Tobacco’s Two Minutes of Hate

 

candy I’ve never smoked — and don’t advocate taking up the habit — but I can’t help but find the site of huddled, shivering tobacco aficionados lighting up outside their own homes to be a bit strange. Watching the 1979 classic film Alien the other night, I found its most outrageous moment not to be the hand-to-hand combat with an extraterrestrial that bleeds acid, but the site of the crew enjoying their cigarettes while relaxing on the spaceship. I’m not going to make too many predictions about the 22nd century – one look at some of my recent stock picks is evidence of my disqualification as a forecaster – but I’m willing to wager that it is more likely that xenomorphs will be popping out of our bellies than workers will be allowed to have a smoking break in a hundred years.

How did smokers go from being ubiquitous to becoming societal pariahs within a generation? When I was a kid – I’m old but not that old, having been born in the late seventies, when we still had iron horses for travel, moving pictures for entertainment, and The Star Wars Holiday Special for awkward laughs – I remember candy cigarettes. They took two forms: one a white cylinder hard candy with some red coloring at the end and, the other, cleverer, bubblegum-wrapped version with powdered sugar you could blow out to resemble real smoke. That was just thirty years ago. Can you imagine such a product for kids today? If a ten-year-old were found with candy cigarettes in 2015, family services would pick him up faster than if his parents allowed him to use a plastic swastika as a Frisbee.

Smokers seem to fill this weird niche for the government, both as a tax revenue milk cow and as a villain whipping-boy in ongoing state sponsored research. I enjoy going out to eat without having to get my jacket dry-cleaned afterwards as much as the next guy, but I’m concerned about how quickly tobacco went from being an accepted societal norm to becoming a heavily state-regulated evil vice. It also seems a bit contradictory to me that laws around other drugs are loosening while the rules around tobacco continue to tighten. The militant stigmatization of smokers has an uncomfortable Orwellian quality to it.

Perhaps there is some flaw in human nature that compels us to make once-acceptable personal practices verboten, thinking it is some sick extension of evolution. You may not care about what has happened to smokers over the last two decades since you don’t smoke, know it is an unhealthy practice, and were tired of needing to shower after visiting the local tavern. However, we all have our simple personal vices that help us through the day. It may be a sweet tooth, it could be enjoying a bag of potato chips after a rough day at work, or it might take the form wearing a Klingon mask and leopard skin underwear while watching Star Trek reruns in your parent’s basement. Based on what happened to tobacco, how quickly and easily could any of these practices be made unacceptable next? If, thirty years ago, you had told a smoker partaking in his habit while enjoying an after-dinner drink in his favorite restaurant that — in the not too distant future — he would only be allowed to smoke while freezing outside the restaurant with passersby using their coats to cover their scornful faces in an attempt to avoid his exhaled toxins, do you think he’d have believed you?

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  1. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    What’s really crazy is the prohibitionist reaction to electronic cigarettes.  People want to ban them from being used indoors – even in bars – because it sets a bad example for children.  Since they look kind of like a real cigarette and kids might see them, that’s going to lead to the kids smoking tobacco.  Perhaps next people will want to outlaw drinking an A&W Cream Soda where a child might see you, because the coloring and foaminess gives it a beer-like appearance.  If a kid sees me drinking a glass of Coca Cola, how is she supposed to know there’s no rum in there?  Who knows how many children I have turned into alcoholics with my public displays of soda drinking?

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Randy – I agree, the outrage over electronic cigarettes is bizarre. Makes me think it just comes down to control and taxation

    • #2
  3. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Pleated Pants Forever:Randy – I agree, the outrage over electronic cigarettes is bizarre. Makes me think it just comes down to control and taxation

    There’s a famous old saying and at the moment I don’t remember who said it (H.L. Mencken?) and I don’t remember it word for word but it goes pretty much like this:  There are people who lay awake at night worrying that somewhere, someone is having a good time.

    Like you, I’ve never smoked.  I hated coming home from an occasional evening in a tavern and having to hang my coat in the garage and putting my clothes in the laundry room so as not to stink up the bedroom.  But why anyone should object to seeing other people vaping is beyond me.  It’s like being angry that someone is reading a book that you don’t like.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    PPF, you are assuming that the crew of the Nostromo were smoking tobacco. Change the substance and everything is jake.

    • #4
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Randy Weivoda:What’s really crazy is the prohibitionist reaction to electronic cigarettes.

    As someone embarrassingly sensitive to tobacco smoke (someone smoking outside our building can give me an attack just from the minute quantity that leaks through our shut window frames), a world where people used e-cigs instead of the real thing would be a dream come true to me.

