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Pepe Lepew On March - 27 - 2010

There’s been a big kerfuffle lately about cigarette smoking in Avatar. This issue has a long history.
Hollywood and cigarette smoking simply go hand in hand — more than you might ever imagine. It goes way, way beyond Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca.
Two massive industries grew up in lockstep in the early 20th century — advertising and cigarettes. They literally made one another. Cigarettes dominated the advertising market until the 1970s. Cigarettes could not have become the huge industry without advertising.
In 1900, according to “Cigarette Century” (A fascinating book; might be a bit dry for some folks), fewer than 10 percent of the population smoked cigars or pipes. Very, very few people smoked cigarettes. By 1940, 50 percent of men smoked, and by 1955, that number had grown to nearly 70 percent. Why? Advertising!
Advertising and Hollywood.

Watch any film from the 30s through the 50s. Cigarettes are as omnipresent as Fedoras, pulled punches and tan trenchcoats. They’re everywhere in hundreds of films. Hollywood bought into the idea that smoking was cool hook, line and sinker. And Hollywood helped teach several generations that smoking was cool and hip; and it did it for free. Not a nickel was paid to the studios for all that free advertising. What money the tobacco companies did spend were spent paying stars to promote cigarette brands.
Fast forward to the 1970s. The surgeon general had declared that smoking causes lung cancer, warnings were put on packs of cigarettes, cigarette advertising was banned on television. Newspapers stopped printing cigarette ads.
What did the tobacco companies resort to? There was one advertising niche they had yet to openly exploit.
Their old friend Hollywood.
Beginning in the late 1970s, cigarette companies began a stealth campaign right out of a Le Care spy novel to sneak cigarette smoking and cigarette branding into Hollywood movies. The first movie in which this was done? You not going to believe it.
Yup. A PG-rated kid’s movie, seen by millions of kids. Philip Morris actually paid the studio to have Margot Kidder smoke like a chimney throughout the movie. Lois Lane never actually smoked in the comic book. This was a PG movie, marketed toward children. It was absolutely amoral. They did it again, in Superman II, and they added a fight scene with a tractor-trailer with “Marlboro” prominently displayed.
Over the next 20 years, tobacco companies paid Hollywood huge sums of money to insert smoking and branding into movies. And they specifically targeted movies being marketed to kids. Philip Morris was budgeting $2 million a year for product placement payouts to Hollywood studios. More than 130 movies over a 10-year period had smoking and product placement of Philip Morris cigarettes. BAT claimed that its products were shown in more than 500 Hollywood productions during this time, and they were actually paying individual actors to smoke their products on-screen. And the tobacco companies specifically focused much of their efforts on PG, PG-13 and even G-rated movies. They were going after new smokers. They didn’t give a damn about R-rated movies.
And Hollywood went right along with it. As part of the “Cigarette Papers” case, much of the evidence came out in the 1990s of the sordid dealings between Hollywood and Big Tobacco — of the millions upon millions paid to studios for secret smoking advertising. As part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, Big Tobacco agreed that they would no longer pay movie studios for placement of their products.

And then a VERY weird thing happened. The amount of smoking shown in movies actually went UP after 1998. That’s right. UP. There were no longer millions of dollars in payments from Big Tobacco to Hollywood (Not as far as anyone knew, at least), but smoking scenes actually went up. In 2003-2004, 77 percent of PG-13, PG and G movies contained tobacco use.
What happened? Hollywood was still enamored with the archaic idea that cigarettes are hip and cool. This had nothing to do with cash payouts any longer. Hollywood just couldn’t quit cigarettes. They were hooked. They were stuck in the days of Bogart and Bergman.
In case you think this is a silly issue, remember, there is no more cigarette advertising on TV. There is very limited cigarette advertising in magazines anymore. Where is the biggest source of misinformation that smoking is cool and hip? Movies! An increasing number of studies started showing a direct cause and effect between “cool” smoking scenes in movies encouraging young teens to begin smoking. In some of these studies and surveys, kids said point-blank they started smoking because they wanted to be cool like some certain movie star.
Well, do-gooder busybodies like me started noting this bizarre situation and started pressuring, via letters, lobbying, etc., for the MPAA to start cracking down on the gratuitous smoking in PG and PG-13 films. Hollywood fought back, whining about “artistic freedom,” (Never mind the fact that any depiction of pot-smoking results in an automatic R rating). We started asking for an automatic R rating for inclusion of smoking scenes. Believe me, I have written dozens of letters to the MPAA. They have received tens of thousands similar letters.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a complete prude. I have no problem with smoking in R-rated movies. If you got ‘me, light ‘me. It’s the movies that are marketed to kids that drive me nuts when I see gratuitous smoking. I also am NOT in favor of fiddling with old movies to remove the smoking scenes (Some people in the smokers’ rights crowd have accused us do-gooders of wanting to do that. No one has ever seriously proposed that.). Smoking in movies from the 30s and 40s is all part of the historical context, which is fine with me. Sam Spade or Rick Blaine sucking on cigarette is as Americana as it gets.

