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This is the first time I've ever wanted to say fuck you to Dan. I now, all of the sudden, imagine Dan as the type of asshole who takes a non-lit cigarette out of somebody's mouth and throws it to the floor.

We know smoking kills. I know that's hard for you to comprehend, but we do. Thanks for sharing. Now let me smoke in peace and with freedom.

Posted by WTF?! | June 15, 2007 1:31 PM

YEAH! If you hate smokers, then you hate FREEDOM!

Posted by jameyb | June 15, 2007 1:48 PM

You are perfectly free to smoke, @1. I am free to think that smokers are complete morons. Or hapless pawns of the tobacco industry. Or people who at one point felt the need to prove they were cool and now can't get out of the trap they set for themselves.

Posted by Julie | June 15, 2007 1:58 PM

I really like the article, but I have a nitpick with the headline: "How the Tobacco Industry Mass-Marketed the Biggest Cause of Preventable Death in the World". Tobacco almost certainly isn't the biggest cause of preventable death in the world -- it's meat.

Smoking your entire life and quitting when you're 50 shortens your lifespan by an average of 4 years; smoking after 50 until you die shortens your life by about 10 years. Eating meat for 20+ years shortens your life by about about 3.6 years. There hasn't been a really good study yet on vegans or even vegetarians compared to the general public -- vegetarians are always compared to other healthy eaters who don't eat a lot of meat -- so the vegetarian life expectancy divide is probably even greater.

Considering the percentage of people worldwide, and especially in the US, who eat meat compared to those who smoke, many millions more people die due to meat than smoking.

If someone has lung cancer, esophageal cancer, bronchitis, or emphysema, they probably got it from smoking. If someone has diabetes, obesity, breast, stomach, colon, or prostate cancer, they probably got it from meat. Heart disease and stroke can be caused by either meat or smoking, but they are more likely to be meat-related. I'd post more links to references, but Slog comments limit my links.

Posted by jamier | June 15, 2007 2:25 PM

Why so mad at me, WTF? I didn't write that letter.

If you want to be mad at someone, WTF?, be mad at that little girl. If she had only had the decency to be been born three months prematurely then Greg's mom wouldn't have died without meeting her first grandchild. My God, what a selfish little brat that girl is.

Posted by Dan Savage | June 15, 2007 2:28 PM

Fascinating article. Not sure I understand the defensive comments.

Back when I was a smoker, I held similarly lofty beliefs about the appeal of smoking. My favorite theory was that the cycle of craving, sometimes to the point of discomfort, followed by the satisfaction and contentment of the first few drags, kept my life interesting, gave me purpose and motivation, and offered the comfort of ritual and repetition.

These musings now strike me as the rationalizations of a junky. If you smoke, do yourself a favor and quit.

Posted by Sean | June 15, 2007 2:44 PM

Yah, guys, we get it: smoking is bad. I have no defense for it.

I'd even be ok with the no-smoking-in bars-thing except for the fact that I see it as part of a larger program (I also disagree with seatbelt laws--yeah New Hampshire!)of limiting people's behaviour...

...I guess what really bugs me is that I am super considerate about smoking (i.e. I don't do it at bus stops or near people...which can be difficult sometimes). So it's annoying when I have to hear this "you know, you really should quit" stuff from strangers.

Posted by Dianna | June 15, 2007 2:54 PM

jamier @4:

a) how fickle, inconsistent, and just plain wrong nutritional "science" has been over the last 50 years,
b) the fact that it's mostly just a mouthpiece for the dieting industry,
c) many nutritionists meet diagnostic criteria for having an eating disorder

I'd suggest consuming this research with a generous helping of skepticism.

Posted by Sean | June 15, 2007 2:58 PM

That said, that article was excellent.

Posted by Dianna | June 15, 2007 3:03 PM

Had to chime in, hope that's OK Dan :)...

If you read the book, the reason smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in the world now--even after we've known its health effects since the 1960s--is because smoking is being exported all around the world at very high rates. Including to vegetarian countries like India, and all over Asia where meat doesn't seem to be used the way it is here (though admittedly this is changing too)!

And regarding the 'freedom' thing--This whole line of argument is just absurd to me--and was, incidentally, manufactured by the tobacco companies starting around the same time the health effects of smoking were confirmed. (for the obvious reason) The whole vocabulary surrounding "smoking = individual freedom" has been insinuated into the culture for 50 years by the tobacco companies. That would make it a genuine part of the culture, and not "just" advertising anymore.

Smoking could have been marketed as a family thing, or even primarily as a friendship thing--but instead the concept of individuality, autonomy and freedom was made the most important. (You hardly ever see groups of people in cigarette ads, only individuals or people who want to have sex with each other.) It gives smokers justification for their smoking that is very American, very much a part of the culture. And making smoking only the result of "individual choice" has been central to the industry's legal strategy for decades.

