Cigarette Ads -- From Sophisticated to Sad

It's been quite some time since cigarettes have been advertised as sophisticated and status-y, though, when I was growing up in the '60s and early '70s, smoking ads were as ubiquitous as well, commercials for Optimum.

In those days the cancer sticks, as they were sometimes called, were allowed to be advertised on TV and smokers were everywhere, in the movies, TV shows, on magazine covers (remember magazines?).

But over time, the ads have either disappeared, or changed.  At first I was fascinated by the woman who lost her fingers and toes to smoking, or the one who was bedridden after a stroke and had to be cared for, for everything, by her preteen son, or the man, hawking up his lungs in the mirror.

But they're even more hard-core today.  I can barely watch the young man in bed who's had a stroke and lies motionless and barely breathing in a bed, his tormented eyes seeming, to me at least, to be beseeching the camera to let him die, now, or the gaunt man in the wheelchair, curled over and having to take a breath between each word.

They're hard to watch, or forget, which -- I guess -- is the point. They seem longer, too.  And those ghastly words at the end of each commercial about how dying from smoking is never painless and always too long.

My mom started smoking at 11.  It was done, in those days.  When I was a kid, my favorite cousin stole cigarettes from her mom's purse at about the same age and smoked them behind the garage, fanning the smoke away, like a conductor in a fast and furious piece.

Everyone's been talking lately about the 50th anniversary of the 1964 surgeon general's report linking smoking to lung cancer.  It's true, many lives have been saved but many continue to smoke, even though they've been ostracized at restaurants, workplaces and social gatherings. (Though I have to admit it hasn't been fun walking through the thicket of smoke outside buildings, it does seem a little unfair that smokers in many places now have to stand in a kind of no-man's land far from the restaurant or business.)

I never had the desire to smoke -- maybe because growing up with it in the house all the time, driving anywhere, eating dinner with it, and walking around smelling like I was the one doing it, turned me off.

I write for a restaurant blog and now the furor's all about the new e-cigarettes, which give off an odorless vapor, with only the smoker getting the hit of nicotene.  Not sure where I stand on that one.  I believe in people's freedom to do about anything but the thought of someone puffing -- or "vaping" -- away at the next table is just not something I want to see.  So sue me.


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