Objective: To explore messages of psychosocial needs satisfaction in cigarette advertising targeting women and implications for tobacco control policy.
Methods: Analysis of internal tobacco industry documents and public advertising collections.
Results: Tobacco industry market research attempted to identify the psychosocial needs of different groups of women, and cigarette advertising campaigns for brands that women smoke explicitly aimed to position cigarettes as capable of satisfying these needs. Such positioning can be accomplished with advertising that downplays or excludes smoking imagery. As women’s needs change with age and over time, advertisements were developed to reflect the needs encountered at different stages in women’s lives. Cigarette brands for younger women stressed female camaraderie, self confidence, freedom, and independence; cigarette brands for older women addressed needs for pleasure, relaxation, social acceptability, and escape from daily stresses.
Conclusions: Psychosocial needs satisfaction can be communicated without reference to cigarettes or smoking. This may explain why partial advertising bans are ineffective and comprehensive bans on all forms of tobacco marketing are effective. Counter-advertising should attempt to expose and undermine the needs satisfaction messages of cigarette advertising campaigns directed at women.