So smokers are blamed for their own addictions, seen as individually stupid, and smokers themselves see smoking as something that is self-defining and appear to be very reluctant to admit that something other than "individual choice" motivates them to smoke.

I personally don't believe there is such a thing as an autonomous individual, but that's another essay...

Posted by Christine Wenc | June 15, 2007 6:24 PM

First off, to all the considerate smokers who don't smoke in very public places and/or near bus stops: Thank you so much.

@1: I respect your right to smoke 'in peace and in freedom', but I feel I also have a right not to go into a raging asthma attack upon inhalation of cigarette smoke. If you are indeed one of the above-described considerate smokers, then I'm afraid you gave me the wrong impression of what you meant.

Posted by Teagan | June 15, 2007 6:59 PM

how smoking works: you smoke. The nicotine changes the structure of your brain, creating nicotine receptors. Little structures that grow inside your brain. (Did you choose THAT? Does the label warn you about THAT?)
When you get up in the morning and don't smoke, they scream for nicotine. If you continue to not smoke, for 3 days are from those structures having to shrivel up and die and you are chemically "sick" in this period. "Cravings" indeed. The author of that book was on the Daily Show and the host kept saying "so how do the ads work to make you choose to smoke?" and he bought into it, saying the ads "make" you smoke -- buying into the whole individual choice frame. Dumb. Better Answer: the ads help you get over the initial bodily reaction that "this is yucky" (w/ plenty of peer pressure!). Then the little structures inside your brain quickly grow and kick in, working full time for the tobacco industry for the next 50 years, until you quit or die. Secret slave structures insdie your brain -- what a great marketing aid! And you blamed it on your own lack of willpower! Brilliant. And. Evil.

Posted by joe | June 15, 2007 7:15 PM

I'm a smoker. Have been for 40 years. Probably will be until I die.

Both parents smoked until they died. Mom at 78 and Dad at 86.

I won't go so far as to say smoking is good for me, but I enjoy it. (And, yes, I qualify as a 'considerate smoker'. Don't do it in public or around non-smoking friends.)

Kinda figure we're all going to die. Never met anyone I thought was going to live forever. Hope everyone has some habit they enjoy.

Posted by Ayden | June 15, 2007 7:25 PM

Robert Proctor is a history prof at Stanford who's also worked on the history of smoking, and you should find his testimony in another tobacco case on his web page.

In this testimony he goes into detail about how the industry manipulated nicotine to make smoking even more addictive.

(A Historical Reconstruction of Tobacco and Health in the U.S., 1954-1994)

Also, Brandt's book The Cigarette Century has a web page and there is a forum where you can ask him questions.

Posted by Christine Wenc | June 15, 2007 7:30 PM

And while I'm at it! Brandt has a couple of lectures about the book on YouTube, and his Daily Show visit is on the DS web site.

Posted by Christine Wenc | June 15, 2007 7:33 PM

I started to respond to this post earlier in the day, but I became overwhelmed by grief, and I had to take a break from the computer altogether. Later I had a short argument with a friend (a chemical dependency counselor), who said that smoking was an addiction, and shouldn't be considered a choice. Anger at the smoker, she said, is inappropriate.

This is true. I was a smoker, for 11+ "pack years," so I know first hand about those morning cravings, those afternoon cravings, those after meal cravings, those after sex cravings, the joy of smoking, the way waiting for something or someone is never as good as when you're smoking. I loved smoking, right up until the day I stopped 16 months ago.

Here's what I didn't love. I didn't love seeing my 63 year old mother die, as one by one her organs shut down. I didn't love hearing that my 95-pound, ideal-LDL mother had a 90% occlusion in one cardiac artery, 75% in another. I didn't love seeing her barely awake for the last time the day after Christmas, watching her write "I love you," to me, in the worst handwriting I've ever seen, because she couldn't talk through the intubation, and couldn't write through the semi-consciousness. I didn't love hearing that the brown liquid in the tube coming from her mouth several days later was "fecal."

Have you ever watched someone die? When they took out the tube, I stood next to her bed and shouted, "I'm right here, Mom. I'm right here." It was pathetic, and loud, and certainly upsetting to whomever else might be conscious on the pulmonary ICU. I don't know if she heard me. But I heard her. I heard her last breath. It was only an exhale, the p sound made by her lips pursed together, then air. Then nothing.

I'm not angry. Not angry at all. I just really miss my mom.

Posted by bitch on heels | June 16, 2007 12:17 AM

Smoking has nothing to do with freedom.

Posted by no | June 18, 2007 7:16 AM

"I personally don't believe there is such a thing as an autonomous individual, but that's another essay..."

After reading this article, and the other three in The Stranger archives, Ms. Wenc, I'd love to read that. Your writing is fantastic.

It does make me curious though, that two of those articles focus on the imagery of smoking; do you have your own book about (this, other) addictions planned?

Posted by Chris Estey | June 18, 2007 2:36 PM

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