It is hard to think about smoking and not immediately associate the act with gender and sexuality. Images of Audrey Hepburn smoking with a cigarette holder pressed against her lips come to mind and are linked to her femininity and beauty. Advertisements have portrayed smoking as something that is intrinsically connected not only to femininity, but to hyper-masculinity as well, particularly in the form of the Marlboro Man, who was ruggedly handsome and many American men tried to emulate his cowboy-demeanor by smoking cigarettes just as he did. Whether or not smoking ads are less prevalent than they once were, they still depict gender norms and sexuality through the shroud of smoke. .
In order to fully understand the sexualized nature and gender-targeted cigarette campaigns, one must analyze Phillip Morris' use of the Marlboro Man in their ads. Phillip Morris exploited the tremendous impact the Marlboro Man had on Americans (particularly men) and used this to redefine what it meant to be a "man" by portraying its iconic admen as the pinnacle of masculinity. During the 1950s, a period of traditional gender norms and separate spheres, there was a rise in filter cigarettes because of the increasing number of health risks tied to smoking.1 As a result, cigarette companies started pushing filtered cigarettes, which were (naively) seen as the "safer" alternative. The dilemma was that the filter-market primarily appealed to women and Marlboro tried to compensate by targeting the hyper-masculine portion of the smoking population. A 1958 ad featured the Marlboro Man smoking a filter cigarette with the slogan, "The Marlboro is a lot of cigarette. The easy-drawing filter feels right in your mouth. It works but doesn't get in the way. You get the man-size flavor of honest tobacco. The Flip-Top Box keeps every cigarette in good shape and you don't have to pay extra for it.