It’s self-destructive — not rebellious, cool, hip or sexy

How does giving yourself heart disease and cancer make you a rebel against anything except good health and a long life?

m talking to you, David Lynch, John Green and I don’t know how many others — directors, writers and actors past & present.

A hundred years ago, nobody knew how deadly smoking was. Since 1964, however, there’s been no excuse for Hollywood to keep pushing tobacco down our lungs.

I wouldn’t ban it. When a story or character calls for smoking, fine.

Just portray it for what it really is: a dirty, nasty, expensive addiction that kills people.

Big Tobacco has Underwritten the Movie Industry for 90+ Years

In 1927, American Tobacco — represented by Lord & Thomas — used the new movies with sound as a selling point. Now that actors had to actually use their voices in films, poor babies, they needed Lucky Strikes to soothe their throats.

Al Jolson, star of the first talkie, The Jazz Singer, was one of the many stars who accepted money from American Tobacco in exchange for his dubious testimonial.

How anyone could believe that harsh, acrid smoke could “soothe” a strained throat, beats me.

But, it was Hollywood. As the movie industry entered its Golden Era, the payoffs increased. The likes of Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford and Gary Cooper accepted tobacco money.

So did the directors and the studios. Big Tobacco underwrote a lot of movie advertising in newspapers and radio. When TV began in the 1950’s, Big Tobacco sponsored shows.

The Big Screen deliberately glamorized smoking. Let’s face it — a beautiful woman smoking a cigarette can look hot and sexy. The analogy is so obvious it’s only subliminal to people who don’t want to understand the symbolism.

But, of course, in the 1930’s to 1950’s many Americans did not let themselves understand the under-the-surface sexual nature of smoking.

With Hollywood strictly censored by the Hays Office, cigarette smoking as a metaphor for sex was a way to get around the tight restrictions on what they could allow men and women to do onscreen.

So why not use smoking as one more detail to glamorize the beautiful Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Besides, she was a heavy smoker in real life, which quite likely contributed to her early death at age 63 by a rare form of cancer — of the appendix.

My favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart, glamorized smoking by making it so manly for tough guys. He too smoked in real life. And he too died much too young, at age 56 — of esophageal cancer.

Many stars smoked in their real lives. So why not take the money?

Smoking Cigarettes Grew in Popularity in the Culture and Fiction as Well

People in North America have smoked tobacco for probably hundreds or thousands of years. However, Native Americans apparently confined it to ceremonial and religious occasions.

Until the early 20th century, most tobacco was consumed by chewing it or smoking cigars. You could roll your own cigarettes, but this was inconvenient. In the late 1880’s, the industry began using a machine to manufacture cigarettes, and they soon became the cheapest and easiest way to get a nicotine fix.

By 1900, Americans smoked 54 cigarettes per capita. World War I gave a big boost to cigarettes because doughboys were given them free to help keep them wired and alert in the trenches.

Cigarette consumption peaked around 1963–1965. At that time, just over 40% of American adults smoked 4,345 cigarettes per capita.

Cigarettes in Pulp Fiction and Many Movies

Not all cultural depictions of smoking were deliberate attempts at marketing.

Science fiction writer James Blish once wrote an article pointing out that pulp fiction characters smoked because pulp writers got paid by the word. They received an extra nickel or dime every time a tough detective lit a cigarette or blew smoke into a gangster’s face.

He also linked smoking to “business.” That’s dramatic arts terminology for what an actor or actress does besides speak their lines. Smoking is useful because it gives them something natural to do with their hands.

(NOTE: Blish himself was a smoker. He died at 54 of cancer.)

Behind the Scenes of Big Tobacco’s Advertising Firm

In the early 20th century, Lord & Taylor of Chicago was one of the biggest advertising agencies in the country.

The marketing genius behind their success was Albert Lasker.

Lasker wanted to be a newspaper reporter, but began working for L&T at age 18 because he owed a $500 gambling debt.

