When did smoking become "sexy" and are we over it yet? The history of tobacco smoking dates back about 2,000 years when it was anything but sexy. It was smoked and chewed on cultural and religious occasions.
If we are to point the finger, blame it on the aggressive marketing, media portrayals and national advertorials that used to appear in the media a few decades ago. Let's take the 1940 and 50s Chesterfield ads for example, which insisted that smoking would leave a "clean, fresh" taste in the mouth.
In mainstream cinema, Bette Davis, Jean Paul Belmondo and other silver-screen stars smoked during romantic scenes. Often smoking was a signal for wanting sex or a clue that a character had just finished having sex. In that era, smoking was also seen among tough guys, the rebels, and was marketed to women as a weight loss product.
Even though we now know long term smoking is a first class ticket to cancer, heart disease and other serious medical conditions, why does it still suggest sex appeal to audiences? Or does it?
Remember when Kate Moss lit a cigarette as she walked down the catwalk during Paris Fashion Week a few years ago? There was instant media controversy around the issue, but it appeared fashion was trying to fall back in love with smoking.
Though smoking on screen is not as common as it once was, today many famous people from Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston to the President of the United States have been seen smoking. It seems now a cigarette is saying: I'm risky and have a die young, devil-may-care attitude. Nonchalance and danger is sexy. And like sex, risk gets the blood racing. If that's the case, why don't we see more celebrities do fashion shoots with a salmonella-tainted piece of chicken or a dirty needle?
When children are bombarded with media stars and famous singers smoking openly on our TV screens, it's not difficult to see why they pick up the habit. Anything seen as rebellious is often considered sexy at school. And some teenagers still hang onto the misguided belief that smoking makes them look cool. It's only years later when they're addicted and disease-ridden that regret kicks in. When it does, you quickly lose your sex appeal and it's all smoke and mirrors from there on.