Some of my high school friends back in the 1940s used to kid me that I
never tried smoking because I had another vice: stuffing myself with sweets
from the Candy Kitchen my Dad operated. If there was truth to that, it was
minimal. Dad and Mom were almost paranoid about their four kids getting too
many sweets. We were rationed before World War II rationing put everything
from sugar to meat on the restricted list.
There was another reason I avoided the weed. The smell of a live cigarette
with smoke curling off the end, or of used butts on the ground, turns my
stomach. Still, I wasn't up to challenging the smokers around me. Today, I
kick myself for having been meekly considerate of smokers who, as they lit
up, would ask: "Do you mind if I smoke?" Unwilling to hurt their feelings
with honesty, I'd respond: "No problem. Go right ahead."
By choosing not to offend the real offender, I remained unhappily in the
midst of a cloud of smoke. That was before it was known cigarette smoke was
bad for health, especially as a carcinogen that breeds cancer. As I
unwillingly sucked up the second hand smoke, I wasn't aware of health
dangers. I just hated the stink, but kept quiet, as foolish folk still do
I wonder: when a non-smoker marries a smoker, how does the marriage
survive? My partner never smoked, and she had the guts to make her distaste
known. When our first son was an infant in 1963, we had a visit from our
parish priest, a good and considerate man. But he had been captured by the
tobacco industry's addiction strategy, and was an inveterate smoker
As he started to light up in our 3d floor apartment, Silvi said: "Please
don't smoke. It can be bad for the baby." Now we know it's bad for
In those more naive years, many were brainwashed by tobacco propaganda.
The marketing aimed at getting females to join male polluters made it seem
sophisticated and mature to clasp a smoldering"coffin nail" between one's
fingers. In high school, it was assumed by teenage smokers (not by those
gagging around them) that smoking signaled one had come of age.
In those pre-TV days, the subliminal pitch of movies and radio helped make
a cigarette cough acceptable. Humphrey Bogart, one of my idols, always had a
cigarette in hand. He died early, of throat cancer. Radio was less overt, but
just as influential in leading smokers to premature deaths. One of my
favorite shows was The Chesterfield Hour of Fred Waring music. It lasted
only 15 minutes, but long enough to make a subtle pitch for smoking. Its
theme song, repeated three times in a quarter hour, was: "Smoke rings, ohh,
smoke rings; while a Chesterfield burns."
Some hit songs had lyrics that made a dirty habit sound attractive: "A
cigarette, sweet music, and you; the perfect blend for dreaming for two."
Seems ironic that growers of tobacco, which kills so many, get government
subsidies, while hemp plants that produce marijuana are targeted by a drug
war. Are the purveyors of tobacco hurt by recent face-saving restrictions on
selling to underage kids? Far from it. They just move their marketing focus
overseas to infect children of other nations with cancer.
The tragedy continues as big tobacco bribes legislators with big money that
poses as "free speech." We'll finally emerge from the smoky cloud of
corporate propaganda when we make it illegal for anyone-- smoker or
nonsmoker to give money to political candidates who then are blackmailed
into dictating a polluting government policy.
lives in Eugene, Oregon. email@example.com