Josephine Baker in a vintage smoking ad
Many of us have tried smoking at least once. As I write this I can recall my first time smoking and it was also my last. I was twelve years old and in science class at a Chicago Public School on the West side. My friend came to me and flashed four cigarettes. “They are Virginia Slims” she said. “We can smoke them after school.”
Ah, Virginia Slims. I loved their proactive girl power advertisements which had a tremendous influence on my attitudes towards smoking. “YOU’ VE COME A LONG WAY BABY”. The ads made me want to smoke. Smoking carried essences of gender identity. My entry into the smoking culture was synonymous wuth being a feminist. I would be a bitch ass feminist in sexy clothes- a nonconformist, carefree, trail blazer. A woman’s role is to query, survive, and smoke!!!
That entire afternoon, I impatiently twitched at my school desk waiting for 3PM to arrive. When it did my gal pals and I walked several blocks from campus to an abandoned building. No one would see us here except for the dope fiends that lived there. I took my Viginia Slim and lit up. Okay, I did not feel like a woman. It was awkward holding it between my fingers.
“Why are they so skinny?” I asked.
My friends laughed. “They are for girls that is why they are called slims.” They mocked me by rolling their eyes. Clearly they were having a better time than I. I began to cough
PSA Anti-Smoking Campaign Ad
“It stinks” I said, taking it out of my mouth and throwing it down. Maybe I would like it some other time.
“You’re not even finished! You wasted it!” My friend was mad.
She was always ahead of me in every respect when it came to being what we thought at the time was a woman. She lost her virginity at nine, got her first period at ten. I was nearly thirteen and had experienced none of those things. “Sorry” I said. “I need to go home”
At home I was a total basket case and told my mother everything. She said I smelled like smoke and she had this premonition that I was up to “no good”. As usual she harassed me for being friends with “that girl”. Mother was not a smoker but her son was. She regretted ever letting him start and was obviously disappointed in me.
I promised never to do it again. I didn’t want to. Maybe I would try to be a woman by drinking Smirnoff (They had sexy ads with women in them also). I would never pick up another cigarette again.
I was living in New York City when the laws were passed banning smoking in public places. Gone were the days of a maître d’ asking “Smoking or Nonsmoking?”
I won’t lie to my readers. I was glad. The smell of cigarette smoke annoys me.
I would never think of cigarettes again until I moved into an apartment building filled with upwardly mobile gen-Xers. I walked off the elevator one night only to be accosted by one of my neighbors.
“Are you the one on the floor that smokes?” he asked.
“No.” I said. He looked pissed off-like veins popping from your forehead pissed off.
“Someone on this floor is smoking and I intend to put an end to it”
“I don’t think you can” I said. “There are no condo association rules saying that you cannot smoke in your apartment. It is their apartment”
My neighbor stomped off. What later ensued was a battle of fluorescent post it notes stuck on the door of the butt in question. The smokers ended up putting an electronic Glade air freshener in the hallway which unfortunately violated fire codes. They ended up moving four months later. Judging from my neighbor’s good mood, the exodus of the smokers was mentally satisfying.
I could not help but feel that the entire incident was blown out of proportion. You have the right to do what you want in the confines of your own home…Right?
The federal government is cracking down on smokers by raising taxes on cigarettes. That makes it pretty damn hard to smoke given the current economic crisis. Still cigarette sales have only dropped 25%. Though it is ironic that the smokers are indulging in an unhealthy habit and the government is collecting taxes from it to fund child healthcare.
Much has been made of President Obama’s urge to light up. Recently he was contacted by an Illinois man, a Democrat who worried about Obama’s health because he had lost his father to lung cancer.
Vintage Ad For Murad Cigarettes
April 21, 2009
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL Staff Reporter
It’s been 30 years since his dad died, and Michael Powers still misses him.
That’s why he wrote to President Obama urging him not to smoke so he could be there for his daughters…
Powers told Obama his dad, Benjamin, smoked three packs of cigarettes a day –and later died of lung, throat and bone cancer.
He enclosed a photo of his dad. It was returned in a sealed plastic bag with Obama’s reply, he said.
President Obama's Personal Hand Written Response To Michael Powers
Isn’t Obama’s smoking habit his business? As an archivist, I admit that I do cringe at the thought of Obama smoking in the White House. Former President Bill Clinton was the first to officially ban smoking in the White house. What if Obama decided to allow it again?
Afrocity is grappling here. I want to be fair.
Anyone who examines the history of smoking will see that it is a hot button issue which creates social and political tensions. My love for the constitution and protection of individual rights sends red flags when I am confronted with various news on anti-tobacco legislation. My primary fear is that the anti-smoking culture is restricting liberty and is in need of an exercise in the reality of free will and the freedom to choose. In our quest to create a smoke free environment are we sacrificing the rights of the individual?
Beneath the veneer of concern for the public good are anti-smoking activists going to far.
Take this story in the Boston Globe for example. Now landlords can advertise “smoke free apartment buildings”.
Landlords lead push to ban smoking at home
By Stephen Smith
Globe Staff / April 24, 2009
When apartment dwellers in Belmont, Calif., complained about cigarette fumes from down the hall, the City Council sprang into action on their behalf, outlawing smoking in apartments and condos and threatening to ticket violators.
When tobacco-control activists in Massachusetts embraced the same cause, they made a tactical decision that seemed surprisingly meek in a state long recognized for its prohibitions against harmful habits: They rejected the idea of governmental regulation.
It was one thing, they figured, for lawmakers to banish smoking from restaurants and bars. It was something else entirely to deploy city or state laws to prevent apartment tenants and condo owners from smoking in their own homes.
So, instead, they are leaving it to market forces, convinced that the supply side – landlords – will listen to the demand side – nonsmoking tenants – and adopt smoke-free rules.
It appears to be working.
“Now renting! Smoke-free apartment living” trumpets a banner billowing from a blocklong apartment house rising in the shadow of TD Banknorth Garden
It appears that Boston apartment dwellers are embracing this. My only question is what are the consequences? We are building these regulations on the foundation of public health and atop sentiments of disgust for all things tobacco ,but is it constitutional?
Stephen Helfer, who has fought on behalf of smokers’ rights for years, said there is nothing subtle about efforts that he argues will further marginalize the poor and the mentally ill, who smoke at rates higher than the state average.
“I think they’re trying to almost blackmail landlords into doing this,” said Helfer, who lives in a Cambridge condo where smoking is allowed. “The reason they are not trying to regulate it is because they feel they don’t have the political will right now. But make no mistake: They’re going after us in our homes.”
In many respects, the home represents the final frontier of tobacco control.
Is the right to smoke conceptually related to our civil liberties? The liberals seem to be the forerunners in the anti-smoking campaigns. Cigarettes are now over $9 in some areas. Please do not misunderstand. Yours truly, Afrocity is neither a smoker nor am I advocating smoking. I just know from experience that when it comes to the Democrats, raising taxes is habit forming and dangerous to our health. The same goes for restriction of our freedoms.
Autographed Letter Signed,