I make the analogy of smoking to the F-bomb. There are very strict limits to using the F-bomb in PG-13 movies. You can use it once, in a non-sexual manner, and that’s it (OK, granted this is kind of a silly rule, but that’s what it is.). Studios know this. They know the rules, and they know how they want a movie marketed before the first day of principal photography, so they work around the rules. They do it with every movie. They don’t includes F-bombs if they want a PG-13 movie. If studios can avoid the F-bomb to keep the PG-13 rating, they can just as easily avoid pointless smoking scenes.
The MPAA compromised with the smoking guidelines, writing up a Byzantine set of rules that it takes a degree in law to follow. To sum up, smoking is still OK in PG and PG-13 movies if it’s set in historical context or if it’s not portrayed in a positive light. A movie like “Good Night and Good Luck,” is a good example. It takes place in the 1950s, when most people smoked like chimneys. (And seriously, I love that movie, but watching it actually makes my eyes feel gritty.). A movie like “Stranger than Fiction,” is another good example, in which a heavy smoker in the film wakes up every morning with a terrible smoker’s hack. These are both PG movies. Personally, I wanted stronger rules, but I’ll go along with this for the time being.

I’ll go along with it, because I think the rules will have a “chilling effect” of discouraging gratuitous and lazy smoking scenes in movies marketed to kids and teens. I’m a big believer in artistic freedom, believe me, I really am, but the “artistic freedom” argument from some Hollywood directors toward smoking is a bunch of bunk, in my opinion. First of all, 99 percent of the time, smoking scenes add absolutely nothing to the plot, nor to character development. They are simply an extremely lazy prop meant to convey “cool” or “rebellion” or some such nonsense. Leonardo Vicario is the best example of this. The guy is pushing 40, still looks 20, and smokes like a damn chimney in almost every movie he appears in because he apparently believes it makes him look tougher or more grown-up. I’ve never seen an actor rely so heavily upon a cigarette as a prop. Second of all, 90 to 95 percent of genuinely “artistic” movies (at least) are rated R anyway.
Remember, in the 1980s, Hollywood put out a bunch of teen movies depicting drug use and heavy drinking as just being part of wacky teen hijacks. Well, after MADD made a big stink about this (A lot bigger than us anti-tobacco types did), you don’t see drug use or heavy drinking in PG-13 movies anymore, at least not depicted in a positive light. Movies are a business as much, if not more, than art. If you want to make a movie with lots of booze and drugs, like “Superbad,” it’s going to be R-rated and you’re going to have to market it as an R movie.
Avatar got caught up in the middle of this MPAA change. One of the characters, Sigourney Weaver’s, was supposed to be a heavy smoker, but the MPAA changed its rules. Suddenly, they couldn’t include “pervasive” smoking scenes in Avatar and keep the PG-13 rating. If you pay attention in that movie, Weaver smokes some early in the movie, but midway through the film, she completely stops. They had to write all the smoking scenes out of the movie in mid-production or risk an R rating!
As an aside, if you haven’t seen it, I would recommend for an interesting take on smoking is “Constantine.” It is the most anti-smoking movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not a great flick (actually genuinely more scary than I thought it would be), but I love the subtle anti-smoking message in that movie. (Ironically, Constantine is R-rated, and a fairly hard R to boot.)
Another movie with a short, subtle anti-smoking scene is “Superman Returns.” In order to make amends for the beginning the era of cigarette product placement in movies, they added a little scene in which Superman keeps blowing out Lois’ lighter as she tries to light a cigarette. He looks at her lungs with his X-ray vision and tells her she has about 20 years left if she doesn’t stop smoking.