Lasker is famous in direct marketing circles because, even after a few years of working for L&T, he admitted he didn’t know what advertising really was. One day a man brought up a message from an ex-Canadian Mountie drinking beer in the downstairs bar.

The man, John E. Kennedy, said he knew Lasker didn’t know what advertising really was, but he — Kennedy — would be glad to tell him. Was Lasker interested?

Intrigued, Lasker invited Kennedy up to his office. Kennedy revealed the great truth about marketing, which copywriters and direct marketers still hold today, although updating it to include electronic media:

“Advertising is salesmanship in print.”

Lasker later signed American Tobacco and their Lucky Strike brand as a L&T account. Apparently, American Tobacco was going downhill as a business. L&T’s marketing made them into the number one brand.

The effective use of celebrities, especially Hollywood and movies, was a critical component of that successful strategy.

In the 1920’s, there was a lot of prejudice against women smoking. And many restaurants and public places didn’t allow women to smoke.

Lasker’s wife had been ill, and was gaining weight she didn’t want. Therefore, her doctor recommended she smoke a cigarette before every meal, to lower her appetite.

When she did this in one restaurant with Lasker, the owner asked her to put the cigarette out. The sight of a woman smoking in public offended many customers.

Lasker was indignant, and said that’s why he decided to break down the prejudice against women smoking in public.

In light of his future with his third wife, Mary, this was an ironical situation.

Lasker took over the campaign to make it socially acceptable for women to smoke in public. The idea of having performers testify smoking Lucky Strikes soothed their throats started with him. It’s known as the “precious voices” campaign.

Lasker had almost everybody in the Metropolitan Opera smoking Lucky Strikes and giving their testimony.

Lasker also used the concept of smoking as an appetite killer to market Lucky Strikes to women. “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet,” he told women who wanted to remain thin, arousing the ire of the candy industry.

The greatest early copywriter of modern advertising, Claude Hopkins, coined the slogan that Lucky Strikes were “toasted,” which was used in the Mad Men show.

Freud’s Nephew Also Helped Sell Women on Smoking

Another major figure in early modern advertising was Edward Bernays.

Sharing his famous uncle’s interest in the subconscious mind and the inner drives that motivated people, he made a fortune in the public relations/marketing industry from the 1920’s on.

This documentary on his life and work is long, but goes into detail how he paid women to smoke in public.

Bernays called cigarettes “Torches of Freedom” to make women believe smoking them was an act of feminist empowerment.

Fighting Cancer With Big Tobacco Money

In 1940, Albert Lasker married his third wife, Mary. By that time, he was the main owner of Lord & Taylor, and, therefore, quite wealthy.

The story goes he loved Mary so much, on their honeymoon he promised to support whatever she wanted to accomplish.

Although she’s often described as a “socialite,” Mary was a typical wealthy socialite just like CIA agents stationed in foreign countries are “typical” diplomats.

She was a dedicated health crusader. In 1942, she and Lasker took over a tiny organization called The American Society for the Control of Cancer, and changed the name to the American Cancer Society. It’s now the largest nonreligious charity in the world.

They used it as a way to support research into the causes and treatments of cancer, which included supporting the pioneers of chemotherapy.

To support medical research, they created the Lasker Foundation. Once a year, it awards the Lasker Prize for medical research. It’s now so prestigious, the Lasker is known as “America’s Nobel.”

The Laskers also lobbied the Truman Administration for national healthcare, but that failed to pass.

After Albert died in 1952 (of stomach cancer), Mary soldiered on. As a wealthy widow “socialite,” she knew everybody with influence in the government. She was the strategist behind the 1971 “War on Cancer.”

Some criticize her for emphasizing research funding and looking for a cure for cancer. She caused billions of dollars of taxpayer funds to be directed toward those goals.

Some say supporting cancer prevention (most notably by reducing cigarette smoking) would have been a better use of the money.

To be fair, in 1971 nobody realized that nearly 50 years later cancer would still be America’s #2 killer. It’s a far more complicated and difficult to treat disease than Mary Lasker could have realized. We understand it far better, but we’re still far from an effective cure for the vast majority of cases.

