Smoking: Perils and Politics

Smoking and Tobacco Advertising


In the 1940s and 50s television was saturated with cigarette advertising. The tobacco companies hired major celebrities to promote their products, and sales reached an all-time high. I can only assume that they were very well paid, because many of the movie and sports stars of the time lent their images and their endorsements to TV, newspaper and magazine cigarette ads.

Celeb Ads Smoking Montage

Not only did the cigarette companies advertise on TV sporting events and quiz programs, they targeted the youth market with ads on shows like The Flintstones and The Beverly Hillbillies. Click on the arrow below.

The Perils of Smoking


Doctor with package of cigarettes

Doctor’s orders

As early as the 1940s smoking was recognized as a serious cause of emphysema, heart disease and of course lung cancer. When health issues associated with smoking reached the public, some cigarette companies used doctors, or actors dressed as doctors, to assert claims that their products were milder and contained less tar and cancer-causing ingredients than their competition.

In the early 1960s however the FCC started requiring TV stations to carry public service announcements, warning of the dangers of smoking. Coincidentally, the government actually called upon the Flintstones’ producers to create an anti-smoking public service announcement. This time the Flintstones were on the right side of the argument. Click on the arrow below.


However, it wasn’t until January of 1971 that Congress stepped in and actually banned the advertising of cigarettes on both radio and TV. It took another ten years for the Surgeon General of the United States to require that tobacco companies place warnings on all cigarette packs as well as in their advertisements.

Tobacco and Politics


Tobacco has been taxed by state and Federal governments for decades. In fact, U.S. tobacco taxes actually exceed $32 billion in 2010. That particular year the tobacco industry spent $16,000,000 on lobbyists.

It’s always been about politics. Though tobacco’s hazards were well known and preached by the medical establishment, it took years for scientists and doctors to convince the government and the American people that smoking was life-threatening.

Too little too late

The cancer propaganda however, couldn’t move the nation’s politicians who were under pressure from the tobacco lobby which maintained that anti-smoking laws were a violation of individual rights; rather like the NRA today advocating the unrestricted right of citizens to own and carry guns.

It was not until the medical profession could provide definitive proof that secondhand smoke was a threat to human health that cities began designating specific areas where smoking of all kinds was prohibited as well as on all public transportation. In time, the prohibition spread to public buildings.

Also, the government began prevailing on TV stations to run a whole new set of commercials emphasizing the danger of second-hand smoke.

The most effective ads were those that stressed the dangers of second-hand smoke for children. Click on the arrow below.


Depending on your part of the country, smoking is prohibited in restaurants as well as indoor and even outdoor sporting events.

Apart from a few marijuana users, I can think of very few people I know in Los Angeles who smoke a tobacco product today. Whereas society accepted smoking during the first 50 years of my life, the habit, at least in my small part of the world, is now considered to be socially unacceptable. Come to think of it, there hasn’t been so much as an ash tray in my house for over thirty years.

Cigar Clubs



Where the elite meet to beat the system

Shatner Aficionado

Smokin’ Shatner

Today there is actually a handsome quarterly magazine for cigar aficionados. In addition there are many members-only cigar clubs and lounges. The most lavish of these is probably The Caribou Club in Aspen, Colorado where, a membership is $1,500 for the first year and $1,000 for each year thereafter. The club serves fine wine, liquors and meals in luxurious dining and private function rooms. With the exception of private homes, it’s the only indoor gathering place in town where cigars, and I presume other types of smoking, are legal.

Similar private cigar clubs exist in New York, Chicago, Santa Monica, Washington D.C., Norfolk Virginia, Tallahassee, Omaha, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and more cities throughout the U.S. Cigar smoking, at least among the elite, may be here to stay.

Electronic Cigarettes



“Vapor tastes good like an E-cigarette should.”

e-Cigarettes that don’t look it.

The nicotine addicts haven’t given up however. Where there’s a market and a habit there is a provider to feed it. Today, or at least until the medical and regulatory agencies step in, the manufacturers of the new electronic cigarettes are introducing their products to the smoking public. Though there are some arguments to the contrary, the E-cigarette people maintain that their devices emit only a vapor which they claim is harmless. The FDA has attempted to assert jurisdiction, but has so far failed to prevail in the courts. Some states, however, have banned the sale of E-cigarettes to minors.

The Los Angeles City Council has made up its mind, however. They have gone a step further by voting unanimously to regulate the sales of E-cigarettes as they do traditional tobacco products. So far there is no evidence that the vapors emitted from E-cigarettes represent a health hazard such as the so-called “second-hand” smoke emitted by conventional tobacco products.


