Now thirdhand smoke rated R
It all started with the airlines, which were terrified that banning in-flight smoking would lead to a smokers revolution, so they introduced the ban only on very short flights, then held their hands over their ears waiting for the explosion of public reaction.At that moment, though no one knew it then, the future of the national attitude about smoking hung in a delicate balance. To everyone’s astonishment, absolutely nothing happened. Smokers sucked it up and, sitting in their cramped seats, struggled to open their packets of nicotine patches. The airlines quickly escalated their nonsmoking regulations to all flights and then to the entirety of the airports themselves.The line was drawn: There would be no coexistence with smokers in our brave new world of zero tolerance.In the feeding frenzy of lawsuits against the tobacco companies, the spoils of which have funded such enterprises as the construction of more prisons rather than helping lung patients, the issue of secondhand smoke was so blown out of proportion that smokers were perceived as tantamount to serial killers.Alcohol was poised to be next on the list, until studies of homeless cadavers showed that drink (first red wine, then all wine, then all booze) was found to be actually beneficial to the heart, a severe disappointment to the “zeros,” and now obesity is rearing its head (quit smoking, gain weight, get diabetes) as the leading cause of death.No matter how you cut it, there will always be a leading cause of death wanting a crusade. In 1952 the CDC declared that “old age,” the indisputable cause, could no longer be considered a cause of death. But I digress. (Don’t get me started.) The anti-smoking zeal has led to such ridiculosities as the F.D. Roosevelt memorial depicting him without his Hunter Thompson-esque cigarette holder (AND without his wheelchair), the Robert Johnson postage stamp without his ubiquitous cigarette, and the latest idea is to pressure the movie industry to give an “R” rating for movies showing smokers on the screen.The corollary to this would be to rewrite history by CUTTING all smoking scenes from movies regularly shown on TV. There will be a lot of room left for ads for Viagra and Depends if we cut out all the smoking scenes in the Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and Tallulah Bankhead flicks.We have to be extra-vigilant, lest my granddaughter run out and buy a pack of Camels after watching “Paper Moon.”Seeing what they show in movies these days (the G movies are the most traumatic – “Dumbo,” “Bambi”) smoking would seem to be the least of the Hollywood’s problems – but political correctness knoweth no bounds. This column is not defending smoking, but I wonder if I would even be able to get it in print a few years from now.Meanwhile, Huck Finn will probably be banned more for the smoking aspect than the use of the N-word, and you can forget Sherlock Holmes, Popeye and even Santa Claus – all with their pipes.Good parents will have to excise the verse, “The stump of his pipe was held tight in his teeth, and smoke encircled his head like a wreath,” when they read “The Night Before Christmas” to their babies.Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks we need to get a grip on ourselves. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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