23 Comments

Death to all smokers

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Tank, an English publisher, has issued a few classics in these intriguing packages. In what seems like a rather foolish move, British American Tobacco has sued them on the basis that their product might negatively affect their brand. Though their lawyers indicate that they will pursue any unauthorized use of their brand, you’d think that they would see this as one worth ignoring. You’d think they jump at the possibility of being associated with the classics. You can get the full story here.

As far as I know the books are still on the market, and let’s hope that the crossover is addictiveness.

In other news, recently a tobacco control smokesman in Quebec took a stand against vanilla flavoured cigarettes. Because they smell better. And that will mislead people as to the health risks. This is insane. After all the complaining about cigarette smells, here is a product that is most beneficial to nonsmokers (because flavoured tobaccos always smell better to others than the smoker) and anti-smoking groups want to ban it.

I can’t say I never smoke and I certainly have in the past and but it has been a while and it never was all that regular. When I did I felt no solidarity with smokers and didn’t like smoky bars any better than most. I was in support of smoke free zones, eliminating tobacco advertising, taxing the hell out of it. But now the sheer aggressiveness of the anti-smoking groups have almost made me want to form a smoking resistance movement.

We all know smoking is about the worst thing you can do for your health. But we also know that apart from a few fires and a very small number of second hand smoke related death (an extremely overrated danger by the way) the effects of smoking are felt by the smoker.

One of my brothers, an ex-smoker, used to complain that as a non-driver he was a much better and cleaner citizen that those whose exhaust he had to breathe on his many long walks. I used to think he was just being defensive but I finally got it. The automobile culture is destructive to all forms of life on this planet, and yet do we vilify the driver? Not unless they are smoking it seems.

I used to hate the omnipresent smell of cigarette smoke but now I enjoy it purely because it is uncommon. Marlboros used to remind me of trips to the States, other cigarette smells of times at the public beach, and how I miss smelling pipes which oddly enough in the age of boutiquism have gone the way of the dinosaur.

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To smell pipe tobacco in the autumn air was wonderful. I remember going a couple of blocks out of my way just to keep smelling it.

Its just that I get so annoyed about all this unwarranted moral rectitude when it comes to smoking. Make them go outside, then far away from the door, now lets look at them, point our fingers, and mutter. Maybe now that the anti-smoking crusaders have won this battle they could go after billboards, or idling vehicles, or people who talk loudly on cell phones. But it seems in their efforts to eradicate all traces of this pernicious habit, they are going after the historical record itself and removing the cigarettes from poster images of Sartre in France and smoking from cartoons. Hasn’t anyone told them about the rule about why history might repeat itself? Better run for it Selma!

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We forget that apart from the fact that some people function much better with nicotine there are other positive roles smoking plays. It is socially cohesive. Smokers cross class boundaries. The little work group huddling together around their smokes in the wind come from all parts of the company, people who normally might not meet each other. Cigarettes also are bridges. Its easier to meet someone with a request for a match or a cigarette. And, what the hell, what’s so wrong with people just liking to smoke.

The point is that with it has been very easy to shuffle these people around with everyone including almost all smokers acquiescing and it does really come down to an issue of rights. If you can do that to smokers, why not Scotch drinkers? Why not fast food eaters? Why not any little habit you might enjoy that someone else doesn’t?

To end with something a little more amusing, in Britain, an artist and a composer, in reaction to a smoking ban, collaborated in a musical work in which all the performers will be smoking. I wonder if they will have to perform it over ten metres from any doorway?

23 comments on “Death to all smokers

  1. I’m always amused by special interest groups that use the health of others as the justification for their madness. Why don’t they go after countries that don’t approval Kyoto or follow the protocols? Why not car companies for not making a Hydrogen engine a reality? It’s difficult to shame a corporate entity, to ridicule it, as is done with smokers. The anti-smoking groups fail to mention, as you pointed out, the benefit cigarettes have in preventing some cancers.