In the mid-1960’s, after science proved the connection between smoking and lung cancer, Edward Bernays worked for anti-smoking organizations. Unfortunately, however, he clearly was not as successful at undoing the damage he’d done with his Torches of Freedom campaign.

How does the smoke add to her beauty?

Calling Out David Lynch

He’s a great director. I love his movies (except Eraserhead, which I couldn’t get into).

I totally admire how has managed to get such way-out films and TV shows made in the first place, and then have so many be popular successes. If I could hole myself up in a room in a state where cannabis is legal for a week with no responsibilities, I’d love to watch his entire ouvre, one after the other.

He smokes himself, and says he likes it. Well, that’s his business.

And he was born in 1946. According to this interview, he began smoking around the age of 5 or 7. Obviously, he knew nothing about the health dangers.

Supposedly he quit for 21 years after he began meditating, then began again. Then quit again. Or did he?

Clearly, in works such as Twin Peaks and Wild at Heart, he has young women smoking as a way of increasing their allure and sex appeal (although they’re plenty beautiful as it is.)

And they are demonstrating their rebelliousness and freedom from adult authority.

To me, it’s unnecessary. More of a distraction.

If anybody needed to see Sherilyn Kenyon as Audrey Thorne smoke a cigarette to know she was the ultimate spoiled rich girl, they were sound asleep.

And Joan Chen needed no props. She was extraordinarily beautiful.

What About Context, Characterization and Realism?

I do understand many characters do things their authors (let alone their readers) may not approve of, just because it’s in character.

Cigarette consumption peaked in the mid-1960’s. I grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, so I’m well aware smoking was socially approved and common during that time.

Therefore, in Stephen King’s 11/22/63 I thought it was quite appropriate for the main character to point out the prevalence of smoking during that time period. (He’s from the present, but travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy.)

And that’s why I’m drawing a line at that time period. Prior to the mid-60’s, the medical dangers of smoking were not well-known or publicly accepted.

Hollywood took Big Tobacco money to increase smoking by making it look glamorous.

But Hollywood wasn’t consciously intending to kill people young.

After 1964, the movie industry didn’t have the excuse of ignorance.

They were persuading people to slowly cut their own throats.

The connection is now extremely clear. Of course, in some contexts in some stories, some characters are still going to smoke.


But it doesn’t have to be portrayed as glamorous, as a visual metaphor for female sexuality.

Look at me, boys — I’ve inserted a cylinder into one of my orifices. Wouldn’t you like me to do the same with your long cylinder?

In Paper Moon, there’s a shocking scene where Tatum O’Neil’s 9-year-old character sits in bed puffing on a cigarette. The shock doesn’t come just from her age. Many children sneak cigarettes. But she puffs on it casually, like a highly experienced adult smoker.

The image of her puffing on that cig did establish her character as far less innocent than other children her age, but the movie would have been just as good without it.

If Peter Bogdanovich had cut that scene, nobody would have missed it.

If a character who came of age after 1965 is a smoker, they’re demonstrating a trait of low intelligence or self-destructiveness, not a glamorous rebelliousness.

Besides, There are Write-Arounds

Look, few stories are “realistic” in the sense they exactly mirror reality.

Every story, plot and cast of characters is selective. It has to be.

And you want it that way.

Look at music, movies and fiction in the late 60’s and early 70’s. You’ll find a huge amount of (largely positive) depictions of people using illegal drugs.

However, there was a reaction against this. Therefore, the culture at large dramatically toned down drug references.

Did that mean drugs went away in real life? Not at all. They became far more common. And plenty of movie makers, musicians and writers consumed them.

But they just weren’t mentioned. Artists simply found other subjects to center stories around.

You Don’t Want Total Reality in Art

Look, all characters in books and movies must go to the bathroom as often as you and I do.

But, unless that creates a plot or character point, or it’s used as humor, it’s not portrayed because . . . c’mon.

As Alfred Hitchcock said, “Movies are like life with the boring bits cut out.”

