February 14, 2010
Well, there was a public service announcement before the movie sponsored by "Truth", the coalition that wants to make sure the public is aware of the dangers of smoking. When I saw this PSA I turned to Brian and said, "Well, there'll be incidental smoking in this movie." (On movies that are rated PG-13 and lower, the term "incidental smoking" is now placed amongst the other warnings like violence, nudity, etc.).
Seriously? How is it that I, along with probably 75% of my peers, grew up in households where at least one parent smoked, and 30 years later one is treated like a pariah for the same habit?
Don't get me wrong - I am an ex-smoker with 7 1/2 years of "sobriety". I am extremely glad I quit, for several reasons: financial, Brian despises it, cosmetic reasons - oh, and my health, too (it's just that when you're 35 your health probably isn't the first reason you're going to quit, and it wasn't). I've gotten so used to clean air that when I do smell a cigarette it actually makes me a little nauseous.
On the other hand, when I was in the habit, I really loved smoking. I still look back fondly at those smokey fun times at the bars, when everyone smoked so no one really had a problem with it. The whole ritual of smoking - the brand choice; the accoutrements like fun lighters and matches; the "hipness" of drinking espresso and smoking a pack with your friends while discussing existentialism; these are all things I will miss. And because a large part of my artwork that I do involves poring through old magazines, I miss the world where cigarettes reigned supreme, even if I never lived in that world.
I guess I miss the time when people could smoke without feeling like criminals. It seems like such a simpler time, when the world was blissfully unaware of the dangers of smoking - lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, low birth weight, emphysema, COPD - a time when "3 out of 4 doctors agree - Camels are the mildest cigarette for your T-Zone!". And deep in my heart, I know that beginning smoking as a habit was one of the stupidest things I've ever done. It doesn't make you cool. It doesn't make you a rebel. I figure I wasted close to $15,000 on my stupid habit. When I think about what I could've done with that money, it makes me sick. But live and learn, as they say.
Starting on July 5, the state of Wisconsin will be completely smoke-free in all public venues, including all bars and taverns. This is actually a good thing, because the playing field will be leveled. Right now, Fond du Lac (where I live) is smoke-free, but the tiny outlying towns aren't so the bars in Fond du Lac are losing tons of money to these little out-of-the-way places where you can still smoke (and I can't imagine the blue cloud hanging over the patrons' heads!). That's not fair to Fond du Lac bar owners. I will say, though, that we stopped going out to the bars specifically because the smoke was so heavy and one's clothes reeked so badly upon leaving that it just wasn't worth it anymore.
The irony of this whole conversation is that, even though the act is becoming illegal everywhere, there will never be a Prohibition-type ban on cigarettes. The tobacco lobbyists are so active, especially in states like the Carolinas and Virginia where the crops bring in so much money, that it would be political suicide for anyone in Congress to even consider making cigarettes illegal in a 'drug' sense.
So where does that leave us? Well, I don't know. Here in the States, it's such a divisive issue. I can certainly see both sides' points, seeing as I've been on both sides of the fence. If I had to choose, I guess I'd say "live and let live". I certainly don't think any less of people who smoke, and it is still a legal product. How about this for a metaphor: If I offer to drive somewhere, you're more than welcome to smoke in my car.
*Artwork above by me*