So, that is the sordid history of Hollywood and Big Tobacco. Hollywood has yet to kick the habit.
By the way, Humphrey Bogart died of esophagus cancer at the age of 57. Clark Gable died at 59 of a massive heart attack. Gary Cooper died at 60 of prostate and lung cancer. Audrey Hepburn died at 62 of cancer. Errol Flynn died at 50 of a massive heart attack.

135 Responses so far.

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  1. HITO says:

    “Oh Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon, we have the stars.”

    (And we may have lung cancer.)

    Bette Davis, Paul Henried, “Now Voyager”. Sharing smokes at the emotional end. Silly.


    Nice write Pepe. :-)

      • Khirad says:

        Seriously, that made me laugh far more than it could ever get me aroused.

        • Questinia says:

          She came up when I searched for “smoking” and “sexy” on YT. My point is that cigarette smoking is fetishistic. Fetishism and, in the case of the video, voyeurism. The cigarette as sexual implement and the act of smoking it, as tantamount to undressing, as masturbation. The fact that the video was five minutes long ensures the observer has time not to be noticed. She’s too involved with her “cigarette” and “adjustments” of undies.

      • kesmarn says:

        Lucky for her, no one ever taught her to inhale! πŸ˜†

    • PatsyT says:

      I have been thinking “Now Voyager”
      That is great on the big screen.

      • HITO says:

        Hi Patsy. Hope you are well.

        My mom raised me on Hollywood cinema. I memorized every Fred Astaire movie made. And Bette Davis, and Jimmy Cagney, Judy Garland…oh the list goes on. All in my head!

        When I saw Pepe’s cig post, first thing that came to mind was that goofy “Now Voyager”. I much more preferred Hal Wallis’s “The Bride Came COD” with Bette and Cagney. Very funny.

        Of course Davis’ best was “Of Human Bondage”. May have been her first. More powerful than the book, if imaginable.


  2. whatsthatsound says:

    Interesting, about Margot Kidder/Lois Lane. It jogged a memory of mine. I was just a kid when the movie came out, but reading this article I DO recall that I was a.) surprised, and b.) turned off, to see LL smoking all the time. I rationalized it as “she’s a reporter, they’re just trying to make her look like a tough journalist”, but little did I know!

    As an aside, it’s interesting how experiences, even interior ones, long stored away can resurface under the right circumstances. Thanks for the reminder, Pepe! And great article!

  3. Kalima says:

    My mother’s favourite, Cary Grant. I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about then, I must have grown up.

    I still smoke. I figure that after having to give up most of what I used to enjoy doing, smoking about one inch of a whole ciggie is keeping me sane. It used to drive my father-in-law crazy to see all the long discarded butts in an ashtray. Hubby tried the patch for about a month, it made him ill but it made me laugh to see the round thing stuck to his cheek every day. The first time I saw it, I laughed until I almost choked, thinking it was a slipped price tag.

    Just SMBM, just shut my big mouth. Have I lost fans? πŸ˜‰

  4. PatsyT says:

    I believe the GI’s were given Cigs. as part of their rations
    during most of the wars in this century.
    My dad was in WW2
    somewhere in Burma.
    Sometimes his food ran out
    but he always had cigarettes!
    My parents smoked Tareytons
    Ugh. . .
    It’ a wonder we survived !
    They didn’t.
    This little experiment proved that they could
    effectively SELL anything to America
    Even stuff that will kill you.

    Repubs figured this out and are using these techniques today
    Selling Sarah Palin amongst other garbage

  5. Questinia says:

    Cigarette smoke is a mutagenic primer. Couple that to charbroiled steaks and alcohol and you’re good to go.

    Basically, this has been the American diet for a long time.

    • PepeLepew says:

      Honestly, I don’t know the cancer trigger with red meat, but in the case of cigarette smoke, toxins in the smoke actually screw up the DNA within your cells, which then turn carcinogenic. It’s somewhat genetic. If you have a certain gene and you smoke, you have something like a 50 percent chance of getting lung cancer. If you don’t smoke, it’s something like 10 percent or less. If you don’t have the gene and never smoke, you will never get lung cancer. If you don’t have the gene and smoke, you will probably never get lung cancer, but you can still get COPD, screw up your heart and get other kinds of cancer like throat, oral, cervical, bladder and pancreatic.

