especially those who preferred to self-medicate instead of seeking expert help.
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