Wednesday, May 11, 2016

While a Chesterfield burns

Tell me, folks. Are your gifs running a little slow and jerky? Mine are too, sort of, which is some sort of indication I'm not supposed to be posting 15 or 20 of them a day. Some are huge files, too, and I can't predict when that's going to happen. I'm at the mercy of Giphy, Makeagif and a new one called Facegarage (don't ask, but it made all those evangelical weight loss ones, so it's OK) and their individual peccadilloes. It's been my experience that gif programs are designed to break down sooner or later, especially the better ones. (Can you say Gifsforum?)

Speaking of peccadilloes. The image of a well-coiffed woman blowing out a langorous lungful of ignited tobacco leaves was once considered not only classy and elegant, but sexy. Coughing your lungs out in a pulmonary ward isn't. But who knew? So long as there was a smile in your smoking.

All these ads talk about "flavour". No one talks about the flavour/taste of a cigarette any more. In fact, no one talks about them period, because the whole subject has become taboo. But in these ads, people savoured their smokes with something like erotic pleasure. I do remember that stale, ghastly smell lingering on for hours, getting into your clothes and hair. And I never smoked.

At a certain point in the 1950s, health statistics began to come out that alarmed the big tobacco guys, so they rushed out ads that made their product seem safer. Figures were bandied about. "Recessed" filters made your smoke "cooler", "less irritating to the throat". Percentages, quarter-inches, mentions of tar and nicotene were reassuring to customers because, obviously, this little filter thingie here, this RECESSED filter, would take all the danger out of smoking. One ad even went so far as to say, "I want a treat, not a treatment". The guy would probably go on to get many treatments before the end.

Eventually, the real statistics leaked out: filters, low-tar-and-nicotene tobacco blends, and all that horseshit made not one bit of difference. Smoking cigarettes could be lethal, and there seemed to be no safe level. No one talks about smoking one or two cigarettes a day any more, because the assumption is that everyone is heavily addicted and blows through a pack or two a day.

And we won't get into the cost. I don't know how anyone can afford to smoke these days, but people buy tobacco before they buy food, so I guess it must be, uh, er, kind of addictive after all. The packages all have horrific warnings all over them, and photos of rotten lungs and people smoking through holes in their throats. I guess it happens.

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