      So one thing I tell kids when they smoke is that “you’re actually effing with your DNA.”

    • KQuark says:

      Hey two thirds of that is one of my favorite meals. πŸ˜‰

      • SueInCa says:

        Hey there KQ. I just published another in my series and I had alot of trouble working in the publish post area so I saved it in word, transferred it and tried to fix it up. Most changes worked, but it never would let me put spaces where I wanted but I went ahead and published it any way.

  6. javaz says:

    Questinia, you are a soulmate -- we are bad, and ain’t it great?

    I”m sorry to leave now right when you come on, but my husband is whipping out the guitars, and we are going to disrupt the neighborhood and play to our hearts content and as loudly as we can!

    Not easy to do when playing acoustic, but we give it our best shot.

    Have a good night all.

  7. javaz says:

    And I’d like to point out one more thing before I read AdLib’s post, is that to be fair, Audrey Hepburn did not die from smoking.
    She died from colon cancer.

    John Wayne was also a heavy smoker and drinker, and he did not die from smoking, but from working on a film in Nevada back in the days when they did them atomic tests, and he wasn’t the only person on that film that contracted cancer and died from radiation.

    Not to excuse smoking, but one of the oldest people on record was a little old lady in France who always drank two glasses of red wine per day with a cigarette or two, and they took away her wine and cigarettes, and then she died within months.

    It’s a genetic thing pretty much.

    Lung cancer kills more women today than ever before, and non-smokers.

    Women who have never smoked a cigarette ever in their lives are dying from lung cancer.

    I could go find the proof for that, but it was just reported not that long ago.

    My father died of cancer as did the majority in his family.
    Every single woman on my father’s side, and they are not nor have ever been smokers, get breast cancer, and it’s still happening today to my cousins.

    Heck, I’ve even lost 2 male cousins on my father’s side to breast cancer and they were not smokers.

    On my mother’s side, they all die from heart attacks.

    My goal is to hit 70 years old as that would be for me to outlive my parents.

    My parents never drank alcohol nor did they smoke, yet my dad died at 66 and my mom at 69 from a massive heart attack, and then we just lost one of my brothers and he was 62.

    My oldest brother has cancer and he’s 67, and then that leaves another brother and me, and if I can hit 70, I’ll be happy.

    It’s just not in our genes to live long.


    That sounds sad, doesn’t it?

    It’s not because I am living life for all it’s worth, but I’m still trying to quit smoking!


    • PepeLepew says:

      Susan Hayward died of cancer and was working on that same movie as John Wayne.

    • kesmarn says:

      I think genes do have something to do with it.

      My grandmother didn’t start smoking until she was over 40.
      She had a heart attack at 50.

      And lived the next 37 years on a diet of Pepsi, hot dogs and cigarettes! Was still pretty sharp at 87.

      All four of her children had heart attacks in their 50’s. Only one made it past 70.

      Who knows what was going on there….

      • javaz says:

        My grandparents, well, only one of them made it close to 80, and that was my maternal grandma, and I really do not know what killed her, because I was so young.

        But she’d been very sick and lost her sight, and had to be placed in a home and those are very sad memories for me because homes back in that day were horrible.

        Diabetes also runs in my family, but I actually took control of that, and am not considered a diabetic any longer as I changed my diet, got real serious about exercise, and lost weight, whereby my brothers are diabetic and on insulin.

        I was diagnosed as diabetic roughly 7 years ago, but another thing that runs in my family is thyroid, and we’re all on thyroid meds.

        The brother that died last December actually had thyroid cancer, and they removed his thyroid and salivary glands, but that was back when he was in his early 30’s.

        That brother died from heart failure and I won’t go into the details, but I want to go that way, if I could have a choice.

        He died in his home, in his bed with his cats by his side and in his sleep.

        Man, this is depressing talking about this, but it’s a fact of life for my family.

        I am vowing to be the one that is the last one standing!!!!

        And having one hell of a good time all the way.

        Oops, want to add that I really cannot drink alcohol because I am so close to being a diabetic, and when I do drink, it really messes me up mentally and physically.


        It’s not my fault that I’m crazy!


        Yeah, yeah it is my fault, but what the heck -- what’s life without a beer or cigarette once in awhile?


  8. Khirad says:

    I must say I’ve been corrected on some of my preconceived notions, as portrayed in the South Park episode “Butt Out”.