    Smoking, in my part of the world, is a culture, an icebreaker. Cigarettes are a generous gift, a sign of friendship. You meet someone, you give them a cigarette. It doesn’t matter if they don’t smoke, it’s what’s done. I’m sure when the anti-smoking apostles are finished with North America they will begin missionary work.

  2. I haven’t heard of smoking being protective for any cancers; the medical benefits I know of include either lessening the likelihood or allaying the symptoms of Parkinson’s, Alzeimers, ulcerative colitis and schizophrenia. The crazy thing about this campaign is that on one hand America exports the puritanical anti-smoking movement and on the other hand gives its companies free reign to aggressively pursue tobacco sales abroad by using any means while severely restricting their movement domestically. In other words, not in my backyard.

  3. My Mom was a smoker. She didn’t die from it but it sure didn’t help her to live longer. I’m not going to complain about the negative ways that it affected her health here. Near the end of her life she had hidden pack of cigarettes in the back of her closet. When I came over to provide respite for my father who was her caregiver one afternoon she ordered me to get the cigarettes, take off the patches that the doctors had on her and help her to smoke a cigarette. She had lost her eyesight by now and was unable to hold it but I held it up to her lips and flicked the ashes into the sink. She had me open the window so that the smoke would filter out. At one point I said to her, “You don’t think I’m going to help you smoke a cigarette do you”. Her response, “No, I know that you are. I don’t care that you are 28 you are my daughter and you still have to listen to me”. As odd as this sounds this is one of my last memories of my Mom resembling my Mom before we lost her completely to the illness that ravaged her. The memory will always be inextricably tied to that cigarette.

  4. I don’t mean to trivialize any of your memory and of course, I’m commenting in this small part of your larger experience but the cigarette could have been a drink. Its more about the person than the habit. And perhaps, as disgusting as that cigarette might have seemed, for a moment it brought her some relief. Though whenever you talk about these things you do come up against those poignant and horrible truths of people holding smokes to the holes in their throats but people persist in many harmful behaviors and this one just looks so goddamn bad at its extremes.

  5. I agree. I should finish the story. As she smoked it she talked about it. She told me. “This thing doesn’t even taste good. It’s really not about the cigarette but it’s the fact that I feel that I’m getting away with something”. The cigarette was her last act of rebellion against a body and world that she had no control over any more. I hate the things myself and I hated that she continued to smoke them despite her illness. As I read this post that memory came to mind when you talked about the social nature of smoking and then also when I read Steveos comment. It’s not good it just is.

  6. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a great book about surviving on minimum wage in America (called Nickeled and Dimed). In it she describes smoking as the one act that conveys a small bit of invioble power to the underclass. I’m smoking, this is my time. My break from your demands. One Canadian researcher I know has looked into the class differences regarding quitting programs and the middle to uppers experience the programs as thoughtful and helpful and something they are part of while the lower experience them as another intrusion, a grasp at one of the few affordable pleasures and needs. Some people smoke for fun, others because it is a respite from drudgery, and even other because it helps control the demons.

  7. I find the research that you mentioned regarding the quitting programs really interesting. The premise reminds me of a book that I have read by Ruby Payne, Bridges out of Poverty, it addresses some of the hidden rules among the different socioeconomic classes in the United States. I don’t remember seeing anything in it that specifically discussed smoking but it did address other addictions.

  8. I think her name was Katherine Froelich and it was from a conference. It had not yet been published but I contacted her and got her notes. As I recall her research was exploring why quitting was more successful at higher economic levels and it seemed to come down to explanations of hegemony. I do know that in general the lower the socioeconomic level, the greater likelihood of disease. Michael Marmot writes about this somewhat at http://www.epi-perspectives.com/content/2/1/4

    Kind of like if you want to lower the birth rate, better the status of women. Actually that one in general makes a lot of things much better.

  9. Endometrial Cancer: Smoking was found to reduce the risk of estrogen-dependent endometrial cancer.

    Skin Cancers: Dr. James Goedert of the by-gawd National Cancer Institute stated publicly that “smoking may act as a preventative for developing a skin cancer that primarily afflicts elderly men in Mediterranean regions of Southern Italy, Greece and Israel.”