    As far as I can tell, the only actionable case to be made against cigarette smoking is that it emits a nuisance, which it does, even if it’s not a grievous nuisance for the vast majority of the population. Devices that reduce the nuisance while still delivering “a satisfying smoke” (or whatever it is smokers want from their habit) ought to be welcomed, not shunned, by those who are sincerely concerned about the minority’s sensitive lungs.

    • #5
  6. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    I love cigars, and as far as I am concerned, the anti-smoking crowd are little more than latter-day National Socialists.

    • #6
  7. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Randy Weivoda:because it sets a bad example for children.

    And yet pot,”the gateway drug,” is completely acceptable.

    How did we go from smokers being ubiquitous to becoming societal pariahs within a generation? When I was a kid – I’m old but not that old, having been born in the late seventies,

    If I’m not mistaken, I can’t find a scene and I haven’t seen the movie in many years, in Die Hard there was a very pregnant Lady smoking and drinking champagne in a scene and nary a word. And that was only 1988.

    • #7
  8. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    I not only smoke [pipes] but positively encourage others to do the same. It’s so rare to see someone smoke a pipe that it’s actually perfectly acceptable in most public places. People like the smell and the old-timey look of it. But roll up the same exact tobacco in a cigarette and suddenly you’re evil.

    When my relatives would poo-poo me smoking as a teenager, I would obnoxiously say, “Hitler hated smoking too.”

    But now ISIS executes people for smoking for the crime of “slow suicide.” Just one more reason to put off quitting for another day. Solidarity

    • #8
  9. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    I have listened to lots and lots of talk radio over the years. My favorite caller EVER was when some local elections were being discussed. On the ballot was whether or not to ban smoking in (I think) Beverly Hills.

    The caller was against the law saying “I don’t smoke and I don’t like to be around it. But I love Tobasco sauce. Who’s to say that won’t be next?”

    Full disclosure: I’m a past smoker and hopefully a future one (if God spares me to 80, I’m starting again. Why the hell not?)

    Jimmy Carter: I watch the Die Hard movies every year in a marathon session while I sort out all my paperwork for my taxes. There was a very pregnant lady who asked if “the baby could handle a little champagne.” Bonnie Bedelia replies “I think that baby could tend bar.” I don’t remember the pregnant lady smoking, although a couple of characters did light up (Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman)

    • #9
  10. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Government should actually encourage smoking because of the exorbitant taxes, except that government is now on the hook for so much health care that it becomes a loss rather than a gain. Of course, without tobacco there probably would not have been a nation to tax in the first place. Now, rather than celebrating the plant that saved Jamestown, tobacco is blamed as the root cause of slavery in America.

    • #10
  11. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    The reason tobacco has become verboten is simple – pornography has become acceptable.

    Back in the 1950s societal attitudes towards pornography mirrored those of tobacco use today – it was a vice proper people shunned as shameful.

    Back in the 1950s attitudes towards tobacco use pornography mirrored those of pornography today – it was a vice, but you had to tolerate those who practiced it.

    My theory is this the scolds need something to scold.  Since it was no longer acceptable to be a scold about pornography (how old school), something had to substitute, so why not tobacco?

    Seawriter

    • #11
  12. Kim K. Inactive
    Kim K.
    @KimK

    I had to laugh about those candy cigarettes. Once when I was a kid a boy in the class brought in candy cigs to pass out for his birthday treats. I thought they were so cool, but my Mom was not impressed. Also, have to laugh about the hollow ones with powdered sugar you have to blow out like smoke. Most kids would probably suck in – then they could simulate smoker’s cough!

    • #12
  13. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Actually, food has taken on the moral place once occupied by sex. I had a Facebook dustup with someone last week over the negligible health benefits of organics, to which the young lady replied, “I choose not to believe government funded studies.” She then went on to laud Russia’s ban on GMOs. We were once admonished to be modest and chaste, and we still are today, but the difference is that now we must do so with regard to what we eat rather than with whom and how we copulate. Tobacco is its own thing in regard to the modern morality.

    • #13
  14. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    Randy Weivoda:What’s really crazy is the prohibitionist reaction to electronic cigarettes. People want to ban them from being used indoors – even in bars – because it sets a bad example for children. Since they look kind of like a real cigarette and kids might see them, that’s going to lead to the kids smoking tobacco. Perhaps next people will want to outlaw drinking an A&W Cream Soda where a child might see you, because the coloring and foaminess gives it a beer-like appearance. If a kid sees me drinking a glass of Coca Cola, how is she supposed to know there’s no rum in there? Who knows how many children I have turned into alcoholics with my public displays of soda drinking?

    This scenario supports my assertion that the Left has become a religion.

