RELX – June 2019
Slogans aimed at women often turn out to be broken promises. They come from every side: equal rights, equal pay, half the sky – promises used as marketing, broken and forgotten the next day.
By some accounts, the first-ever PR campaign was conducted on the back of women’s liberation. “Torches of Freedom” were lit cigarettes carried by suffragettes, serving a publicity stunt designed to promote smoking by commodifying the movement for equality. Ninety years later, the same tricks are used to keep women productive, guilty, and smoking.
Women work a lot. Women comprise 47% of the U.S. labor force and consistently tend to take on and accept responsibilities of “undesirable” jobs in the office. What’s more, women tend to work after the standard workday is done, and are responsible for the majority of emotional labor, most of the child-rearing duties, and a disproportionate amount of household chores.
In the US alone, about 15% of women smoke, with many seeking it out as a way to relax. In fact, while the smoking rates for men are stabilizing and starting to decline, the smoking rates for women are set to rise in the 21st century. Women of color are especially vulnerable, as the tobacco industry has been more aggressive in profiting from socio-economically vulnerable communities. Women get disproportionally affected by smoking in terms of reproductive health, including early-onset menopause. The deck is stacked against women smokers’ chances of quitting, making the fight against tobacco addiction more than just an exercise of personal choice. The shaming and stigma that disproportionately affects women smokers are also likely to undermine their efforts to quit, leading to an endless self-perpetuating cycle.
E-cigarettes and vapes have been on the market for about a decade, with an astronomical rise of choice in the last few years, with a plethora of options for adults to start vaping in an easy and cost-effective way. The advances in technology for harm-reduction alternatives and the science supporting vaping as a 95% less harmful alternative has paved the way for new resistance, with women visibly taking part in changing habits and reclaiming their health. Coming from all walks of life, women who vape have discovered a new passion, some creating influencer careers out of bringing vaping to the masses. Whether convinced to make the switch through their own research or loved ones, women, especially #vapemoms, are taking initiative in helping others quit smoking. By understanding that fighting addiction head-on may not be the most effective way to change a smoker’s habit, the community can help even a smoker of 40+ years can switch almost instantly, painlessly reducing the harm to herself and others.
The fact that the most hard-working people in our society are finding a way to relax and enjoy their downtime without the harm of cigarettes is inspiring. It shows that women have always been and will continue to be at the forefront of prudent decisions. Occasionally, though, they need a little help getting into a new hobby. Vaping can get complicated, fast, especially if you follow your kid’s steps and start trying to build your own coils.
It’s hard enough being a woman and a mother without the burden and complications of smoking. As with any habit, letting go can seem hard. Thankfully there are ways to take meaningful steps towards being smoke-free without making life more difficult. Even better, every mom who takes the challenge head-on will be in the good company of strong women.