Smoke signals: Our changing attitudes on cigarettes

David Bellm

January 29, 2014

2 Min Read
Smoke signals: Our changing attitudes on cigarettes

Cigarette packaging has been in the news a lot lately, as the Obama administration gets aggressive about anti-smoking efforts. The latest shot to be fired is the coming of new graphic warning labels for cigarette packs

These rather startling admonishments on cigarette packages are pretty common elsewhere in the world, and the U.S. is said to have rather mild warnings in comparison. 

But the new graphic labels will certainly take things up a notch … or four. Have you seen what they generally look like? Usually they depict just about the most horrific manifestations of smoking related diseases one could possibly imagine — like this example from Australia.

Or, you can check more such images in this gallery of graphic cigarette warning labels. But don’t look at it too close to lunchtime — there are some that are actually worse.

The thing that strikes me the weirdest about it all though, is just how much attitudes toward cigarettes have changed so much in a relatively short time. Not all that many years ago, it was completely normal to smoke – people who chose to light up a few dozen times a day back in the 1960s were considered no more odd than someone who chose to wear a gray suit instead of a black one. 

Want evidence of that? Check out these two videos, in which we see likeable cartoon characters from the Flintstones puffing up and pushing smokes as casually as if they were discussing a new brand of orange juice. (It’s not a parody — Winston used to be a sponsor of The Flintstones).

Or how about this other video, in which we see a tobacco company use the implied endorsement of doctors to push their product.

And these certainly weren’t anomalies from their time. I picked these two from a heap of other similarly bizarre videos floating around the web. 

As for the right and wrong of smoking, I won’t get into that — I don’t smoke and neither do my friends and loved ones. I remain neutral on the issue. It does, however, amaze me how far our collective mindset has shifted on something so common … and seemingly unshakeable. 

Will the presumably more enlightened people of 2049 look back on us “naïve” folks from 2009 and laugh at us too? 

Probably. Ever will the beat go on.


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