    I was a very square teen-ager in the 1970s: didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. But I did wear my hair long. Sure it looked stupid, but all my friends did, too. While serving as a camp counselor at a Southern Baptist summer camp, I was strongly encouraged by one of the men in charge to cut my hair so as not to appear like a drug-crazed hippie.

    He quoted the scripture about me not being a “stumbling block” to the younger kids.

    That’s what the Left is doing now.  Even the slightest appearance of smoking is taboo in their religion.

    • #14
  15. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Byron Horatio:I not only smoke [pipes] but positively encourage others to do the same.It’s so rare to see someone smoke a pipe that it’s actually perfectly acceptable in most public places.People like the smell and the old-timey look of it.But roll up the same exact tobacco in a cigarette and suddenly you’re evil.

    It may all be tobacco, but to me there is a hierarchy of odors from the smoke.  Cigarettes are bad and cigars are the worst.  The smell from a pipe while it is being smoked is actually kind of nice, but it still leaves my clothes stinking after I’ve left the pipe smoker’s vicinity.

    • #15
  16. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Jimmy Carter:

    Randy Weivoda:because it sets a bad example for children.

    And yet pot,”the gateway drug,” is completely acceptable.

    I wish they would just get it over with and outlaw tobacco and legalize pot.  This annoying middle ground of keeping tobacco legal but not letting you smoke it anywhere but pot is illegal but you can smoke it anywhere is annoying.

    • #16
  17. Richard O'Shea Coolidge
    Richard O'Shea
    @RichardOShea

    I too enjoy the occasional cigar.  Even when cigarette smoking was permitted in bars, many times cigars were not.  Today, there are cigar only establishments where cigarettes are frowned upon.

    Never have tried a pipe.  Seems like too much trouble.

    • #17
  18. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Tobacco is a legal product.  The governments of several states and the United States permit it to be grown and turned into products.  One might suspect that the government is operating with a split personality on this issue, but then this is a sin tax that is wanted.  They want the tax but not the sin.

    • #18
  19. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    I would have taken it up again long ago out of cantakerousness and solidarity if I didn’t fully appreciate that it would just be an excuse to start smoking again. I believe the rumors about tobacco. They sure aren’t kidding about nicotine being addictive. I can confirm that part firsthand. They’re probably not exaggerating that much about tobacco being carcinogenic.

    I hid the cigarettes from my mom. I figure it will do our young’uns no harm to hide theirs, too. My mom had to actually die before I could even admit I was a former smoker. If I took it up again now, she’d come back from the dead to stigmatize me. I figure we should all do our best to stigmatize smoking. If I’m not allowed, neither is anyone.

    Stigmatize it–but not to the point people feel they can’t quit. You can, if you want to live badly enough. I’m persuaded it’s a useful stigma. I’m also persuaded that if you want to live badly enough, you can quit. I have no problem with the sight of other people vaping. When I see them smoking, I tell them that vaping allows you to be an intellectually-satisfied smoker: there’s nowhere near as much evidence (yet) that it will kill you, and plenty of evidence that it replaces nicotine–in that you can replace tobacco with it and still want to live. You have to really want to die to go for the “authentic tobacco” part.

    I don’t want to die. Not least because my mother would kill me for wanting that. Death happens to the best of us and to all of us, but hastening it is streng verboten.

    People tend to look at my resume and assume my greatest accomplishment was something that’s on it. Quitting smoking was harder than anything else. My proudest accomplishment, in many ways, because I know how hard it was. I do tend to see people who still smoke as “just plain weak.”

    • #19
  20. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Jimmy Carter:

    Randy Weivoda:because it sets a bad example for children.

    And yet pot,”the gateway drug,” is completely acceptable.

    How did we go from smokers being ubiquitous to becoming societal pariahs within a generation? When I was a kid – I’m old but not that old, having been born in the late seventies,

    If I’m not mistaken, I can’t find a scene and I haven’t seen the movie in many years, in Die Hard there was a very pregnant Lady smoking and drinking champagne in a scene and nary a word. And that was only 1988.

    The line from the movie is “That baby’s ready to tend bar”.

    • #20
  21. user_966256 Member
    user_966256
    @BobThompson

    These cycles of societal behavioral sanctions are interesting to reflect on as one goes through life. At least one of my grandchildren is pushing me now to write my complete personal history (he calls it my auto-biography, but that seems kind of high-falutin to me), but I will have much to say about cycles like the cigarette smoking cycle since I have the actual experiences.

