If We Oppose Tobacco Use, We Should Advertise and Teach Its Non-Use

Posted by By at 6 March, at 11 : 24 AM Print

I lost two games of pool Sunday evening – the first games I’d lost in about 30 years. Maybe longer.

Of course, I hadn’t played pool in about 30 years. Maybe longer.

I had accompanied my son to the pool hall, where he is a regular competitor. I don’t know whether he’s ready for Las Vegas, but he’s pretty good. I am a good photographer, so I got several nice shots of him – through a low haze. There were a few guys and gals in the place who didn’t smoke. At least not directly.

I was raised with a father who smoked, mostly Phillip Morris. And a grandfather who smoked two packs of Tareytons a day. I swiped a pack from Dad’s stock when I was about 12 or 13, and lit up behind the well pump. I tried another time or two down in the woods behind Roosevelt Grammar School, the two-room schoolhouse from which I graduated eighth grade. My foray into cigarette smoking was cut short when I decided what I didn’t want to learn from the bigger kids was how to inhale without coughing myself green.

In the Navy, I smoked pipe and cigar for many years. Pipe and cigar smokers don’t generally inhale. I thought it made me look more distinguished, too – or at least older.

Then I started chewing, because where I worked, the computer nerds got upset about smoke getting inside their hard drives – which in those days were not sealed units. Also, I have always liked being in the woods, and chewing was a way to have my tobacco and not burn down the forest.

Later, I switched to dipping snuff, mostly because it was more convenient, didn’t make me spit as much, and didn’t attract the attention of people like my wife who enjoyed the smell of a pipe but didn’t like what was required to make it smell that way.

I enjoyed using tobacco, and I never considered myself addicted.

Well, there was that time, about 3 a.m., when I drove 15 miles to a 7-Eleven for a can of Copenhagen.

Mark Twain observed, “Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times.”

I did, too.

Then I met the woman who would become my second wife. (The first one had died, from a genetically induced cancer, when we’d been wed nearly 30 years.) Wife #2 was a nurse, and she didn’t like tobacco. One day, after we had been dating a couple months, I decided I’d rather hang out with her than with tobacco and threw away an almost new can of Copenhagen. I have not used tobacco since. I’m not bragging; just saying …

It’s been about a decade since I tossed that can, and I still sometimes find myself wanting some fresh Cope.

None of the foregoing probably would have been noteworthy except for a judge’s ruling last week, halting, at least temporarily, an effort by the Food and Drug Administration to force the tobacco industry to show people just how bad for them their habit can be. The FDA said the companies should put pictures of smoke-blackened lungs and autopsied cadavers on cigarette packs. The judge said that’s a violation of free speech.

It’s not like tobacco users have not heard all the stories. Tex Williams sang “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” to the top of the country charts in 1947, complaining of the ill effects when “you’ve gotta have another cigarette.”

Jerry Reed, another country music singer, graphically depicted the trials of “Another Puff,” in 1972.

Surgeons General since the early 20th Century have been promoting awareness of the health hazards of nicotine and the tars that accompany smoking.

And we now know, from the lawsuits that eventually gave states more money to spend on stuff, including, in small part, smoking hazard awareness, that the tobacco companies did what they could to promote their product. They had Fred and Wilma Flintstone and other children’s cartoon characters show how cool smoking was, and they increased the nicotine dosage to increase addiction – and sales.

There are bad days in store for tobacco users.

But forcing a legal enterprise to plaster its product with gory pictures showing why customers should not buy the product is a little like Mom telling her sometimes wayward offspring to go out and cut her a willow switch – which she then would apply to the posterior region of the aforementioned miscreant. I knew better than tell her to cut her own switch, but I thought it.

Telling a legally profitable industry to actively try to discourage customers from buying its product is a little silly.

If we taxpayers want to advertise how bad cigarettes are for our youth and other living creatures, we should cut our own switch from the money we get from tobacco companies, and run our own advertising campaign.

Photo by unebicycletteorange
This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at john@JohnMesseder.com - Email jmesseder

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