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USA: not so pretty in pink
  1. Becky Freeman
  1. University of Sydney, Australia; bfreeman{at}health.usyd.edu.au

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    Pink is a favourite colour of marketers targeting the coveted purchasing power of girls and young women. It is used to sell everything from mobile telephones to golf clubs and pop music. Tobacco companies have also cashed in on this stereotypical colour with products such as Pink Dreams cigarettes. “The name alone has head-spinning implications. Thoughts whiplash from bubblegum-n-Barbie to provocative porn, depending on your age, gender, and mindset,” notes the American non-profit organization, Shaping Youth, which aims to counter negative marketing and media aimed at children.

    Not only is the outer packaging of the Pink Dreams pack coloured pink, but the cigarette itself is wrapped in pink paper and topped with a gold filter. Described as a super-premium product, this “fashionable cigarette” comes “beautifully gift-boxed in a pink foil package” and “offers pure pink smoking enjoyment to today’s sophisticated female adult smokers.” The cigarettes are imported into the United States by Kretek International (KI). KI distributes more than 500 brands of tobacco products from around the world throughout the USA and Canada. The company has positioned itself as leader in the specialty cigarette market.

    The popular US-based website www.punkrockdomestics.com, a discussion board for girls and young women seeking counter-culture household tips, features a forum about cigarettes. Website members had this to say about Pink Dreams cigarettes:

    
 “i heard about these cool ciggs called PINK DREAMS has anyone tried…they come in a pink tin, and rolled with pink paper and have a gold colored filter...its [sic] the packaging that kills me!”
 “My favorite color is pink. I might have to go check out the smoke shop next week”
 “My friend got a pack of those and let me bum one or two.. I was just excited to be smoking a pink cigarette!”

    It is not possible to determine whether these comments were posted by real women talking about real experiences, or by women who were compensated by the cigarette manufacturer to post positive messages on this female-targeted website. Promoters of the Pink Dreams brand could have easily employed young women to join female-targeted websites to introduce the brand to other potential customers—“cigarette girls” are already an established practice in bars and nightclubs. Or perhaps someone with a commercial interest in selling the cigarettes simply invented them.

    The colour pink is also the iconic badge of global breast cancer awareness campaigns, with their distinctive pink ribbons and associated fundraising products. Given the obvious similarities between Pink Dreams packaging and pink ribbon products, it is possible that the manufacturers are capitalising on the emotional connection many women feel to this cause related marketing. Or perhaps it intends to capitalise on the popularity of the Grammy award-winning US singer/songwriter Pink, real name Alecia Moore, who has sold more than 25 million albums since coming to prominence in 2000. Regardless of the precise motivations involved, this is another example of a tobacco company appropriating feminine imagery to sell its deadly products to young women.


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