    Growing up in Georgia between 1930 and 1960 almost everyone would be exposed to and most would adopt the smoking habit. I started at 12 years old and stopping in the local grocery store (not supermarket) on the way to school, my buddies and I would have to decide between a couple of moon pies or a pack of cigarettes. Sometimes we would buy one and steal the other although most of us got over that quickly. In high school we had specific areas designated outside for the smokers. Most of us were those not very successful at sports so smoking was partially a substitute. Of course, the athletes as well as the rest of us were informed that the smoking would stunt your growth and shorten your breath. No mention then of lung cancer or emphysema.

    I quit in my mid-thirties at the behest of my children and I am thankful today for my reasonably good health. I have never begrudged others the pleasure of a smoke, I know even to this day that I would enjoy. But the effect on overall health is a negative for the individual to consider.

    • #21
  22. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

     I do tend to see people who still smoke as “just plain weak.”

    There is something to this. Anything can be done if there is sufficient motivation. Death certainly is sufficient, but only with the correct proximity, which is why it is not as effective with smoking. Of course, when it is proximate enough it is often too late.

    • #22
  23. Richard O'Shea Coolidge
    Richard O'Shea
    @RichardOShea

    About nicotine being addictive – I am told cigars have a lot more nicotine than cigarettes or pipes.  Yet, I can go months without a cigar, as I do almost every winter.  In the summer, sometimes I enjoy one or two a week.  During a poker game, I can smoke two or three in a night.

    Perhaps nicotine is addictive for some, but not for others?

    • #23
  24. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    Pipes and cigars are not addictive in the way cigarettes are because you don’t inhale pipe or cigar smoke. I’ve gone months before without either. No withdrawals or anything. And given the nature of my work, to die of tobacco use would mean I lived a relatively long life and survived worse perils.

    • #24
  25. user_966256 Member
    user_966256
    @BobThompson

    Perhaps nicotine is addictive for some, but not for others?

    I believe this to be true, especially for those who seem to use nicotine to relieve  stress that they are having difficulty handling.  I personally never seem to be stressed severely by my living and working conditions so I was able to quit smoking easily once I reached a stage where I had the will to do it. For me, smoking was enjoyable but not addictive. When I decided to quit, I had no after effects physically that I noticed.

    • #25
  26. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Smoking is more addictive to some than others. It’s also deadly for some but not for others. My great uncle smoked a pack a day for over 60 years and only had a smoker’s cough.

    Statistics relating cigarettes to lung cancer and such are heavily dependent on data from generations that grew up in a culture of indoor smoking. Though inhaling smoke is obviously unhealthy, the frequency just as obviously makes a difference. Inhaling smoke with every breath is different than inhaling it with every tenth breath. Smoking a pack a day is different than smoking half a pack per day. Though moderation in smoking can’t make it healthy, moderation can make smoking less unhealthy.

    And anti-smoking studies don’t account for other common particulates, like pollens and fumes, which might also have adverse effects on the lungs and be excessive in particular areas or particular occupations.

    In other words, it’s not difficult to believe that smoking is bad for your lungs, but the extent of those hazards is exaggerated by a lot of junk science.

    • #26
  27. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Aaron Miller:In other words, it’s not difficult to believe that smoking is bad for your lungs, but the extent of those hazards is exaggerated by a lot of junk science.

    And the biggest junk science is the impact of second-hand smoke.

    • #27
  28. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    They still sell Popeye brand candy “sticks”.  Same product as before, but no longer marketed as “cigarettes”.

    • #28
  29. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    Asquared:

    Aaron Miller:In other words, it’s not difficult to believe that smoking is bad for your lungs, but the extent of those hazards is exaggerated by a lot of junk science.

    And the biggest junk science is the impact of second-hand smoke.

    The second-hand smoke research is worthless, IMHO.  The only pieces that ever convinced me were infants, two-parents smoking, and bronchial irritation/infections.

    Interestingly, though, I am pretty convinced about new developments in smoking cessation and cancer.  The standard line, particularly with lung cancer, has always been, “Well, they’ve already got cancer, not going to take away their coping strategy”  or “The damage is already done, so why bother quitting.”  But new research shows that within 24 hours of quitting (even post-dx) improves breathing ability (less shortness of breath, labored/difficult breathing).   So, I’ve switched my attitude a bit on this over time.

    • #29
  30. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Most teenagers who smoke end up quitting fairly young. While I wasn’t one of them, it’s true for many other people I grew up with.

    I read somewhere nicotine is a very effective anti-depressant and that most teens are self medicating with cigarettes. which is why I didn’t care when 3 of 4 of my children smoked in their teens. Two have quit with no problem, the youngest still smokes and I couldn’t care less.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Mel Gibson’ spiral into madness began after he quit smoking.

    • #30
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