    Breast Cancer: Females Smokers were found to have a statistically significant (54 percent!) decrease in breast cancer when compared with women who never smoked.

    Thyroid Cancer in Women: Having ever smoked 100 cigarettes or more was shown to reduce the risk significantly of this cancer, and current smokers showed the most reduction as compared to women who had never smoked.

    How accurate this information is I’m not sure. A friend published a long article on AC on the benefits of smoking.

  10. Stevo: What does AC stand for? I am skeptical of those being anything but outliers but I will look for them. Its just that if we know anything about smoking at all, it is that it is close to being synonymous with carcinogenic. But, there may be exceptions. What I do find most interesting is the assumption that smoking is 100% bad when there are bound to be at least some benefits to it. That being said, my write-up was more in defense of smokers and wasn’t mean to be in defense of smoking itself. It is a bad thing and even if all of the above things are true, they don’t outweigh the total assault of smoking on your system. And following that statement, no matter how bad it is, I still think that as long as you know the risks, it is your right to do it if you want to.

  11. You’ll get no argument from me. Smoking is horrible, health-wise. I know the risks, as I do for alcohol. What I do is my decision and take responsibility for that.

    I think a lot of things can be beneficial, in moderation. I only wanted to point out that there could be other messages that are getting lost in the anti-smoking campaign.

    AC is Associated Content. You can find the article here.

  12. You all just made quitting even harder. Thanks a lot. You’re supposed to be alienating the smoker in me and segregating me and wagging your fingers at me, not defending me and speaking rationally and humanely about cigarettes and smoking. God damn it!

  13. Kirt Vocals: the time I first saw you put a smoke to your mouth, I knew you must be some sort of substandard human, an evil immoral bastard who,if here was any justice in this world, would be exiled to some island with all the other smokers, an island where even that pernicious weed, for is it not evil incarnate, could not grow. For verily too, it is a lack of the spirit that has you lifting satan’s child to your lips, a vacuum within. By the way, after we move the smokers even farther away, we’re bringing out the facial tattoos so they can be known at all times for the vile villains that they are.

    Stevo: Thanks for the link. Though I agree that anyone having any evidence of tobacco being good for anything will have difficulty having it accepted anywhere, the studies in that article for the most part seem to relate to some very particular forms of those cancers, and for particular populations, sort of the equivalent of someone beating you to a pulp but making sure none of your toes get broken. Cold comfort as they say.

  14. That’s much better. Although, this island you speak of is sounding pretty cool (if we could somehow smuggle tobacco ashore). What would a society of exiled smokers be like? Sounds like a neato idea for a sci-fi novel.

  15. Your comment about socio-economic differences, and those with lower incomes wanting to hold on to this one affordable pleasure makes me think of the common reaction I’ve heard so many times when those who collect welfare spend part of the money on smoking, or drinking, or gambling, or whatever. People are so bloody judgmental — someone who is barely subsisting in our expensive society should also be denied any of the decadent pleasures that we think are our right, should we choose to indulge? Talk about adding insult to injury.

    That being said, I have to say that, these days, I’ve become unused to even seeing people smoke, so it seems strange to me when I do see it. I think that’s a good thing, personally.

    And Bibliomom, I almost jumped when I read your first comment here. In the final weeks of my mother’s terminal illness, she had to confess her secret return to the smoking habit of her youth, once we found her wandering out of the house in her nightgown, trying to get to the store to buy a pack. She, too, had been hiding them in the back of the closet.

  16. It is good that smoking is less of a common sight. I could almost write another post about European versus North American puritanism when it comes to all this. We think of it as rampant, and its a little odd once again to see so much smoking, but they do seem to be having more fun. It just seems more grown up over there.

  17. aos, re your comment #2, we’ve corresponded enough that I’m sure you realize America is not so monolithic. I’d look at the anti-smoking forces and the tobacco companies as diverse and contrary subcultures. I think that, if the anti-smoking groups could rein in the big tobacco companies abroad they would. They fight the battles they can.

    How would you propose they battle big Tobacco, re preventing them from traading abroad and stopping the cargo ships?

