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Fashion and smoking have been inextricably linked for decades. Models smoke on catwalks (and not just when wearing Yves St Laurent’s iconic Le Smoking trouser suit) and in fashion spreads. Supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss appear in the celebrity press smoking in “real life”. And some fashion designers are happy to associate their brand and products with smoking, such as the ads for Gucci handbags that appeared in several top European fashion magazines last autumn showing cigarette ash “stylishly” scattered across their expensive bags.
It therefore was a surprise to many when earlier this year Italy, arguably the most fashion conscious and stylish country in the world, passed and implemented more comprehensive legislation on smoke-free public places. Furthermore, the legislation appears to be working, with few breaches being reported. However, it would appear that some in the Italian fashion world are finding their addiction to tobacco more difficult to break. The March and April editions of Italian Vogue (regarded as the international fashion “bible”) persisted in showing young female models smoking in their fashion pages. The March edition featured four single and three double fashion spreads, while the April edition showed smoking in three single and one double spread. In Vogue’s own words, and illustrated by the seductive images of the world famous photographer Steven Meisel who took many of these pictures, young women’s smoking still symbolises glamour (“Perfection Everyday”), style (“Variations on Chic”), emancipation (“The power of Vogue Style”), sexual allure (“Madame”), and European womanhood (“Black Russian”, “French-outsider, don’t do it, chic and wild, dark and elegant, fashion, attitude, rebel”).
Given the continued positive promotion of smoking by top fashion magazines it is not surprising that, as shown in a recent paper in Tobacco Control by Huisman and colleagues (Tobacco Control 2005;14:106–13), female smoking in Italy (as in all the countries studied) is highest among young women. It is to be hoped that the recent cultural shift around the social acceptability of smoking in public places in Italy will also impact positively on fashion editors’ and photographers’ attitudes about the desirability of polluting their magazines with smoking images.