The vapor flavor of your choice

Prices vary. The “V2”, for example, comes with five refills which are available in an assortment of flavors. It sells for $100. A person who used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day will use one refill cartridge. Additional refills cost $2.00 per cartridge, which is considerably less than a conventional package of smokes, which cost anywhere from $5.00 to $10.00 or more depending on the cigarette tax in the state in which they are purchased.

Not being a smoker, I can’t judge the comparative levels of satisfaction between the two. On the other hand, the electronic people claim that there are no offensive odors associated with their products and no health and/or second-hand smoke problems. Others say that the latter claims have yet to be validated.

Note: It should come as no surprise of course that some innovative people have already found a way to load marijuana in some form into an E-cigarette.

Pipe Dreams


Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t conclude this lengthy blog with my most recent tobacco adventure.

One evening as my date (yes… even patriarchs have dates) and I were leaving “Gravity” a 3D movie, appearing at Westwood’s Village Theatre, we passed several tables of young people smoking with water pipes.


Hooked on Hookah

Right there on Broxton Avenue, a block from the UCLA campus, just yards from two movie theaters, a pizza kitchen, an ice cream shop and several small stores, were two very busy hookah cafes, The ‘Gypsy’ and The ‘Habibi’.

We stopped in front of a table occupied by two very attractive young women, sharing water pipes and exhaling great quantities of white smoke, which had sort of a sweet, rather fruity fragrance, quite unlike that of cigarettes or other burning tobacco odors.

The cafes themselves served the usual Middle Eastern cuisine accompanied by music of the same genre. However, it was their sidewalk hookah service and clientele that I found fascinating.

Remember, my one and only attempt to smoke anything was with my then brother-in-law’s water pipe forty years ago, which had been an embarrassing failure.

Not to be confused with “hookas”

Nevertheless the girls were really cute and in response to our interest insisted that we take a puff, or whatever you do with a water pipe. My date declined, but I surprised myself, and turning to one of the girls I asked; “Am I supposed to inhale? Does it contain nicotine?”

“You don’t have to,” was her answer to my first question, adding a “yes” to the second.

I sucked on the mouthpiece and tasted the smoke, which had a fruity flavor. I passed the hose to my date, who just shook her head.

“Try it.” I said. “It tastes sorta good, sorta like oranges… try it.” She continued to shake her head. Maybe, having given up smoking years ago, she had no interest in testing her resolve. On the other hand she may have been hesitant to share the same mouthpiece with me and the two pretty girls.


It’s only vapor.

So we gave our thanks to the young ladies, who nodded and smiled goodbye behind more puffs of white smoke or vapor or whatever it was.

“How about that?” I thought to myself as we walked back to the car. “This will make a perfect ending to my Tobacco Blog story.”

“Funny,” I said to my date as we drove away from Westwood, “I’m feeling a little dizzy. Do you think that maybe?…”

“Unlikely,” she said, “you just spent the last two hours wearing a pair of cheap plastic glasses at a 3D movie.”


No home should be without one.

“Oh well,” I thought to myself, remembering the two pretty girls, “so much for this senior’s pipe dreams”.


Water pipes, hookahs and the smoking therefrom date back to the Persian Empire. Marinated tobacco is heated with hot coals in marble cups and filtered through cool water. The vapor produced is drawn by the smoker through a hose to which is attached a wooden or plastic mouthpiece.


Umm… good

The girls in Westwood requested that their bowl be lined with half an apple. They had their choice of tobacco flavors which might have included orange, grape, peach, guava, lemon, mint or even cappuccino.

Like cigarette, E-cigarette and cigar smoking, hookah use is prohibited inside Los Angeles restaurants. Service thereof is confined to adjacent sidewalks and limited to guests eighteen and older.

Hookah cafes are proliferating, and so far the emission of second-hand, virtually odorless vaporized smoke doesn’t seem to have triggered any serious public outcry.

diddy riese2

Diddy’s delight

It’s interesting to note that next door to one of the hookah bars on Broxton is a very popular Diddy Riese ice cream and cookie store whose line stretched around the corner. Just think… a movie and a few tokes on a hookah shared with two beautiful coeds. Top that off with cookies and ice cream… and you have the ultimate geriatric fantasy.



For the moral to this story let’s visit country music star Buck Owens and his word to the wise about “Cigarettes and Whiskey.” Click “Play” below.




1 Comment

One thought on “Smoking: Perils and Politics

  1. Nancy Bloch

    I loved those old Nathanson stories. Thanks for sharing them ,bro. XO

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