March 02, 2008

Smoking Is Cool

By Dan Keston © 2008
"Smoking is not cool it just makes you look bad in front of your friends."
Wilford Brimley, "One to Grow On", National Broadcasting Company.
I was watching "The Smurfs" on a Saturday morning back in October of '82 and here was the deal: Handy Smurf had a crush on Smurfette, because she was the Smurfiest Smurf around. Now I don't know if Handy was afraid to explain his feelings to Smurfette because he had social anxiety disorder, or if it was genital herpes, or if he just felt that in a town with only one female the local smurf handyman was unlikely to outsmurf the local smurf doctors, smurf lawyers, and smurf hedge fund managers - I don't know – but when NBC cut to commercial the big cliffhanger was that Handy (yes, the pining lonely smurf in town was named Handy) was debating whether or not to profess his love.

Commercial one was a PSA that began on a playground in Anytown, U.S.A. In the spot, a bunch of youths are playing handball when one boy calls out to his friend from behind the bleachers. Hidden from view are three boys passing around a Camel Light, coughing violently every time they inhale (of course). They subsequently try to persuade the fourth boy to partake, but he wisely says no and runs back to the handball court. We then cut to Wilford as he delivers the goods the way only Wilford can - "smoking isn't cool, it just makes you look bad in front of your friends."

I probably should have realized then that if Wilford Brimley is proclaiming that smoking is "not cool," then chances were it really "is cool," but I was nine and easily duped. However, as time passed I realized that not only IS smoking cool but it is as cool as the left side of a McDLT.

I say this as a native of Los Angeles, a place where smokers are only slightly more respected then pedophiles and slightly less respected than Beth from the Real World. Here you cannot smoke in restaurants and you cannot smoke in bars; and if you want to smoke at work you have to walk outside away from all other coworkers and covertly inhale inside the quarantined "smoke-friendly" area/leper colony. I mean really... is smoking this bad?

Let me interject here by saying that I am not a smoker. I do not "puff" at parties, I do not "take a drag" by the bus stop, and I do not "enjoy a butt" while hanging at the local mall. Overall, I am happy to leave restaurants not smelling like smoke and I am a proponent of clean air. Yet as a non-smoker even I find it offensive that you can't smoke in a bar. It is a BAR. If you don't want to load your system up with toxins, why the hell are you going there anyway? Go ride your pony to see Enchanted and leave Smokey McAdams be.

My second question for you smoker haters would be this, "Do you really think it is fair that tobacco companies have to spend THEIR OWN MONEY supporting ads that say how terrible their product is when beer and liquor ads do not? Joe Simpleton sits at home and watches commercials during his favorite show ("Two and a Half Men") and gets this message from commercials – drink 27 Budweiser's and you will frolic forever in a land of beautiful models who want to have sex with you - or - smoke a cigarette and die a horrible death with lung and throat cancer alongside the lab rat who warned you not to smoke in the first place. This, my friends, is bullsheezee, and not just for the fraudulent health claims. It is bulsheezee because in reality it is the cigarette, and NOT beer, that makes you look cool.

As a man, I truly believe that if you feel comfortable walking down the street with a Coors Light in your hand then you probably feel comfortable wearing your fraternity letters well past your 35th birthday. I also believe, contrarily, that walking down the street with a cigarette in your hand makes you look suave, debonair, independent and just aloof enough to be mysterious. When I was living in New York I would sometimes dangle a lit cigarette in my hand even though I had no intention of smoking it. When I went to a restaurant alone I would sit outside and smoke while waiting for my food and it would look like I CHOSE to be there by myself to enjoy some alone time with my Kafka hardback; without Joe Camel, I was just another lonely guy ordering Teriyaki take-out because he couldn't find someone to eat with. "Hey ladies, how are you doing tonight... okay then, guess not."

And speaking of ladies, do I need to say that women look sexy when smoking? Obvious phallic undertones aside, any man worth his salt knows that a girl smoking a cigarette is just a more respectable version of a girl with a lower back tattoo. She gets you thinking about the same things only she'll serve it up with a side of existential conversation, cool enough to know that even though she is going to taste like a commoner's ashtray if she makes eye contact with you from across the bar it is not going to matter to you what she’s been inhaling. Not even a little. Not a single bit.

Listen up, big tobacco. Don't feel bad about promoting your image and don't feel guilty about counting your fortunes on the porches of the massive plots of Carolina land upon which you once enslaved men. While you are responsible for lacing your product with arsenic, you are not responsible for the people who smoke it. For goodness' sake America, if you think cigarettes are bad for you don't make the companies that sell them run self-deprecating ads. JUST CHOOSE NOT TO SMOKE!!!! Take some responsibility for your life and stop blaming Uncle Phillip.

You know where I stand. I think smoking is cool.

Dan Keston is currently an independent film producer in Los Angeles. He has made, bought, sold, and written many things, including cigarettes.

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