The demonstration, which at first glance looked like a grassroots social initiative of the first wave of feminism, was intended to break the social taboo, which until then was smoking by women in public places. Women did smoke, but didn't flaunt it before, "Torches of Freedom" was supposed to change that by showing aspiring American elite that they had the same rights as men and that they could enjoy their freedom the same way, no matter how it is perceived by society.

"A group of girls smoke cigarettes in a gesture of freedom"- this is how the New York Times signed the photos of the demonstration, in the media the protest was reported as a grassroots initiative of young women, courageously reaching for privileges so far unavailable to them due to social taboos. When asked by journalists, the initiator of the protest - Bertha Hunt - said that she had come up with the idea of ​​the campaign after the man accompanying her asked her to put out her cigarette because he was ashamed of her smoking companion. "I talked to my friends about it and we decided we had to do something about it.". But what really happened, however, was that Hunt organized the campaign created and commissioned by an advertising agency working for the American Tobacco Company, which in encouraging women to smoke in public places saw an opportunity to double the number of consumers of the poison it produced. The long-term cost of a creative and effective taboo-breaking campaign is the death toll counted in hundreds of thousands, as in Poland, smoking-related lung cancer is the second – just after breast cancer - malignant tumor affecting (and killing) women. Of the many taboos worth breaking, this one protected the health and life of women, and was broken by women manipulated by profit-driven men from large corporations.

"Torches of Freedom" was nothing more than a well-planned and smartly conducted campaign, thanks to which the tobacco giant could earn even more money by poisoning and addicting successive generations of women who "liberated themselves" by posing with cigarettes. The very method used then by the advertising agency that carried out the campaign is called "astroturfing" and means the implementation of commercial or propaganda goals through activities that give the impression of grassroots and spontaneous civic movements. In the era of the Internet influencers - often anonymous - it is much easier to carry out. Only recently the state Office for Consumer Protection ordered Polish influencers to clearly mark advertising content in materials intended to give the impression of honest of products tested by aspiring celebrities. Since always, the most effective advertisement is the one that does not look like an advertisement at all. And the most effective lobbying is one that uses emotions, aspirations, snobbery, and sometimes the best faith of people who are unaware of who is actually pulling the strings and for what purpose.

Also read:


Background illustration: Photo by Eugenio Marongiu from Alamy Stock Photo / Alamy Stock Photo license