Or the just plain unnecessary-to-go-into-that-level-of-detail bits cut out.

This picture reminds me of one of the “Smoking is so glamorous” posters my 7th grade science teacher kept on display.

We Didn’t Used to Know the Dangers of Smoking, but Now We Do

To me, everybody who has started smoking since around 1965 must have some self-destructive component in their emotional makeup.

I was right on the border. I certainly knew many kids in junior high who began smoking around ages 12–14.

Older kids weren’t taught about the dangers.

I’m lucky that I was. Thank you, Mr. Sands.

In his fussy, bow-tie way, Mr. Sands my 7th grade Science teacher taught us about smoking and how it could cause emphysema and lung cancer.

Also, as a swimmer, I knew smoking would “cut my wind.” I knew school athletes who smoked after workouts, and I never understood why they would work so hard, then throw that effort away.

The way I see it, people older than myself who began smoking in their early teens were the victims of ignorance. Many of them have since quit. But I realize it’s hard. Many have since died.

If you’re younger than me, you have no real excuse except the media has taught you it’s glamorous or cool or rebellious — and that’s why I hate that portrayal of smoking in fiction and movies.

Because it’s a lie.

What I Saw Growing Up

I’ve known a lot of smokers. Some of them were great, wonderful people. Don. rich. Both dead way too young.

One of my best supervisors ever was Karen. Somewhere in her forties (she never said, and it wasn’t my business to ask), she died of liver cancer.

And the best district manager of my career, Mike. We’d tell him to stop smoking, but he said he couldn’t because of the stress he was under. At the age of 47, he was playing cards with friends. He stood up to get something, then fell down dead of a heart attack.

As a group, smokers lit up wherever and whenever they wanted. It didn’t matter if they were at work, in your car or their own, in your house, around your children or wherever. They smoked in hospital waiting rooms. They lit up in restaurants without regard to whether they were ruining somebody else’s meal.

Before the government made all of its offices nonsmoking areas, my office held a thick cloud of smoke every afternoon.

The only “nonsmoking” place I saw smokers respect was church during services.

I spent every summer at a private swim club. Right next to the vending machine selling candy bars and lifesavers, they had one selling cigarettes. Anybody of any age with enough quarters could buy a pack.

Cigarette filter tips littered the streets and yards. Large numbers of smokers had no qualms about not only lighting up anywhere, but in throwing their used butts wherever.

Therefore, luckily, I never saw smoking as glamorous. It was something adults did, but it was nasty. Like every other nonsmoker, I put up with the smoke, but I was never attracted by it.

Sure, I’ve seen beautiful women with cigarettes in their mouths, but it never made them look more beautiful, glamorous or alluring.

Quite the opposite. I wanted to slap the cigarette out of their mouths.

I Managed to Rebel Without Smoking

I went to junior high just as hippies and the counter culture were becoming well-known through stories in news magazines.

I took a lot of good-natured (and some not so good-natured) kidding for being a hippie.

Through high school, I was one of the freaks. I was in favor of long hair and the legalization of marijuana, and against the war in Vietnam.

Over time, these ideas gained in popularity, but in junior and senior high, I was in the distinct minority.

In high school, I spent most mornings before the bell rang hanging around with my two best friends as they smoked across the street.

They were rock musicians, and certified hippie freaks as well, so you could say they smoked to defy adult authority.

I thought they should stop, but they didn’t ask for my opinion, so I didn’t give it.

I managed to be rebellious without getting addicted to a poisonous substance.

I never figured out why some kids thought it was cool and anti-authority to give their lives and money to Big Tobacco.

Why rebel against the authority of school, the military, the government and big corporations, just to sacrifice yourself for R. J. Reynolds and Philip Morris?

I never understood.

What Does Anybody Get From Smoking?

Nicotine is a stimulant, though a mild one. It also activates neurotransmitters that give us pleasure, such as dopamine and acetylcholine.

When you begin smoking, it feels good — though not in a dramatic way.

Before long, however, you become habituated and addicted to the nicotine.