    These are all common sense, and not unreasonable or draconian to artistic freedom (and realism) in any way.


  9. Questinia says:

    They smoked in old movies, on old game shows, on old talk shows, news programs…

    But, oddly they didn’t really on TV shows. And “Bewitched”‘s Darren was in advertising, by cripey!

    Although, I recall watching old “I Love Lucy” reruns and seeing Lucy taking up a cigarette from a box on the table when she knew she was in Ricky’s cross hairs.

    • KQuark says:

      Edward R. Murrow use to smoke like a chimney doing the evening news. Ah if we just had newspeople like him again in the MSM.

    • escribacat says:

      I am addicted to a contemporary Scottish TV show right now called Hamish MacBeth (I LOVE this show — kind of a Scottish Northern Exposure). Hamish is constantly puffing away, even after he hiked up to the summit of a mountain.

      • Khirad says:

        I remember going hiking up a trail with an asthmatic who said he “needed” to smoke, He never smoked otherwise.

        I still don’t get that.

        By the way, I have to watch this show! I haven’t been the same without Monarch of the Glen.

      • KQuark says:

        Love that show. Good point though. You would practically have to ban BBC America if you censored smoking in shows. AbFab, Black Books, Father Ted etc… all had characters that smoked like chimneys.

        This scene in particular would get a “XXX” rating even if the F-bomb is bleeped out.

        • Khirad says:

          i’m not sure kids should be watchingAbFab anyway -- although, in this context, the smoking and everything else isn’t exactly glamorous. If anything, they are examples (hilarious at that) of what not to do!

        • javaz says:

          ABFab is one of our absolutely favorite shows!

          LMAO -- I laugh just thinking about that show and Patsy and what was the other woman’s name?

          And do you recall the episode where they went to some ville in France and thought they were snorting coke and then Patsy got detained at the airport and it ended up that the coke was powder?

          That was the best show.

      • javaz says:

        E’cat! I love Hamish MacBeth! Have seen them all.

        If you like that, have you ever seen the Monarch of the Glen?

        That be a good show and beautiful scenery.

        Oh, and now that we’re off topic for a bit, is tonight the night that we turn all our lights off for an hour while NOT smoking?


    • kesmarn says:

      A little nicotine can go a long way, when you got some ‘splainin’ to do.

      • javaz says:

        You know what makes me so irritated by I Love Lucy, and I do love Lucy, but it was when Ricky would spank Lucy.

        A little domestic abuse anyone?

        Since when did domestic abuse become funny?
        Slapping the little woman or spanking her was the way to tame her?

        Kiss Me Kate is another one, as is The Quiet Man -- we’ve come a long way in that bs, and while smoking!


        • Questinia says:

          I married my husband because he spanked me πŸ˜‰

            • Questinia says:

              TMI or TLI ? πŸ˜‰

            • Questinia says:

              Every castle needs an egress of some kind.

              It was all Adlib.

            • javaz says:

              Questinia, you are one naughty, naughty person, like how you came on last night during Vox Populi and you got them all started about mesc and absinthe, and I respect that quality.


            • Khirad says:

              Try this one, javaz. It doesn’t work here with our thoughtful authors, but it definitely fits for spammed rants on ‘other site’:


            • Questinia says:

              + Too Little Information! :)

            • javaz says:

              I had to google TLI and here’s what I found --

              TLI Transport Level Interface
              TLI Transport Layer Interface
              TLI Trans-Lunar Injection
              TLI The Logistics Institute
              TLI Total Lymphoid Irradiation
              TLI Tucker-Lewis Index
              TLI Texas Learning Index (student assessment)
              TLI Taipei Language Institute
              TLI Technology Leadership Institute
              TLI The Lonely Island (comedy team)
              TLI Tank Level Indicator
              TLI The Learning Institute
              TLI The Laurasian Institution
              TLI TCT Logistics Inc

              Is that what you meant?

        • kesmarn says:

          A little kinky, too, j’avaz…for a family show? πŸ˜†

          That “taming” notion goes all the way back to “Taming of the Shrew” and Billy Shakespeare, doesn’t it?…an era when wives called their husbands “sire” and “my lord.” Ewwwwwwwwww.

          On second thought, I’m sure it started way before that!

  10. javaz says:

    Oh gosh, may I say as a smoker that all of you are making me feel lower than low and ask you all to keep it up!

