Here we look beyond the Lucky Strike brand to the tobacco industry and the effects of smoking.

Here we look beyond the Lucky Strike brand to the tobacco industry and the effects of smoking.

Why Begin Smoking?

At age four I enticed my three-year old cousin to accompany me underneath his house to smoke some cigarettes I had taken from a pack of his Dad’s. He did and we both got deathly sick from the experience. Neither of us ever smoked cigarettes again. He later became a pastor and founded a church so I feel pretty proud of my contribution to his ministry.

I remember the day when my twelve-year old sister began to die. She was new to town and junior high school and craving inclusion in some social group. Being new she was initially excluded by all but a group that smoked. And so began a lifetime habit that killer her twenty years younger than our Mother. I’m certain her smoking cost Medicare more than $ one million.

[R.J. Reynolds died at 68 and James Buck Duke at 69—about the age my Sister died.]

In 1992 in far off Bukhara on the Old Silk Road in Central Asia, I visited a madrasa—a Muslim school attached to an ancient temple. It had a tiny, dimly lit store with dirt floor and a tiny glass case with a few local craft items for sale. In it was only one American item e.g. Winston cigarettes! The ruble was falling and Winston cigarettes were used as currency!

Studies

Studies of the needs met by smoking fully support the need of my sister to fit in and be accepted by an important referent group—in her case, the wrong one. Multiple studies reported by the CDC cited these needs as targeted in their ads targeting teens: peer acceptance, rebelliousness, risk taking, stress relief, and self-image.

Amazingly, tobacco corporations argued that advertising didn’t entice persons to begin smoking but merely addressed brand choice and loyalty. Studies established the relationship between tobacco marketing and smoking behavior, particularly among adolescents. Fortunately for tobacco companies, their target population—teens—were naïve, and impressionable.

In the meantime, over a million victims of smoking were dying yearly and litigation forced tobacco products to bear a dire warning of the potential consequences of using them.

All this reminds me of a sentence from the Lucky Strike booklet mentioned last week e.g.,

“Every leaf in the sturdy plants seems like a page from the book of health.”

Marlboro Men

Marlboro began as a woman’s cigarette and to convert it to a man’s cigarette advertising agencies began displaying the cigarette with men in manly occupations. Eventually the ad agency settled on cowboys. At first they used male models—one so effete they had to used ropes to hoist him onto horses for photo shoots. They finally decided that they needed to use real cowboys and settled on Darrell Winfield, born in Delaware County, Oklahoma. By then he was ranching in Wyoming. He was the ‘real’ Marlboro Man 1969-1989 and a real cowboy who never used makeup or costumes. Unlike the myths that have grown up about him dying young of cancer, Winfield lived to 85. No cause of death was given. He was role model family man.

Unfortunately, such was not the case of the earlier men cast in that part. All three died in their late sixties of smoking-related diseases. Diseases related to tobacco smoking have been shown to kill approximately half of long-term smokers. Datum: To this day, Marlboro is far and away the most popular brand cigarette.

Big John

Marian Morrison [aka John Wayne] was the role model of American manliness for several decades. He was operated at 57 and bragged that he had beaten the “Big C.” Ultimately he died of stomach cancer at age 72—by then an emaciated, wrinkled shell of himself. His 1957 film ‘The Conqueror” was shot on location near St. George, Utah. Of the cast and crew of 220, ninety-one came down with cancer—a morbidity rate of an astounding 41%--including Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead . The film was shot east of and downwind of where nuclear weapons had been tested.

Famous persons who died of smoking-related diseases: Jackie Kennedy [65] ;C.S. Lewis [65] ;Luciano Pavarotti [72]; Audrey Hepburn [64]; Dean Martin [lung cancer, emphysema, and Alzheimers beginning at 74] [78.]

Frankie

I remember when stick-thin Frank Sinatra rose to fame in the early forties. Teenee boppers swooned and worshipped as he sang just as they do today for lesser luminaries. He grew up in Hoboken, NJ across the Hudson from Manhattan with friends who became mobsters and remained lifetime friends. He made commercials for Chesterfield and Lucky Strike and was sponsored by them on the “Hit Parade.” As he said, “I’m for Chesterfield, and Chesterfield is for me.” A chain smoker, he was usually seen with a lit cigarette in his hand. Fittingly his friends placed a pack of Camels and a cigarette lighter in his casket. Though his theme song and the theme of his life was “My Way,” and in spite of the words of his third wife Barbara Marx to “fight it,” his final words were, “I’m losing.” he died of multiple ailments associated with smoking. Though living a dissolute life, in his final years he became a practicing Catholic faith and was buried by the Church—His Way. His simple grave stone reads “The Best Is Yet To Come.”