By C. R. S. Lyles
I saw a commercial today promoting some new show on Nickelodeon called Victorious. I have no idea what the show is about, nor do I have any interest in it whatsoever (as I presume, probably correctly, that it is merely the network’s answer to "tween wave" drivel that the Disney channel continues to spew out), but the marketing focus of the commercial held me riveted.
The commercial preceded to promote the "hits" from the show, songs which included "Freak The Freak Out" and "My Best Friend’s Brother". And you know what the really sad part about this is?
Its most-watched episode had 6.1 million viewers.
Now, while I lament the loss of my childhood to this sort of trash as much as the next post-Generation Xer, it’s simple kindergarten deduction that leads to the inevitable conclusion that in a world where the Rugrats and Doug have been replaced by a sluttily-clad thirteen-year-old singing about her best friend’s brother, something has gone seriously awry.
Which finally brings me to my point: Washington is trying to become the first state to outlaw all forms of tobacco, Colorado is trying to become the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and all across the country there are privately- and state-funded "cessation laboratories" popping up to "investigate the psychological processes that contribute to continued smoking despite the high personal and societal costs of tobacco use."
The phone is ringing for you, America.
It’s George Orwell, and he’s asking for his plot devices back.
Using a Google search that took me about forty-five seconds total, four major cessation centers caught my interest. Another minute and a half of searching turned up many more.
The four that popped out at me the most, however, were:
1.) USC Tobacco Education and Materials Lab (TEAM Lab)
2.) Rutgers University’s Smoking Cessation Laboratory
3.) The Prevention and Treatment in Clinical Health Center at UT, El Paso, and
4.) The UF Smoking Laboratory and Clinic.
Now, this is more-than just slightly creepy to me in many ways.
Any moderately-intelligent, half-asleep train spotter can tell that the state and federal government has been trying to curtail the American public’s behavior for years (since the beginning of this country, actually), but to attempt to coerce its own people to adhere to certain principles while masquerading as a free and independent country whose only intent with these centers is for mere medicinal research goes beyond trying to curtail behavior and oversteps the boundary between democracy and fascism.
Check this out and tell me you don’t hear echoes of World War II propaganda:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/SfAxUpeVhCg" width="480" height="360" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]
Is it weird that I see "Best Dramatic Commercial" joining the list of awards that the Academy gives out each year? I think this one might have just enough emotional pull to beat out Sarah McLachlan’s BC SPCA commercial.
Anyway, the above commercial was sponsored by Quit Victoria, an Australian joint initiative of the Cancer Council Victoria, the Department of Health of Australia, the National Heart Foundation, and VicHealth.
It really is quite amazing what you can find with a minute and a half and decent WiFi signal.
Quit Victoria is obviously one of the larger state-sponsored anti-smoking initiatives, but the principle behind its motivations and the cessation centers that now reside in just about every state is the same.
As I’ve stated before, it’s all about control.
And in a down economy, in a continued state of war and social turmoil at home, control is the name of the game, for without it, (gasp) Americans might actually have to work for what they earn instead of depend on the government to continually bail them out. And should that awful thing happen? Why, Americans might just come to realize they never really needed their government as much as they thought they did.
Or that new 3D flatscreen that Sony just released.
Or that new Call of Duty game.
Or that new flatware set that’s on sale this weekend only down at Kohl’s.
You see, what I’ve come to realize in my time as a smoker is that there’s something behavioral about the people who choose to inhale tobacco or enjoy products which use tobacco.
We know what we’re doing when we take that first puff or taste that chunk of chaw for the first time.
We know the risks, we know the dangers, but we do it anyway.
Because it’s more than just the smoking itself that draws us to it; it’s the lifestyle.
For centuries, smoking was considered a casual and often social affair, but now that we have dedicated facilities to help us stop this behavior, we find it harder to be social or casual with our choice of leisure activity.
There’s an article that was published several years ago that outlined the social nature behind smoking (and actually was one of the articles that planted the idea in my head to become a journalist). Entitled "Learning To Smoke", it chronicled a writer named Tom Chiarella’s month-long goal to reach smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
However, the point of the article is less about the smoking and more about the culture. And that’s what the real argument is between the anti-s and the smoker is.
We smokers are a cultural group. We fulfill every criterion that defines a cultural group, yet we find ourselves ostracized in a world that prides itself on political correctness and tolerance. If you think that this statement is a little extreme, go driving on a rainy day and see how many huddles of smokers are packed beneath the various offerings of shelter since no indoor facility allows smoking inside anymore.
But, then again, this is a world of cessation centers we live in, a world where old episodes of Doug aren’t even available on Netflix and the hit song this week is by a band named LMFAO.
How about we make a deal, America? You lift the ban on the indoor smoking thing and we’ll quietly take our pipes and cigars and packs of cigarettes inside so that our disgusting habit won’t bother you anymore, and in exchange you take your nanny-state garbage, your cessation centers, and lifeless, bland, uninspired "creations" back to the market researchers and ad artists who all had projections that said we would love them and just leave us the hell alone.
Carter R. Lyles is a student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL and at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He is a journalism/psychology major, and in addition to his work at Pipes Magazine, he has contributed articles to The Alligator, Thursday Night Magazine, and The Fine Print.