A report released by the U.S. Surgeon General, entitled Women and Smoking, examined the devastating effects smoking has on women’s health, smoking trends in women, and the tobacco industry’s marketing and advertising strategies that have resulted in a record number of women using tobacco products and dying from smoking. In 1998, 22 percent of women in the U.S. smoked a cigarette. In 1999, 165,000 women died prematurely from smoking related diseases. Today, lung cancer is the leading cause of death among women in the U.S.–women account for 39 percent of all smoking related deaths every year in this country.
The Surgeon General places a great deal of the responsibility for these sobering numbers on the tobacco industry, which, in 1999, spent $8.24 billion dollars–$22.6 million every day–on domestic marketing and advertising of tobacco products. Big tobacco began advertising cigarettes to women in the 1920s, and has always positioned smoking as a way to gain social desirability or even success. Today, companies like Phillip Morris use advertising slogans like “Find Your Voice” to associate smoking with women’s equality, independence and empowerment.