    Here in California the nonsmokers were trying to get smoke-free restaurants in the 90s. In a perhaps clever/devious strategy, the tobacco companies worked with legislators to broaden it to include bars — thinking bar patrons would fight tooth and nail to defeat the bill. And so restaurants would still allow smoking, too.

    And the smokers did fight it — it was a big issue here. But what the tobacco companies hadn’t factored in was that there were more people who were fed up with smoky rooms and their clothes reeking the next day if they went out for a few drinks.

    The tobacco crowd must have been panicky when the initiative passed.

    And some of my favorite bars / bartenders voiced anger, protecting the “rights” of their customers, etc.

    But I have to say — I have friends who refused to wait for me inside some places because of the pall and the stench. And now we go inside and the air is fresh — it’s as if the places are new! They cleaned the brown grime off walls and pictures, it was a like some surreal interior decorator fixed things when you weren’t looking. Or like getting a new glasses prescription, suddenly you could see what places looked like without the haze.

    And they are still in business, despite all the angry rhetoric. And California still has bars and restaurants.

    Now, when I travel to a state with smoking in bars or restaurants, I’m surprised. Omigod — I remember this. How did I ever do this, for so long?

    Last note: several years ago I was in an SF suburb with a small, blue-collar downtown, including a couple divey bars. I had time to kill and decided to have a drink in a couple, just to check ’em out.

    And several had ash trays out! I finally asked, and one bartender got defensive–there is an exception for owner-operated bars with no employees. (Employee health was a driving issue for the new law.) I didn’t push it — even laughed when I left. I’m sure the old regulars were glad to see me go. And to be honest, I found the pugnacity of their glares almost — endearing. Like I was seeing the last of the stegosauruses or some such, and they weren’t going without a fight.

  18. First of all, don’t get the impression I don’t prefer non smoking bars and restaurants…love them. I just think that when there is agreement from all parties involved that there should be a smoking bar or whatever sort of venue option. There have been crazy stories where cigar shops have had to go non smoking…who exactly is being protected there?

    And the anti-smoking movement though it initially did good work seems to have devolved to a self perpetuating politically rather than health motivated organization. I have little respect for these people who play so loose with the evidence, using it only when it suits their aims.

    But I don’t think it is up to them to change international practices of American tobacco companies. That is a fault of general business practice, another villain in my book. If I were king, businesses would have to operate in every culture or climate in an ethical fashion. Domestic policy would have to be the same as international practice. I think that would have been the saving grace of true globalism. The way it has turned out is that companies (and not just American ones) look for places where they can get dirty but rich.

  19. who exactly is being protected there?

    Depending on who they hired as their employees, it ould be employees, if they followed the same logic that was used here.

    The thinking was that some people could make their best wages working in restaurants and bars. So they worked there, even though dangerous to their health.

    The law was intended to protect workers who had to breath the air while on the job.

    I don’t know the situation of the cigar shops, or where that happened. But if it happened out here, any owner who opened such a shop could take her/his health into her/his own hands and smoke like chimney, if so preferred.

    Once an employee is hired, it’s assumed this person simply wants a job and needs the job, so will take on risk in order to get by, rather than getting kicked out on the street or going hungry, etc., especially in a period of high unemployment. You may not agree with it; whatever. But that was the logic — workers deserve a safe workplace.

  20. Regular smoking is number one thing what people should throw away. It is medical-proved that it makes harm to your overall health and to your psychology. Human damages himself… Is it understandable?

  21. Talking about smoking drivers. The only thing I know and hate is that they throw out the cigarettes on the road!
    cigarettes on the road

  22. We all know (well, those with a normal and fully functioning brain, anyway) that the question to raise is not IF smoking as a whole, and the use of tobacco itself, wil be totally forbidden by law and society. The question is WHEN.

    Progress comes slowly, and often more slowly than many of us would like… but it comes.

    My only regret is that it likely won’t be in my lifetime.

    • MumboJumbo,

      If there is one thing we know, its that its very hard to remove anything once its there…and that includes prohibitionist attitudes….

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