Friday, June 12, 2009

Blowing Smoke

Tobacco is a dirty weed,

I like it.

It satisfies no normal need,

I like it.        Penn State University Literary Magazine, 1915


Word now reaches us that the FDA may be within weeks of finally getting the power to regulate tobacco. That strange substance which, since the creation of the Food and Drug Administration has been neither food nor drug and thus, difficult to regulate (although the Tobacco Companies probably don’t agree that it has been that difficult).


It is going on thirty nine years since the Marlboro Man rode across the television screens, the “Kool” penguin lit up  or Winston tasted good like a cigarette should. Base on current trends in advertizing of drugs I think that the FDA should bring cigarettes back to television. Now that you have to warn of side effects of drugs on commercial, the cigarette warning would cause even the most faithful smoker to drop the habit. Imagine two guys out on a boat fishing. First Guy reaches into his shirt pocket and says, “Damn, I’m  out of cigarettes. “  Guy 2 reaches for his pack of Lucky Strikes (is that one still around ?) and says “Here, try one of mine, they’re great, but you ought to know that the surgeon general of the United States says that they will reduce your life expectancy  by 14 years because of damage to your lungs and heart. In a lot of cases you will start with emphysema ,making it difficult for you to breath and that will affect your everyday life. After awhile, as your lungs blacken, you will develop severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or ” COPD” as  my Pulmonologist called it when he prescribed my first oxygen tank. “ (here, Guy 2 is shown adjusting the nose piece leading down to his tackle box which is full of fishing lures and a large silver oxygen canister which he begins to pat lovingly).


“Thanks”  says guy one, lighting up and trying to avoid the oxygen tube. “Say” he says,” you are right, these are great .” Guy 2 then continues, “Finally, there is a significant chance that you will contract lung cancer which will probably kill you after a long wait on the lung transplant list since both of your lungs will be ruined, your larynx destroyed and you will be talking and smoking through a small hole in your throat. “  “I bet Joan would like these.” says Guy 1, blowing smoke rings out to sea. ” I’m sure that she would, “ says Guy Two, “ and even if she did not, she and all of your kids would be exposed to secondary smoke, putting them at additional risk for all sorts of diseases and disorders.”

“Great “says Guy 1,” I’ll pick some up after we finish.”   “Why wait ?” said Guy 2, staring the outboard. “That was my last one that I gave you and I am getting shaky without one for myself” He attempts to yell this but is plunged into a coughing fit as the two head toward shore.


The problem with  everyone giving up smoking is that the added life expectancy of the American people would add untold burdens to our nation as Social Security payments and Medicare reimbursements went up to account  for the 14 extra years all the smokers would live, see Rand Corporation and Congressional Research Service studies and testimony. It would probably cause your private health insurers to raise their rates astronomically because it is cheaper to let someone die than to care for them for those additional 14 years of life. On the other hand, it would lower your life insurance and even car insurance premiums significantly. All in all, the national health system simply can’t afford for everyone to stop smoking. Indeed, in the current health care crisis, there is a very fine argument for lowering life expectancy, so that we can continue to live with some degree of health care security. As H.L. Menken once said, “raising life expectancy is not necessarily a benefit to society.”


So, I hope that the FDA thinks all of this through before launching an invigorated crusade against the “Devil’s weed”. Let’s keep all of this  a secret between you and me. As long as you and I don’t smoke, it will be cheaper in the long run ,for us ,if everyone else does.


Blogger Jannie Funster said...

Well, well, your nimble mind just never stops churning, does it?

That would be one powerful commercial for sure.

My Aunt just had some cancer removed from one lung, she's smoked since she was 11, is now 68. Has had heart attacks too.

Smoking is sooooo stupid.

A longer life expectancy would be good if folks were staying active those last 10 years.
I think.

10:42 PM  

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