Without it, you feel mentally and physically depressed.

You crave nicotine just to feel normal again. That’s why so many smokers say smoking “relaxes” them even though its biological effect on their metabolism is NOT relaxing.

It’s just that, when they’re craving nicotine, they’re jittery. Smoking relieves that tension.

I remember how many times I’ve heard smokers complain about how school or work kept them from lighting up. How bad their nicotine fits felt.

Thank you, friends, because your example helped convince me that I wanted no part of smoking tobacco.

I confess — I’m a sugaraholic. I have a sweet tooth. I’ve eaten way too much sugar in my life. I’d be thinner and enjoy better health without it.

But at least I enjoyed the taste of the food I ate.

Eating doughnuts made me feel good, not just normal.

I don’t condone alcoholism, but at least alcoholics get drunk.

Illegal drugs make people high in various pleasurable ways.

Gambling is a bad addiction, but occasionally you win (in the short run).

Sex addicts experience orgasms.

In short, every other kind of addiction/substance abuse I can think of gives people pleasure.

Tobacco smokers must inhale hot, foul-tasting smoke just to not feel a nicotine jones.

For that, smokers sacrifice their health and money to Big Tobacco.

USA TODAY says the average smoker spends at least $1.1 million over their lifetimes. In some states, it’s $2 million.

Those figures don’t even count the hundreds of thousands of dollars in income they lose because of their healthcare needs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking takes at least ten years off your life span.

That is an average. Yes, some smokers live into old age, but my two best bosses, Mike and Karen, died in their forties.

And, of course, the notion that everybody who smokes will die of lung cancer is just fear-mongering, according to many smokers.

That has a grain of truth. After all, more smokers will die from heart disease before they live long enough to be diagnosed with any cancer.

Even so, lung cancer is the greatest killer cancer in the United States — and 80% of lung cancer cases happen to smokers.

Among women, breast cancer is more common than lung cancer, but lung cancer kills more women.

I wish anybody who still thinks smoking is glamorous, and should be portrayed that way in a book or movie, could have met Jackie, a former co-worker.

She was 48, and had survived breast cancer two years before I met her. She had a double mastectomy, but still feared a return of the cancer. After all, her mother died of breast cancer when she was 48.

Despite all that, Jackie continued to smoke.

If she couldn’t quit despite her fear of dying, yes . . . why shouldn’t we start encouraging every teenager to start smoking?

The Independent, Public Medical Case Against Smoking

Although dismissed by most people, especially Big Tobacco, some people did realize the foul, acrid smoke could be dangerous. However, they didn’t have the weight of solid medical evidence to support their anti-smoking campaigns.

Besides, many doctors smoked themselves. How could it be bad for you?

Without the science, anti-smoking campaigns came off as moralistic, a form of early 20th century political correctness most people ignored.

In 1938, a Raymond Pearl published an epidemiological report finding a correlation between smoking and early death.

To be fair, however, since cigarettes were not even available until the late 1800’s and not popular until the early 20th century, it would logically take a few decades for people to notice smokers had a tendency to drop dead earlier than nonsmokers.

By the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, this evidence began to accumulate.

The biggest large-scale study of the health risks of smoking is known as the British Doctors Study, which began in 1951. Within a few years, the researchers established a statistically convincing link between smoking and death by lung cancer and heart disease.

To its credit, the popular magazine Reader’s Digest ran an anti-smoking article in 1952, “Cancer by the Carton.” It caused a temporary drop in smoking.

In 1954, doctors at Mary Lasker’s American Cancer Society failed to get the organization’s Board of Directors to consider a resolution that smoking caused lung cancer. Reportedly, the meeting room was filled with cigarette smoke.

The ACA wouldn’t accept that smoking caused lung cancer until 1957.

Eventually, the weight of the evidence proving the health risks of smoking could not be ignored.

The Tobacco Companies Knew the Health Risks of Cigarettes by the 1950's

As a result of the many court cases against the tobacco industry, we now know that, despite all their denials and lies, they knew by the 1950’s smoking caused lung cancer.

