Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Butt Out


They needed to use a drawing of Garcia, as he is smoking in every single picture ever taken of him, and it would clash with the No Smoking sign.


Some of the Young Enthusiasts, depending on the state they grew up in, might not realize how prevalent and pervasive cigarette smoking used to be in America, and how much the cultural attitude towards it has shifted. Tobacco was more normalized in every way; the ads were everywhere, and not just those wacky “doctor advertises Chesterfields” ads: magazines and bus stops and billboards along the highway. (There are still Marlboro billboards on Route 77.) Corporations didn’t buy stadium naming rights back then, but if they did there surely would have been a Lucky Strikes Field.

Cigarette brands had mascots, too, Young Enthusiast. You would have liked them, because they were designed for you. The Marlboro Man looked like Robert Redford, and he rode a horse like Clint Eastwood: he was always in Wyoming in the dead of winter, tromping through snow up to his mount’s belly, and he would have his trusty Marlboro Red clenched tight between his manly teeth. The four men that portrayed the Marlboro Man over the course of the ad campaign all died of lung cancer.

This is Joe Camel:


The Marlboro Man only did one thing, but Joe was a jack of all trades. If you were Bertrand Russell, then you’d call the Marlboro Man a hedgehog, and Joe Camel a fox, but you’re not Bertrand Russell and you never will be, so stop trying to prove two plus two equals four. It just fucking does.


I got off on a tangent.

Yeah. Back to teen smoking.

Right: the tobacco companies, who refused to admit that smoking was bad for you in any way until forced to by Congress, advertise to children and they always have: smokers are the most brand-loyal consumers, so if you can hook them with your particular cigarette early, you’ll have them for their unnaturally-shortened life. Hence: Joe Camel and his ultra-spiffy lifestyle. Joe was a pilot and a racecar driver; he was in a band a lot. Basically, every 14-year-old boy’s daydreams, and with a giant cock-and-balls for a face.

Tobacco advertising has been banned for a while, but it wasn’t just that it was legal: smoking–including teen smoking–was culturally acceptable in almost any setting. High schools had smoking sections for the students, and a huge ploof of smoke would stream out of the teacher’s lounge when the door was opened. TotD is not old enough to remember when lighting up in hospitals and movie theaters was allowed, but planes and restaurants were fair game; my father smoked in both, merrily.

In fact, Young Enthusiast, the only people who weren’t allowed to buy a pack of smokes in America when I was growing up were middle-schoolers. From the start til end of puberty; before that, you were assumed to have been sent to the store by a parent. (This is completely true. When I would visit my dad at his office as a kid, he would send me down the newsstand in the lobby to buy him a soft pack of True Green 100’s, and I would buy a magazine. Writing this now, it occurs to me that he was trying to get rid of me and then shut me up.) Then once you hit high school, you were allowed to buy cigarettes again (nobody carded) but even when everyone had a butt dangling from their lips, no one wanted to sell smokes to a twelve-year-old. That’s third world shit right there; it’s just unseemly; lowers the property values.

Phillip Morris calls itself Altria now, and is concentrating on Asia, where they smoke like fiendish chimneys. Congress outlawed Joe Camel, and the Marlboro Men all died of cancer, the same as my father, and no one smokes on airplanes any more, not because the sign says so, but because it’s no longer a cultural option, but the sign still says so.


  1. I remember the other two. When I was 5 or 6 my grandmother took me to the Disney movie “Bednobs and Broomsticks” and smoking her Pall Malls right n the theater. I was in high school and got into a car accident and still was allowed to Smoke in a private room, otherwise I would have had to go to the lounge.

  2. Isaiah Berlin, not Bertrand Russel, was the Hedgehog and Fox guy, but I suspect you’re just fucking with us again. I still haven’t forgiven you for the James Joyce stunt.

  3. Mean, Green, Devil Eating Machine

    November 5, 2016 at 11:01 am

    That’s, ahh, Keith, at the piano, right?

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