Friday, January 4, 2013

Smoking...Should We Seek to Make it Obsolete?

Just saw that a connection of mine on LinkedIn took some unpopular view on smoking of how he wouldn't like to see it become obsolete. I realized I do have a real opinion on that subject based on some real life experiences.

Recently, my husband and I were watching this DVD of commercials that Mill Creek put out. If you haven't seen it, you should. There are some gems in there including a ton of old ads for smoking (which I think were banned on TV by the time I was old enough to remember anything on TV).

It seems you couldn't walk to your bathroom without tripping over a smoker in the '50s and '60s (perhaps even some of the '70s & early '80s). These ads touted being able to taste the tobacco and how great that smoke feels in your throat. Yeah, seriously.

You have to see them. Pretty much everyone you can think of who was a big star in those days was taking money from the cigarette companies. The Camel ads on that disc were filled with celebrity endorsements & even sports figures were doing cigarette ads. I'd hoped to see something on Joe Camel but no such luck. These ads are great for making fun of if you live with anyone who should have been a commentator on MST3K (in my case, my husband).

My father was & still is a chain smoker. He told us point blank not to take up smoking. Since he was & still is an alcoholic, smoking was never something we viewed as glamorous or the hip thing to do. We saw it as smelly, something that made you cough a lot & generally took away your physical fitness. If I don't get lung cancer someday from all the secondhand smoke I was exposed to as a child growing up in a house where my father would never smoke outside & barely cracked a window when smoking in the car, I'll be shocked. He probably blew tons of smoke in our faces when were babies considering I did once seen him smoking while holding my oldest nephew when I came to visit.

God help you if you try to quit! That's also expensive & I hear the gum doesn't taste good.

So, generally I don't think smoking is a great idea. The only cigarette smell I could stand was the smell of clove cigarettes (the favorite of geeks & goth kids everywhere before the FDA recently made them illegal; I wonder what they've switched to). I certainly wouldn't take it up now where cigarettes cost a small fortune; I've told people that if I were going to take up smoking, I'd have done it in NC where cigarettes are much cheaper.

At the same time, I still think people have the right to do what they want with their own bodies. Let's assume we're talking about adults, not kids. If kids are smoking, maybe we should be looking at the example they're getting at home & how their parents are raising them. "Do as I say & not as I do" is the most ineffective parenting method or tactic of persuasion out there yet many parents still use it. No good lawyer would trot it out.

I also agree with my mother, who said that she'd rather see a driver with a cigarette in his hand instead of a bottle of alcohol. I don't recall cigarettes causing anyone to suffer from impaired driving like weaving into other lanes or causing deadly accidents. You don't hear about people crashing into trees who only had nicotine from cigarettes in their system.

Nor do I think filmmakers or producers of television shows should be harassed because they had a character smoke in the project. People do still smoke in this country in spite of the taxes; let's be realistic & examine the context in which smoking is presented. Most shows and films aren't showing smoking to say "You're not cool if you aren't doing it." The use of them today generally feels more incidental to me.

A character having a cigarette is not the same as those old TV ads where people spoke right to the camera & said "Get XYZ cigarettes for a refreshing taste." Honestly, I thought using e-cigarettes in projects would be a good idea if they didn't cause addiction or expose anyone to nicotine. That way, you could have non-smokers portray cigarette smokers without making them become addicts.

From the ads I saw, everyone had to take puffs from lighted cigarettes so it seems if you wanted to do cigarette commercials in those days, you'd have to become a smoker in real life even if you weren't one originally or didn't want to smoke in your private life. Who knows? They may have even paid more than other types of ads & it may have caused struggling actors to be forced to take those ads or become homeless. I wasn't there but I could see that state of affairs existing or those ads being dominant in the commercial acting marketplace.

I don't really have an issue with smoking bans since private owners should get to do what they want when it comes to smells on their property. Honestly, I don't mind the public bans on beaches & all but I can see the smokers' point. I also think trying to make smoking obsolete is like trying to make people stop doing drugs: it's just not going to happen. There will always be someone who wants to do them.

My basic stance is that you can & should educate people but if someone is that hell bent on doing something, it's not my place to tell them not to do it. I'm not their mother. If you can behave rationally while under the influence & keep illegal substances away from me or my set, I don't care what you do in your off time. When you aren't harming others (like letting your kids get into needles or driving down the street drunk) & are only harming yourself in your own home (owned by you), that's your choice. Who am I or anyone else to say you can't do that? If I don't want to deal with someone, I won't. I believe it's only your business if you are living with someone, they are abusing their children or you are a legitimate friend coming to someone out of concern for their safety.

As someone who lived with it, though, I just think smoking is not on the order of meth or alcohol when it comes to dangerous drugs. Smoking might be an annoyance problem but I don't think it should be treated like a controlled substance or even like alcohol. Believe it or not, I also think the drinking age should be 18 & alcohol should stop being glamorized or treated as completely verboten (since that encourages binge drinking later on). I happen to be an advocate for moderation in most things, including smoking and drinking alcohol.

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