This paper from the World Health Organization summarizes the case against them using their own internal documents.

A 1953 R.J. Reynolds report concludes: “ Studies of clinical data tend to confirm the relationship between heavy and prolonged tobacco smoking and incidence of cancer of the lung.”

By the 1960’s the industry knew their profits relied on addiction. To continue to keep their revenue up, they keep advertising to attract more addicts. That most certainly included targeting children and teens.

Why not let movies portray heroin addiction as glamorous? If a woman is more beautiful because she’s smoking a cigarette, just think about the sexual symbolism of sticking a needle in her arm.

As a Capitalist, I’m in Favor of Businesses Meeting the Needs of Customers, but Not the Reverse

One of my teachers of marketing in business school used to love to tell us businesses existed to meet demand for their products and services.

That means marketing and advertising could NOT create demand. The role of marketing was to channel an already-existing consumer need to your product.

He threatened to flunk anybody who claimed marketing could create demand.

Obviously, he never worked for the tobacco industry.

The Turning Point

In 1964, the United States Surgeon General published a report on smoking and health that stands as a landmark. It summarized the past fifteen years of medical data, and concluded cigarette smoking posed a health risk the government should not ignore.

Although social patterns persisted for years, that marks the peak of per capita smoking in the United States, and the beginning of tons of regulations that protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke — and the beginning of the end of the broad social acceptance/toleration of smoking.

It also marked the beginning of the end of Big Tobacco’s ability to market their cigarettes over television, the largest mass medium until the Internet.

Goodbye eventually to the Marlboro Man, Winston tastes good like a cigarette should and Joe Camel.

And every pack of cigarettes had to carry this warning: “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.”

Although many smokers disregard the warning, they can’t say they weren’t told.

It caused a lot of conversation. Everybody at the time knew about it, even a young nonsmoking teen like me.

Maybe Hollywood up to 1964 could pretend ignorance about what they were doing to promote smoking, but the excuses ended with the Surgeon General’s report.

Making smoking appear cool, sexy, glamorous or anything except a self-destructive addiction is indirect homicide.

Today’s Situation

Rates of smoking are way down from their peak in 1965. Even so, about 14% of American adults are still smoking.

That’s an estimated 34 million people who know better.

As mentioned, the only ones who have an excuse are people older than I am, who began smoking as kids before it was publicly well-known smoking caused lung cancer.

According to the CDC, 8% of adults over the age of 65 do still smoke. It doesn’t say how many people my age have already died from the habit.

The rate of smoking among young adults 18–24 y/o is the lowest of all age groups, just 10%. That’s good news. It indicates the trend of people beginning to smoke is down, but doesn’t explain why any of those one out of ten youngsters even began smoking.

The anti-smoking group Truth Initiative says 44% of teens who begin smoking do so because of how it’s portrayed in movies as glamorous, rebellious and edgy.

The author of that article came up with two of the same adjectives I did — glamorous and rebellious.

I’m all for rebelliousness, glamour, coolness, edginess and sexiness too.

But why are movie makers so lacking in imagination they can’t convey those qualities unless actors smoke?

How much money is Big Tobacco still paying Hollywood to shill for them?

While self-righteous actors, actresses, directors and other celebrities have the nerve to point their finger at us and lecture us about who we should vote for and what we should eat?

And, when only 10% of teens actually smoke, it’s not even “realistic” to portray lots of young people as smoking.

That means 90% are smart enough to choose to avoid the slow suicide of smoking — and I bet they’re more rebellious, strong-minded and independent than teens who decide to spend their shortened lives giving up $2 million to pay for the habit.

Which brings me to John Green.

It’s oh so cool, hip and fashionable to kiss the ass of Big Tobacco.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is 95% a Fantastic Book

Green took a lot of risks by writing a romance between two teen cancer patients. And, on the whole, it’s both gut-wrenching and heartwarming in many good ways.

I absolutely recommend it.

But one incident early in the story pissed me off.

The book is told from the point of view of Hazel. She meets Augustus at a support meeting for teen cancer patients. Clearly, it’s love.

