Friday, April 08, 2005

Smoking news

When I began telling people that Peter Jennings had lung cancer, the reaction was two-fold: surprise and the question, "Is he a smoker?'' In fact, one co-worker asked, "Is he a smoker or just unlucky?''
As a culture we've come to accept the link between smoking and lung cancer, even assuming it, as people did with Jennings. (The answer to the question, by the way, is that he used to smoke but quit -- as much as 20 years ago, according to some reports.) That's a sea change from the days when movies and TV shows were full of smokers, when cigarette ads were everywhere, when
So were newsrooms, I must admit, as this story from Newsday notes:,0,3642317.story?coll=ny-health-headlines.
I well remember getting home from work and my clothes and hair smelling of the smoke that had filled the offices of the upstate New York newspaper where I worked. (Sometimes, too, the smoke was mine. But I did a lot of stupid things when I was younger.) Things have changed in the workplace, and much is done to persuade people that smoking is a bad idea. Jennings's illness at least raised the issue again for people.
But some folks are going to take up smoking no matter how many tracts and stories and anti-tobacco ads they see. The culture still hasn't rid itself of the idea that smoking can be exotic or glamorous. Anti-smoking images bump up against pro-smoking ones. Any time you see a young actor with a cigarette in hand, it's an invitation to the actor's admirers to follow suit.


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