NEW YORK CITY – March 19, 2007 – Smoking is down sharply among New York City women, according to data released today by the Health Department. The number of female smokers has fallen by 123,000 in New York City since 2002 – and young women are now about half as likely to smoke as young men. But while the public may applaud these trends, tobacco companies are working aggressively to reverse them. R.J. Reynolds, the company that used a cartoon character to glamorize smoking during the 1980s and 90s, is back with a new cigarette that features flowery ads and hot pink packaging.
"Women are taking charge of their health," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "And for tobacco companies, that’s bad news. R.J. Reynolds’ new products are a shameless effort to reverse the gains women are making. The industry is peddling lies that will disfigure, maim, and kill girls and young women."
Data from the Health Department’s 2005 Community Health Survey show that the smoking rate among women fell from 20% in 2002 to 16% in 2005. During the same period, only one new smoker in four was a woman, the survey shows. The decline in female smoking was greatest among women who are white, 18 to 24 years old, and living in Manhattan.
Tobacco companies have more than doubled their marketing budget in recent years, spending more than $15 billion each year to get or keep people addicted. Recent news reports have quoted a Reynolds marketing executive confirming that the company’s new product was conceived specifically to attract women. Marketing ploys aimed at women date back to the 1920s, when Lucky Strike cigarettes pushed women to "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." To market its product, R.J. Reynolds is propagating lies about smoking. Here is a short list:
Lie #1: Smoking is sexy and feminine
The company’s new product comes in black and hot-pink (regular) or black and teal (menthol). Advertisements feature flowers and trendy colors designed to attract girls and young women.
Truth #1: Smoking makes you ugly.
Smoking’s effects can be unpleasant and even disfiguring. Yellowing teeth are common among smokers. Prolonged smoking can also cause lip cancer and damages the larynx, forcing some smokers to have it surgically removed, leaving a permanent hole in the throat.
Lie #2: Smoking rejuvenates.
The company sponsored a three-night smoking "spa" at a SoHo tobacco bar in Manhattan. Combining free spa treatments with free cigarettes implies that smoking, like a massage, is restorative and promotes well-being.
Truth #2: Smoking debilitates.
Cigarettes affect much more than the respiratory system. Smoking can also cause stroke, blindness, cataracts and heart disease, and it reduces women’s fertility. Whether they kill or not, most of these diseases are painful and disabling.
Lie #3: Smoking makes you beautiful.
R.J. Reynolds is advertising its new cigarette in fashion magazines such as Allure, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Lucky, and W., all of which target girls and young women.
Truth #3: Smoking makes you look old.
Smoking ages the body inside and out; it can add as many as 20 years to a person’s appearance. Smoking causes wrinkles and sagginess, and it often gives the skin a gray or pale appearance. It can also dry the skin and darken the eye lids.
Except for not starting, quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health. New Yorkers that want to quit smoking can call 311 for help.