However, when they’re first speaking together, he sticks a cigarette in his mouth, and she’s immediately angry. She doesn’t hesitate to tell him off. How can he smoke when he’s a cancer patient? How can he bring a pack of cigarettes to a support group for teen cancer patients?

No problemo, Augustus explains. He just puts an unlighted cigarette in his mouth, then places it back in the pack. It’s a metaphor, he explains. He doesn’t give the thing that kills the power to hurt him. He doesn’t actually light it.

Hazel is so impressed by this foolishness she totally falls in love with him.

What’s going on here?

Cigarettes are a glamorous symbol of teen rebellion.

If it’s dangerous to actually light them and inhale the smoke (because you’re already a cancer patient), you can get the same cool, fashionable effect just by carrying them around and appearing to smoke.

It works for Augustus in the novel. He gets the girl.

Maybe Green thinks he figured out a clever way to let his hero have the best of both worlds — the glamour of smoking without the danger.

Quite likely, he thought it was a way to tell the teens watching the movie they should not smoke cigarettes.

But it seems to me the scene just reinforces the idea of smoking as a symbol of rebellion. That’s my objection.

Plus, as a practical matter — if you think about it, putting a cigarette in and out of your mouth is gross.

Your mouth contains a lot of bacteria. When Augustus gets the tip wet with his saliva, he’s transferring microbes to it. When the cigarette goes back into the pack, the filter will also pick up microbes from the air, and those bacteria will begin breeding in the moisture of the saliva. Who knows what kind of infection he might give himself? Yuck.

Why not make Augustus a teen who used to smoke but quit after his cancer diagnosis?

Okay, that might seem too obvious. How about Augustus yelling at a friend or brother or somebody who’s started smoking?

If that’s also too obvious, just skip it. Give Hazel another reason to be careful of him before she falls head over heels.

Yet 2,000 American Teens Try Out Cigarettes Every Day

Even though they know it’s the world’s number one cause of premature death.

Granted, even “premature” death seems far away to most teenagers, which is part of the problem.

And tobacco companies are determined to hook their customers young. After all, every new addict means around $1 million in increased revenue over the next few decades.

And Hollywood is continuing to sell out its audience to Big Cigarettes.

In 2016, 26% of movies intended for younger audiences (that is, below the R rating), contained tobacco use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics wants to have any movie showing tobacco use come with an R rating unless the use is depicted realistically. That includes not ignoring the adverse health consequences.

A paper published in 2010 in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science statistically verifies images of smoking in movies influences the behavior of teens.

Too many movies depict smoking as normal behavior, even though it no longer is in most of our culture, and the harmful consequences of the addiction are not shown.

Cigarettes rob your body of optimal health and performance long before you die from a heart attack or lung cancer.

Who wants to watch an action hero fail to defeat the bad guy because he’s too out of breath from smoking?

That’s not what people go to movies for.

So, why not just leave cigarettes out altogether?

My Personal Testimony

Thinking back, I’ve had little to do with women who smoked.

But, when I was going to school at the University of Missouri in Columbia, however, one night at a party I did meet a Stephens College girl who smoked a lot.

Therefore, I can swear to you — her mouth tasted disgusting.

“Like an ashtray” is no exaggeration.

Smoking Cigarettes Should Warn You Away

If you smoke because you believe it makes you more attractive as a romantic partner (because it makes you look more rebellious and/or sexy), it will put off sensible men and women.

Smoking should be a major red flag warning you that person has emotional problems you don’t want to ever feel responsible for.

Do you really want to join your personal finances to somebody who’s going to give $2 million to Big Tobacco over the course of their life?

Do you want to plan to spend your Golden Years with somebody who might die in their 40's?

We now know secondhand smoke causes cancer as well, so living with a smoker endangers you.

And what about your children? Secondhand smoke makes them weaker and sicker than average. Is poor health what you want for your kids?

So, run that by me again — just exactly what is glamorous, sexy, chic or rebellious about smoking?

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