Sunday, March 12, 2006

Holy smokes! We ARE back in the Fifties!

WASHINGTON (AP) - Cigarette sales are at a 55-year low, but public health advocates say more must be done to encourage the roughly 20 percent of Americans who still smoke to quit.

The National Association of Attorneys General, relying on Treasury Department data, reported Wednesday that 378 billion cigarettes were sold in the United States last year. That is the lowest number sold since 1951, according to the attorneys general.

I am shocked--SHOCKED!--that this is actually true. It blows my mind so much, in fact, that I wonder if the statisticians aren't actually smoking something themselves. Of course, they are talking about 1951 here--not exactly the smoke-free-est of eras. Judging by pictures and films of the era, smoking was apparently required in every classroom, boardroom, newsroom and doctor's office. So maybe what the Treasury Department is really saying is that we're finally back into the decade where the Republicans would most like us to be. And that, to me, is reason enough why people would be anxious enough to smoke more.

Indeed, in the past couple of years I've seen more people start smoking than ever. Not young teenagers, either: people in their 20s! Even weirder, some of them were once anti-smoking activists. I once read that if someone makes it to 18 without smoking, they have a 90 percent chance of never starting. That was before 9/11 changed everything, of course; just ask Peter Jennings. Oh, never mind, you can't.

Tough times make people do things they might otherwise avoid for health reasons, such as smoking, drug use and finding fundamentalist religion. And nothing breeds a nicotine habit like endless repetitions of, "It's been a rough week!" Here in the happy state of Louisiana, you hear (and smell) that a lot. The percentage of smokers in this state is conservatively estimated (of course it is) at 25 percent. Based on my travels through Lafayette and New Orleans, that stat apparently means that no one in north Louisiana smokes.

Of course, everyone in Louisiana smokes in some sense, because we're the Pittsburgh of the south. We have more toxic waste than the toilets at Chernobyl. So I guess for most people, it's not that much of a gamble. Still, I refuse to smoke; I'm a rebel to the very end.

Even though nothing in my personal sphere would suggest that cigarette sales are down to 1951 levels, I do predict a continuation of this trend into 2006. This will happen for several reasons:

--My dad quit smoking in January. He alone was responsible for 25 percent of Marlboro sales. Okay, that's an exaggeration; but since my parents have stopped, my mom has been able to save money for a down payment on a new car. In three months. No joke!

--As the job market remains stagnant, people will be unable to afford cigarettes.

--As the Bush administration and its obedient states continue their love for executions, fewer inmates will be around to trade cigarettes for sexual favors.

--The age for cigarettes is 18; beer, 21. In their ever-increasing haste to appear older than they are, teenagers will turn to scoring beer.

--Bumming, of course.

--Practically everyone famous who smokes dies from it somehow. It also killed Dana Reeve and Andy Kaufman, neither of whom smoked but who played in smoky clubs. Yummy!

--Kevin Federline smokes. And if he does it, how cool can it be?


jenny said...

i quit smoking more than two and a half years ago. both my parents smoked when i grew up (mom still does). i began when i was 14. lots of money up in flames there. i congratulate you for not starting if both your parents smoked too. :)

Mikel said...

Kudos to my brother (your father) for leaving Marlboro Country. I would tell him myself but I am on his "Hit list". It seems the McBoys will never grow-up.

ashley said...

I prefer to smoke cigars, because it pisses off more people, and Cuban cigars because, to quote Kinky Friedman, "I"m not supporting their economy, I'm burning their fields".