Yes, the accompanying advertisement was actually published in The Gateway, but that was back in 1977 when the tobacco companies were still allowed to promote their products in print and on the air.
Since cigarette ads can no longer be disseminated amongst an audience that potentially includes minors, I am going to do a little marketing work pro bono as it were. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds can’t publicly persuade you to smoke, but I can.
Our generation, that is to say Y, has been inoculated against smoking as a ritual. This is the result of a soft paternalist crusade against a “filthy habit.” The health detriments of inhaling tobacco smoke, once fully understood became fuel for a hysteria of anti-smoking legislation. It really is indistinguishable from the absurdly reactionary Temperance movement of the early 20th century. But the facts are smoking is untiringly sexy, often energizing and sometimes social. Benefits of the habit aside, it’s simply beyond the competency of the state to decide what one puts in one’s own mouth, and no government apparatus should try.
Picture, if you can, an archetypal sex symbol. Now that you’ve go Brigitte Bardot or James Dea swimming around in the soup of your imagination, toggle the optics and zoom in on their hand. I daresay you’ve caught them wreathed in grey-blue smoke-visually apprehended in this supposedly vile act. Truth be told, burning tobacco and breathing in the fumes will never lose its sex appeal no matter how much we discover about its propensity to kill you. That’s because it is precisely this element of danger that makes a cigarette the perfect prop when cultivating an image of pure eroticism.
Not in spite of, but because of its addictive nature, nicotine can serve as a tremendous propellant. It’s the little glowing friend that never lets you down (until it kills you). Nothing immediately sharpens the mind or causes that brief moment of clarity like the pioneering drag off a fresh square. There is something so focusing about the act and the stamina it lends. To be sure, it’s a debt that will someday have to be repaid, but until death comes calling, profiting from the buzz is nothing to be ashamed of. And while smoking is a useful way for anyone to measure out the day in short bursts of energy, it is especially potent for those in the creative arts. In fact, I don’t trust a writer who doesn’t smoke.
Hacking darts inducts you into a sort of club that has its social benefits. Asking for a light, standing out in the cold, passing around the incandescent end of the last vicinal cigarette; these are all rituals that breed solidarity. You meet new people, are exposed to new circumstances, indeed there are entire conversations that never would have occurred had you not joined the ranks of this rapidly disappearing sub-culture.
The smoker is almost extinct as a species and the prohibition of cigarette advertising deserves a king’s share of the credit. We know it’s a horrible thing to do to the body, we know it pollutes the virgin air of those around us, but it has its perks. Seeing as the companies themselves aren’t allowed to tell you what those are by putting the Marlboro Man in this week’s paper, I felt compelled to do it myself.