by Emma Dibaja
Now here’s a topic I found interesting: The unbreakable link between fashion and smoking. Smoking within fashion circles has and still continues to be inextricably common practice, regardless of increasing smoking bans and anti-smoking campaigns. An abundance of models appear in the press smoking in reality, while some fashion designers are more than willing to associate their brand and products with smoking. I wanted to find out what is it about smoking that makes it so glamorous, particularly in fashion circles, and whether or not that actually is the case today.
As I was reading about the tobacco industry, it’s origins, it’s growth and it’s subsequent position today, I noticed that there is an increase in different schools of thought regarding smoking in the fashion world, particularly with regards to models. While from a health perspective smoking is heavily frowned upon, it seems to continue to be considered something glamorous and cool. Why is that? I wanted to take a look at smoking, as it started in the earlier part of the 20th century, and how it has continued to be portrayed in magazines and even on the catwalk.
From the early 20th century when cigarettes started to surface, smoking has definitely been considered something cool. Smoking was seen as something exciting which added a veneer of glitz to an ordinary and ”dull” life. A far cry from today’s health-conscious world, where smoking is not considered a personal choice anymore, but rather one that concerns everyone around you. So why does something, that can potentially damage your health permanently, create such a positive and desired image among older and younger generations?
Surely in the past it was the novelty of cigarettes and expert advertising that did the trick, but what about today? Almost anyone and everyone can get their hands on a pack of Marlboro Lights. What makes smoking so special? Could it actually boil down to the idea put forward by some critics who claim that models who smoke represent a lifestyle that everyone so desires, and for that reason smoking is seen as something glamorous?
One thing’s for sure, we are currently living in an era of bans. The governments and different commissions around the world are introducing new bans faster than we can even get used to existing ones. It’s almost difficult to keep up. We have recently began to feel the smoking ban here in Europe. While smoking is banned in public places in most European countries, we can see an increase in various anti-smoking campaigns, particularly targeted at the younger, fashion conscious generations.
So what kind of an effect have smoking bans and anti-smoking campaigns had on fashion?
Several fashion blogs are being critised for inducing smoking among the younger generation. Some fashion blogs solely post photos of models smoking on and off the catwalk. In these blogs and the comments that follow, cigarettes that can be seen in the pictures are allegedly as important a part of the outfit as the models shoes, for example. So that in mind, has a cigarette become an accessory equal to that of a scarf or a bag?
I’m sure it holds some foundation when health experts claim that the fashion world and models, as role models for the younger generation, are projecting a message, be it a conscious or a subconscious message, that a certain level of coolness and credibility can be achieved by means of smoking. And as I was reading blogs and articles on the topic, it still seems to be the case today. As explained in an article in FOXNews.com about smoking, research has clearly shown how young people are very susceptible to advertising. According to Ellen Vargyas, a member of the Counsel for the American Legacy Foundation , “readers of magazines look to these ads to see what’s cool and what’s trendy – and they see cigarettes”.
I came across photos of model Agyness Deyn in “W” Magazine that show her smoking a cigarette. The message that the imagery clearly carries out is that smoking is something cool and admirable, and not an addictive, unhealthy habit. Interesting, isn’t it? But to be frank, smoking does add a sense of excitement in our lives. Maybe it’s due to the fact that it can be considered potentially risky. But whether or not that is the reality remains something all of us need to realise individually. But what is reality is that smoking does have a solely negative effect on our health, and can actually increase our risks of several illnesses. Not so cool!
The followers of the fashion scene are growing younger, and naturally more impressionable. Personally I think it’s a choice of each and every one of us whether we want to follow the example of these particular models, for example. The objective of advertisements is to sell a product, not a lifestyle. Cigarette advertisements are now a thing of the past, but what remains is the consumption of cigarettes. Whether or not smoking among the public is fueled by models smoking on and off the catwalk, is something I couldn’t say. But what I do agree with is the argument put forward by many, that when we see a person smoking in a magazine or a fashion show, the purpose is to sell you something. They just know how to make their product look cooler, be it with the help of a cigarette or with something else.
While you can see smoking in some magazine editorials even to this day, I have a feeling that even those will reduce to a bare minimum as bans are becoming common place and as campaigners against smoking are pushing strong to get their message out that smoking is really bad for you. And if the objective is to appear cool, there are other, healthier ways of achieving that!
What’s your opinion about smoking in fashion? Do you think it’s irresponsible to feature models smoking in magazines and on the catwalk? Do these models put forward a negative image as role models? We’d like to hear what you think.