June 14, 2005
Tobacco Companies Designed Cigarettes For Women
An article in the journal Addiction examines more than 7 million internal tobacco industry documents and discovers that tobacco companies extensively studied gender differences in smoking in order to market specifically to women and design a modified product to lure women smokers. A CBC news article reports that the tobacco companies purposefully designed cigarettes with special appeal to women, such as flavored cigarettes, low in tar and nicotine, and added appetite suppressants in order to enhance smoking among girls and women. Their product-development innovations identified a variety of features aimed at meeting the needs and wants of female smokers. The article was written by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and funded by the National Cancer Institute. The documents span from 1969 to 2000. The lead author Carrie Carpenter states that "this goes beyond marketing to actually chemically changing these products so as to exploit women's vulnerabilities to get them addicted to a product that kills 178,000 American women each year."
Despite declining male smoking rates throughout the world, female smoking rates are expected to continue to rise and reach 20 percent by 2025. See also CNN article and Medical News Today. Jack Henningfield, a researcher with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, opines that" the tobacco industry's research conducted on women crossed the line." He says that "when you design a cigarette to make it easier to inhale deeply, you're virtually guaranteeing more smoke will be inhaled more deeply into the lung, causing more damage." Cigarette manufactures adjusted the pressure on the filter design to allow women to inhale more deeply. According to Tow Ewing of MedPage, the resulting products exploited mistaken health notions about the safety of light cigarettes; created false perceptions of social and health effects to be gained from reduced secondhand smoke, improved aroma and taste; and targeted physiological and inhalation differences with greater ease of draw, increased sensory pleasure, and altered tar and nicotine levels. The CDC has a fact sheet on cigarette marketing directed at women.
The WHO reported that more women are suffering from tobacco-related diseases. The report "Women and the Tobacco Epidemic- Challenges for the 21st Century" states that young women are lured by the promise of staying slim and slick marketing. WHO has accused the tobacco industry of covering up the harmful effects of tobacco and its addictive nature. A press release by the WHO encourages adoption of a public smoking ban and a ban on tobacco marketing and promotion. [tm]
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