Every time I hear a smoker-shaming commercial on the radio, it makes me wanna fire up a Marlboro, which takes me back to the phrase my mother used to always say to me, "You make my ass want a cigar." I don't know what the fuck that even means, but I'm assuming it meant I was annoying her so I guess these commercials make my ass want a cigar too, which brings me to my next point...
This latest commercial has this guy who is talking about smoking giving him colorectal cancer. He talks about the surgery to remove the tumor and chemo and having a colostomy bag and how every time he has a bowel movement, it comes out in the bag. Okay, yeah. We know how a colostomy works. They conclude by saying, "So if all this sounds good to you, keep smoking."
The logic in these commercials is so flawed. I get that they are trying to scare smokers into quitting, but they are shaming ALL people who have colostomy bags. There are a lot of people who have colostomies and never smoked. That bag is keeping a lot of folks alive, and there's no shame in needing one.
The commercial prior to this shamed people with stomas in their throats. The speaker offered tips to those who were getting a stoma (Don't bend over quickly after eating or drinking. Don't cut your stoma when you're shaving.) Basically it was a full 30 seconds of stoma-shaming followed by some witticism about smoking.
And who can forget the little lady from
North Carolina plastered all over TV ads and billboards
everywhere? The ad likes to point out that smoking turned her from a
cheerleader into a cancer patient. It's great that she tried to get kids to not
smoke, but lots of conditions can cause people to need trachs, and other
conditions can cause people to have jaw bones to be removed too (some skin
cancers, if they tunnel deep enough can get in the bone, leading to removal and
disfigurement.) It's not okay to shame these folks. It's equivalent to kicking
someone who is already down.
It's not okay to shame cancer patients, or any other person who is ill, no matter what led to the condition. And one's health condition and decision to smoke is no one else's business. Circumstances can't be assumed, and no one has the right to judge.
The folks in these commercials don't magically have a right to shame others for something they themselves have done all their lives. It's like a hooker getting religion, and then having the ability to condemn everyone else to hell. (You all know someone like this, one of those people that as the old saying goes, "I knew her before she was a virgin.") It's like being wild as buck until two days before you're about to drop dead and then finding Jesus. (You know somebody like this too. Bubba searched through many-a bar before he found Jesus.)
The other thing to think about is: are these ads hitting their mark? I think not. I lived in the gang-infested poor part of
Carolina for two
years. Tobacco is their coal. RJ Reynolds and all the others are royalty. Kids
learn to smoke before they learn to breastfeed. A 50 year old with a raspy
voice is not going to deter them. Everybody in Carolina
had a Mamaw who talks like that, and parents are happy if tobacco is the ONLY
substance the kids are using. (The town I lived in was the halfway point
between New York and Florida,
had a steady drug trade, and supplied all the drugs to the beach towns.)
The guys in the other commercials don't make an impact because they come across as self-righteous jerks. They are treating us all as rebellious teens, and they are that parent that's saying "Well if you want XYZ to happen to you just keep on doing what you're doing!" It's condescending to adults, and the rebellious teen replies, "Ok! I will!"
Another thing that bothers me about these commercials is: I don't think you should ever go back and curse what once sustained you. Be that a prior relationship, food, smoking, etc. They are maybe not good coping skills but are coping skills nonetheless that sometimes sustain folks until they can develop better coping skills.
I know that waitresses take smoke breaks to keep from being homicidal. Maybe a cigarette is all that keeps Bubba from getting pissed off and shooting up the local Piggly Wiggly or beating Junior with a tire iron (pronounced: tar arn). Maybe the only reason Margie didn't pop you off when you cut her off in traffic was because she didn't want to put her cigarette down to pick up her shotgun. When you think of it this way, we don't know how many lives smoking may have saved. And I'm not trying to be funny here, this is serious. Years ago I had a friend who was struggling with mental illness, and he said to me:
"I was out of cigarettes, and stopped at the gas station to get them after work. There was a long line, and my first thought was 'I ought to go out the truck, get my rifle, and pop these motherfuckers off. Then I'd be first in line to get my cigarettes.' But I didn't. I waited for my cigarettes." A guy like that needs his cigarettes.
So many people are just trying to get through the day. Sometimes the struggles are hard, and we all have our ways of self-soothing. Let's not pass judgment or shame someone else just because their pacifier may look different from our own.
*I didn't touch on the "Truth" commercials because they are so head-trippy that I think whoever created them had to be smoking something and that to understand them, I would need to smoke something too.