    Never thought of smoking as a character flaw but I guess it is in that it is a weakness in knowing it’s not only a very expensive and gross, smelly, stinky, dirty habit, but it’s very unhealthy.

    I would just like to say that I’ve been working on quitting and I’m down to 10 ciggies per day from a pack and half habit since Pepe’s first article that shamed me.

    My goal is to get down to one per day because imo, there’s nothing like the first mug of coffee every morning with a cigarette.

    If I can do that, and I will, I will thank you all!

    In fact, I thank you now for my cutting back as much as I have.

    Thank you!

    • escribacat says:

      javaz, I remember feeling that way — I could not imagine that first cup of coffee without a cigarette. Also, driving, talking on the phone, having a beer, when I’m happy, when I’m upset…etc. As it turned out, I can get along just fine doing all those things without the cigarette. It was an illusion! But…a very powerful illusion. It was difficult escaping from that but I found my way out somehow and still congratulate myself on that feat even 20 years later.

      I used pride and ego to my advantage during that process. I started going to the gym and really wanted to get up to level 10 on the Stairmaster. I KNEW I couldn’t do it if I was still smoking. Also, there was a woman at work that had pissed me off somehow or other (can’t remember why). I didn’t respect her. But she had quit smoking and I remember telling myself over and over: If that stupid so-and-so can quit smoking, damnit, so can I. I think we can each find that special mental “trick” that works for us. In my case, pride and ego.

      • Khirad says:

        Oh my lord, I have to admit, the alcohol one would be the hardest for me. As it is, I’m around where javaz is, always under half a pack a day, around 5-8.

        It’s funny that even I can be judgmental with other smokers. I hear of some smoking 2-3 packs and I can’t imagine it! 😯

        • javaz says:

          I know about the judgmental thing, too, Khirad when it comes to smokers that have to smoke in public!

          How hypocritical of me, but we have friends that we used to dine out with, and his wife is something whereby she believes that smoking is her God-given right.

          The last time we dined out with them, and it was years ago because I’m on her shitlist now for that night, but it was winter in AZ, and cold and we had eaten dinner and when we were done, she asked me if I wanted to go outside and have a smoke with her, and I declined.

          I just do not smoke ever in public, so she went out by herself, and then she came back so angry because people were waving their hands back and forth over their faces and giving her the EVIL eye, and she got mad at me because I didn’t go outside with her, and she knows I smoke.

          You know it’s a weird thing, because I have no problem with not smoking when in public or after eating when in public, or when we drive in our vehicles or visit people.

          I only smoke at home or when we camp, I’ll smoke because most times people have campfires and most times while camping folks are drinking and smoking.

          We have to quit, Khirad.

          Maybe we could start something here on PPOV whereby we tell our struggles and share in our pride.

          • kesmarn says:

            That woman really sounds like a bully, j’avaz. First she tries to bully you into freezing your butt off, in order to hold the one hand she has without a cigarette in it. Then she wants to dictate the way the entire rest of the U.S. population reacts to her smoking. (They’re not allowed to NOT like it!) Then she tops it off by getting in a snit with YOU because she didn’t like the reaction that SHE produced in others!

            I suspect you’re much better off without that “lovely” woman in your life.

        • PepeLepew says:

          My dad smoked *4 packs* a day.

          • escribacat says:

            Holy shit. That is a lot of cigarettes.

            • PepeLepew says:

              80 a day.
              560 a week.
              29,000 a year.
              I estimate close to 1 million over the course of his life.

            • PepeLepew says:

              Yeah, about $45 to $50 a carton, depending on what state you live in.

              My mum smokes 1 1/2 packs a day at $9 a pack in Canada, so that’s about $5,000 a year she spends on cigarettes.

            • kesmarn says:

              Wow. Just think of the financial consequences alone (needless to say, the least of it all)! Imagine at today’s prices…aren’t cigarettes about $50/carton now?

        • Chernynkaya says:

          I accidentally quit smoking several years ago--ten?, fifteen? Anyway, I was taking an antidepressant called Wellbutrin. After a couple/few months, I noticed that whenever I lit up, I didn’t enjoy it. But I kept smoking and putting out the cigs after a couple of puffs. After a while, it finally dawned on me that I didn’t want to smoke anymore and that was that. Turns out, Wellbutrin is the same as Zyban. To this day, I think my GP did that on purpose, but if he had told me, it might not have worked. Besides, I was only mildly depressed.

