About a year ago I pledged to you, my dear readers, that I would quit smoking. But in order to maintain my integrity and my policy of full transparency, I should tell you that I picked the habit up again over the summer. I’m not going to quit now, because I don’t want to quit now. If you don’t like it, too bad.

Joel Hoard

Like every other one of the umpteen million smokers in America, I know it’s unhealthy, so save your breath and don’t lecture me about it. You see, I don’t care that it’s unhealthy, and the fact that I don’t care is a concept that most nonsmokers fail to understand — probably because they’re too uptight and uncool.

I can only assume that most nonsmokers spare me their sermons because they respect my right to abuse my body in any way I see fit, and I appreciate that. Really, I do. But there are those who make it a personal mission to “educate” smokers on the dangers of the habit. Not only do I not appreciate them; I loathe them.

The most egregious violators are a ragtag bunch of teenagers calling themselves “the truth” (name all in lower case to make it seem cool and urban). These kids have assaulted the airwaves with their senseless rhetoric and attacks on tobacco companies in a series of television commercials dating back to a few years ago. Using grainy digital video and shock-and-horror techniques, they’ve taken the truth about smoking, which is that it is harmful but not immediately life threatening, and made it “the truth,” which states that smoking is as harmful as drinking a bottle of ammonia, popping a few cyanide capsules or eating a pile of dog doo (they said it, not me).

The truth seems to think that its message that smoking is harmful and tobacco companies are evil is a novel one. As I already said, smokers and non-smokers alike know smoking is harmful, so we really don’t need your help on that one. As for the evil tobacco companies’ part, have they been paying attention to the news the last 10 years? Tobacco companies very publicly admitted their wrongdoings, and they’ve paid more than enough for it — somewhere in the ballpark of $872 bazillion dollars — and made an explicit agreement that they would not use any form of advertisement that might appeal to children, hence the death of Joe Camel.

But of course the truth knows about this, considering all of its funding came from the tobacco industry’s open admission that it was deceitful. Let me explain. As part of the settlements in the late 1990s, the major tobacco companies agreed to fund anti-smoking programs. One such program, the American Legacy Foundation, in turn set up the truth campaign. So what it comes down to is, the companies the truth ads attack for being dishonest are the same ones that fund the truth by actually being honest. Sorry for doubling up on my horse metaphors, but what do they say about looking a gift horse in the mouth and flogging a dead horse?

My point is that the tobacco companies have already been exposed — as they should have been — and they paid the price. But even with all we know about the harmful effects of smoking and the past record of tobacco companies, some of us are going to keep right on doing it.

Why can’t the truth just leave it at that? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? What about the fast food industry, which has yet to pay its price for turning a generation of Americans into lazy, chubby oafs? Surely McDonald’s use of a smiling clown to hawk fatty cheeseburgers, french fries and milkshakes and five-gallon tubs of sugary soda pop is equal to — or possibly worse than — anything Joe Camel ever did. Or how about the National Rifle Association for promoting unnecessary gun ownership or President Bush for allowing the federal assault weapons ban to expire? Surely we can agree that guns are more dangerous than cigarettes. To my knowledge, smoking only causes severe health problems and death after decades of use, whereas a gun gets the job done in a fraction of the time.

The tobacco industry is but a little lamb compared to the stuff some of the other corporations and organizations pull. Campaigns like the truth are only strengthening my resolve to keep right on smoking. If I don’t stand up for the tobacco companies, who will? Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need a smoke.

 

Hoard can be reached at j.ho@umich.edu.

 

 

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