‘Torches of Freedom’ campaign

‘Torches of Freedom’ was a campaign orchestrated by Edward Bernays in 1929 to promote the purchasing and smoking of cigarettes by women. This was at a time during the womens liberation movement when women wanted to be seen as equals to men. Cigarettes were described as symbols of emancipation and equality from men as well as the phrase ‘Torches of Freedom’ used to encourage women and the aspirations that they had.


On 31st March 1929 Bertha Hunt, of whom was Bernays secretary, set out to create a scandal by lighting a ‘Lucky Strike’ cigarette in public during easter celebrations. The press was pre-informed of this event and the next day the New York Times published an article titled “Group of Girls puff at cigarettes as a gesture of Freedom”. They promoted the waxing eloquence on the slimming properties and focused on the glamour properties of smoking in order to gain more sales.


Edward set out to not only promote but change the way women viewed smoking along with what it represented. Edward is regarded as the pioneer of public relations as this campaign set the precedent for those to follow and influenced the radical change in persuasion tactics.

In the 80 plus years since Bernays campaign ‘Torches of Freedom’ there has been a large increase in both scientific research into the effects of smoking and public awareness of these effects. Because of this result it would be difficult to get the result that Bernays achieved with this type of campaign. There has been a large increase in campaigns to entice the public to quit smoking. These campaigns include tv and radio advertisements, pictures on packets, rise in prices and general public awareness.

It would prove to be almost impossible to attempt to encourage someone to smoke with all the current information. Starting smoking is generally the result of peer pressure more than anything else.



Torches of Freedom: Women and Smoking Propaganda

Torches for Freedom: Selling Cigarettes to Women


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