          • Khirad says:

            Yup, I’ve been on Wellbutrin, I know exactly of what you speak, and yes, I found out the same re: Zyban.

            Might have been the case. Don’t know if you remember the dosage, but mine was pretty high, and generally Wellbutrin (according to my psychiatrist) was what he reserved for cases like me after other milder therapy and medication had not worked.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              I don’t remember, Khirad, but it was before the timed release dose was available. Since he wasn’t a psychiatrist I don’t think he gave me a high dosage as he always prescribes me the minimum of anything. And I think it was even before Zyban came out, but I could be wrong.

    • kesmarn says:

      j’avaz, God luv ya! That’s wonderful news that you’ve gone from a pack and a half to 10 cigs a day. You shouldn’t feel shamed. You should feel PROUD!!!

      πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

    • KQuark says:

      I’m sorry I should get off my high horse and not be so judgmental.

      I should be more sensitive on how tough it is to quit.

      • PepeLepew says:

        Javaz is right. It’s supposedly more physically addictive than heroin.

        • kesmarn says:

          Yes, Pepe. I’ve had patients who were addicted to both, and they said quitting heroin was easier than giving up cigarettes.

          • KQuark says:

            At least with heroin there is actually a drug that breaks the chemical dependence, no?

            • javaz says:

              I’ve actually known heroin addicts but years after they were clean and sober and successful people in society and they did it cold turkey.

              It’s like with any addiction, well, except for smoking because that is a different thing -- but people who quit drinking or quit doing drugs they must stop being friends with fellow addicts.

              They have to change their life style and that means for them to stop hanging out with people that have the same addictions and that’s a hard for them, because they have to walk away from friends, good friends, that they’ve known for years.

              But to get clean, they have to walk away.

              Smoking isn’t like that, because it’s not like everyone in your circle of friends are smokers.

              It’s hard to explain.

            • kesmarn says:

              Methadone helps, KQ, but in a way, that’s more of a transfer of addictions than an actual cure. I mean it’s not like you can easily get off the methadone, then.

              The most dangerous addiction is alcohol, though, as far as getting off of it. People can die. They have to be eased off with IV Ativan to prevent DTs and seizures, and their vital signs have to be monitored. It’s kind of risky for serious, long-term alcoholics to try to go cold turkey by themselves. You need help with that one.

              Unfortunately, I’ve seen alcoholics get addicted to Ativan, then! Argh!

    • PepeLepew says:

      I’m not trying to shame you! Honest! :)
      And it’s not a character flaw!

      • KQuark says:

        Now my insensitivity. That’s a character flaw.

        • javaz says:

          Don’t apologize, KQ, for being down on smoking.

          It’s a good thing to be down on smoking.

          I quit once, after years and years of trying to quit, but I actually quit one time for an entire year.

          Heck, I cannot even believe that I did that, and for some reason my head during that year was in the right place and it was an easy thing to do.

          I think it’s more of a habit than an addiction, and don’t get me started on the gum and drugs that the Big Pharma try to help people quit, because well, just like wanting to lose weight, it’s all a money-making scheme for them.

          Smokers need to be shamed, they truly do, and I say that as a smoker.

          Oh, and btw, when I quit for that year, it was cold turkey, whereby now I’m weaning myself off, but I must say after following this conversation, I’m mightily tempted to go cold turkey again.

          No apologies for telling the truth, KQ!

          • KQuark says:

            It was not right for me to call it a character flaw since I’ve had no experience with smoking. To put it in context I don’t think it makes anyone a bad person to have character flaws, Lord knows I have my share. I think it’s just part of being human.

      • javaz says:

        Shaming is a good thing when it comes to smoking, Pepe!

        I have changed my smoking habits so much over the years as our society went from smoking everywhere -- do you remember when you could smoke in grocery stores or during college classes?

        I never smoke in our vehicles or in public, as there is such a stigma now on smokers, and I think it’s a good thing because it’s better for everyone, but especially the smoker.

        In defense of smokers though -- people who have been addicted to heroin say that quitting smoking is harder.

        I’m going to stop, except for one per day, and who knows, maybe I’ll even stop that, but I’ve been following the steps to stop, because it is a real addiction and I’ve set the goals for myself with an end date.

        Every month, I cut back on one!

