By ALYCE VAYLE
I am ashamed to admit to one of the worst jobs I ever held. I wasn’t a stripper, a garbo or a telemarketer. From 1998 to 2000, I was a professional cigarette girl.
A little over a decade ago, large cigarette companies employed young, good looking promotional staff, both men and women, to go to venues where other young people hung out, to promote cigarette brands to them.
We did this by offering club and pub goers discounts on cigarettes. Knowing how sensitive this activity could be, we were heavily schooled on the terminology we could use. Back in 1998 we used to offer two packets for $12, and the buyer also received a cigarette lighter. We ‘ciggie girls’ were told not to use the words ‘free’, ‘discount’ or ‘bonus’ in association with the lighter, and if any club or pub patron asked us how much the lighter cost, we were to say that it was ‘included in the price of the packet.’
The teams would go out in groups of six or eight, overseen by the cigarette company’s promotions manager who would assign us into pairs. Paid about twenty bucks an hour each, we would be taken by cars to all the cool inner-city venues, spending about half an hour in each. Every girl had a tray of cigarettes and a cute uniform, and we would go around offering the cigarette ‘product’ for the purposes of ‘brand recognition’.