At the Elle Spring Summer 2012 Fashion Show in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), the emphasis was more on the “show” when one of the lead models smoked during her walk down the stage. She is not the first model to smoke during her sashay down the runway; Kate Moss did it in 2011. But this is Vietnam. Not only are women held to a different standard when it comes to smoking, there has been a nationwide smokefree air law since January 2010. The model’s artistic expression was not approved by the HCM City Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism.
Although smoking has been banned in public places such as schools, hospitals, public transportation, and indoor entertainment centers, it is still very ingrained into the social culture. Over half of the world’s smokers live in Asia, and more than half of the males in Vietnam smoke. Expensive cigarettes are often given as gifts to gain favors from government officials, as well as handed out at weddings and funerals. It is a sign of masculinity and men are expected to smoke. Women are held to a different standard; it is considered unladylike to smoke, and is associated with low morals.
According to the designer of the fashion collection an electronic cigarette was used by the model to express “the lonely and desperate mood of a young girl who broke up with her boyfriend.” Since less than 2% of women smoke in Vietnam, and given the social stigma associated with smoking, perhaps her bad habit had something to do with the breakup. She just isn’t the type of girl you take home to mother.
The smoke break on the runway shocked the audience, and Ministry officials were not amused as the cigarette was not part of the rehearsal. Officials will no doubt oppose a fine on her for her unmodel-like behavior.
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