One of the main conclusions of this study is that the use of cigarettes has become very important for women in order to face up to stress and anxiety, control appetite and body weight, and facilitate interaction in social relations.
In that sense, they are used as a tool to get closer to men and to get in touch with them in sexual and amorous interactions. It has also been proved that women use tobacco as a sexual metaphor. Apart from this, the use of cigarettes is symbolic of power and strength when facing unbalanced situations between sexes and male dominance.
This research was conducted by María Luisa Jiménez Rodrigo, who is currently working at the University of Seville, and was led by lecturer Juan Francisco Gamella Mora. A qualitative fieldwork had to be performed in order to carry out this study. This fieldwork was performed by in-depth individual interviews, organization of discussion groups, structured interviews, participant observation, and analysis of the tobacco advertising. This study reveals that the use of cigarettes has attained new and specific meanings in women’s daily life. Therefore, smoking has a series of relative advantages for women, organized into several dimensions: emotional, corporal, social, symbolic and as an expression of power and strength.A normal act
Jiménez Rodrigo explains that women started to use tobacco with a specific product - the industrially produced cigarette made from Virginia tobacco. Unlike pipes, cigars and dark tobacco, this product is believed to be compatible with femininity at pharmacological and social levels. Tobacco companies have played a decisive role in this process.Compatible with the requirements of femininity
In spite of this, stress and anxiety are strongly linked to the use of cigarettes among women. They have to face potentially stressful situations every day as a result of working days with no breaks, family and work role conflicts, unstable and discriminatory situations, or violence and social isolation. Jiménez Rodrigo states that “on a whole, smoking is one of their safety valves to face up to stress. In addition, it is considered to act as a unique relaxant because of its effects, its availability and its accessibility”.
Apart from this, smoking in order to achieve weight control has become increasingly popular among women, particularly among young women. The use of cigarettes to regulate appetite is related to the promotion of thinness as the ideal female form in Western industrialised nations. Jiménez Rodrigo stresses that the use of cigarettes has a great social and collective importance to women since it is present in both their daily lives and other different contexts in which they are participating en masse, particularly education, work and leisure. Moreover, it plays an important social role as it facilitates social relations by increasing their self-confidence and the number of chances to establish social relations and to integrate into a certain group.
Another significant reason has to do with sexual attraction and seduction, although these reasons are more important during adolescence and youth. Smoking is an easy way of coming into contact with men and showing them an attractive “image”. Therefore, cigarettes are used as means of drawing male attention to female sexuality, which fits in with the cultural parameters that emphasize the value of love and sexual achievement as the main elements of female success.
Some of the results of this research were presented at the Ninth Spanish Conference on Sociology and have been published in the Liberaddictus journal.
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