        I’ve been smoking since 14 years old and well, it’s a hard habit to break, but I am getting there!

        So, keep it up, seriously, keep on telling the truth about smoking!

  11. Chernynkaya says:

    Pepe, I always really enjoy reading your posts! You have a natural talent that is so plain-spoken and clear. And at the same time just interesting.


    • KQuark says:

      I guess that’s why my ears perked up when I hear people promote more restrictions. Frankly I think since the conservative movement has engulfed this county we have already go too far with censorship. What drives me nuts is the only thing off limits is limiting violence in movies any further. Since violence is a money maker rules restricting violence, especially gun play has been relaxed in recent years.

      • PepeLepew says:

        That’s because the studios have applied constant and never-ending pressure on the MPAA to relax the ratings for violence because, let’s face it, violence sells. There’s been a dramatic “violence creep” in PG-13 movies the last several years because the MPAA keeps letting just a little bit more go with each movie.

        One time I actually got angry over a violence rating was “Beowulf.” It was rated PG-13 and one of the most violent movies I had ever seen. And I took a 7-year-old to it. I saw kids hiding under their coats in that movie. That movie didn’t freak her out as much as it freaked dad out, but I was still annoyed. No way that movie should have been PG-13, I don’t care if it was essentially a cartoon.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          I made the mistake of taking a couple of five year old boys to see ET. Sounds safe, right? Know what freaked them out? When the little sister screams the first time she sees ET in the closet! The sudden, loud noise was what did it, and they sat on my lap for the rest of the movie.

          About Beowulf though, doesn’t that mean no one under 13 allowed?

          • escribacat says:


            • PepeLepew says:

              Try a PG-13 movie that shows peoples getting torn in half and close-ups of their guts and intestines and their heads getting bitten off.

          • PepeLepew says:

            No, it’s just an advisory, nothing more. It’s just telling parents there is some adult content. Kids under 13 can go to a PG-13 movie without their parents.

            Kids under 17 are allowed in an R movie, they just have to be accompanied by an adult. Kids under 17 supposedly can’t rent an R movie without their parents’ consent, either.

  12. escribacat says:

    Great post, Pepe. I’m one of those ex-smokers who started at age 13 just to be cool. I quit many years ago and it was very difficult. I have a theory about why I smoked — it seemed to numb my emotions. When I quit, I remember feeling “skinless” and an emotional basketcase for quite some time. Now I can’t stand the smell of smoke — to the point where I am very uncomfortable in a room if someone is smoking.

    The X-Files is a TV program that did a very good job at making a case against smoking, with their character Cancer Man. I recall one episode where Cancer Man (I think) was smoking through his tracheotomy. Gak! I don’t know how any one could start smoking after watching that.

    Like you said, the thing that really bothers me about the advertising is they aim it at youngsters, who are the vast majority of people who actually START smoking. They are the most vulnerable to the need to be cool, and they are the most vulnerable to advertising. It’s really low. And the fact that Hollywood would go along with this is despicable.

    • kesmarn says:

      e’cat, that’s interesting that you felt more emotionally vulnerable when you quit smoking. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I suppose I did, too. Especially during stressful times, it seemed to be something of a calming ritual to light up. And after dinner, with a cup of coffee, a cigarette just seemed to “go with” the scenario.

      I think I started smoking for similar reasons, in my teens. I was small and short and looked like a little kid, so I think that I subconsciously thought people would treat me as an adult if I had a cigarette in my hand. It didn’t help that both parents smoked. Ironically, my dad bought me my first packs of cigarettes because I wasn’t legally old enough. He also let us drink alcohol at home once we turned 16…even bourbon! Interestingly, I rarely have a glass of wine or beer now (despite all the jokes on Vox Pop!) and don’t smoke. So maybe there’s a small case to be made for eliminating the forbidden fruit aspect of smoking and drinking. (I didn’t want to try that experiment with my own kids though. We just didn’t have alcohol or tobacco in the house…except for a bottle of wine or some beer on holidays.)

      I know it’s a cliche, but if kids could see what I see in the hospital, I would hope they’d run a mile from a Camel (cigarette).

  13. KQuark says:

    The real ridiculousness of rating movies “R” where they smoke is what do you do with old movies? So now all the classics are now “R” rated because they contain so much smoking. You might as well shut down AMC, TCM and FMC.

    To me that would be like banning books.

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