Smoking has often been regarded as fashionable throughout the history of the twentieth-century, accounting for a large amount of the habit’s popularity.
The 1920s saw cigarette adverts that featured the great writer and aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, amongst other stars, and assertions that smoking keeps you slim (a marketing myth that many people still believe as fact today).
The 1950s saw the rise of the athletic and desirable Marlboro Men, whose smoking was meant only to enhance their masculine appeal. Movie stars throughout the decades, such as Joan Crawford and Gloria Swanson were paid huge sums by tobacco companies to smoke in the public eye in an attempt to make smoking appear glamorous and aspirational.
However, smoking rates amongst the general population began to decline in the 1970s and 1980s, as research showing the negative effects of smoking began to be published. As people were educated on the health issues associated with cigarettes, many people decided against smoking, and popular opinion began to change. Seemingly fatefully, this period began to see the decline of many previously iconic smoking stars; just this year saw the death of another former Marlboro Man actor, the fifth to have died of a smoking-related disease.
Whilst the health issues related to smoking started the attitude change towards smoking, it was the UK smoking ban in 2007 that finally sealed the deal. Now illegal to light up in enclosed public buildings, such as hospitals, restaurants and bars, smokers were forced outside. Instead of glamorously and indulgently having a cigarette in a hazy bar, smokers can be spotted shivering as they attempt to get their lighter to work in the ever present British drizzle.
Far from appearing sexy and sophisticated, smoking is now seen as a form of weakness, so dependent are you that you will withstand rain and wind in order to get your fix. Furthermore, smoking is now, so often, antisocial; if it isn’t you standing outside on your own in a doorway, it’s the smell that clings to your clothes and hair, and that follows you when you re-join your family, friends and colleagues in the restaurant, office or meeting.
Interest in health, exercise and good nutrition has seen rapid growth in popularity; the time and money necessary to eat organic, attend an expensive yoga class, or maintain your appearance with lavish beauty treatments, means that a fit and healthy lifestyle has become increasingly associated with wealth and success. A phlegmy cough, yellow teeth and nails, and premature ageing are all caused by smoking, and hardly fit in with the contemporary ideal of youth, fitness and beauty. Affluence is now more often associated with green smoothies and gym shorts, than it is smoking. It is therefore no surprise that people choose to stop smoking, with a popular choice being to quit smoking with hypnosis.
Fashion has always been about storytelling, creating an image to which the consumer can aspire. Once this image included smoking, but with developments in scientific research, changes in public policy, and the limiting of the marketing powers of tobacco companies, social attitudes towards smoking have changed, meaning what we find aspirational and desirable has also changed. Whilst everyone loves a pair of shoes or hairstyle that makes them feel great, smoking is one accessory that everyone can do without.