Jewish World Review August 20, 2002 / 12 Elul 5762

Clarence Page

Clarence Page
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Bid farewell to the Cigarette Century | Some of my smoking pals in New York City feel outraged and betrayed at the apparent perfidy of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-smoking crusade.

Now, at a time when the city is already hot enough to melt a landlord's heart, he drops this bombshell: Bloomberg is asking the City Council to extend New York's antismoking law to include all restaurants and bars.

Boom! Moans and groans arose from the ranks of those who are still killing themselves by cigarette. Ah, the treachery, they moaned. The deceit! The tyranny! The invasion of rights! The "nanny-ism!"

But, not me. As a smoker and frequent New York visitor, I sympathize with my smoking pals now driven from yet another haunt into the streets like coughing, hacking beggars. But I also know when we smokers are licked.

As the smoke clears in one public place and office after another across the nation, I can see clearly now that the end is drawing near for what I call "the Cigarette Century."

That's the period between the rise of the popularity of cigarettes a hundred years ago and the period of its forced decline now.

A century ago, cigarettes were banned outright in several states. The bans were dropped, one-by-one, as popular demand grew.

Cigarette smoking received a major boost during World War I, when cigarettes were distributed free to soldiers. They kept buying them when they returned home.

Until recently, it would have been unimaginable -- inconceivable! -- for politicians to declare an end to the smoke that has turned numerous Big Apple pubs, nightclubs and restaurants into backdrops for great poets, artists, authors, journalists, executives and lap dancers.

In saloon culture, a cigarette was more than just a smoke. It was an ingredient that, along with agreeable companionship and a glass of your favorite beverage, formed the recipe for a way of life. A jazz club without cigarette smoke, for example, seemed about as likely as a pizza without cheese.

But, since the "Just Say No" '80s, a new awareness of the dangers of second-hand smoke and the rise of a new fitness-conscious generation of young professionals, the anti-smoking forces have become downright overwhelming.

I can remember when you could smoke in movie theaters in Manhattan. Those days are long gone. The country's culture has shifted like a giant, rumbling tectonic plate in the crust of the earth along the fault lines of flaming tobacco.

By the end of the century, overall smoking rates had dropped among Americans over the age of 18 to only 23.3 percent -- from 41.9 percent in 1965 -- according to federal health statistics.

With numbers like that, along with changed attitudes, it's no wonder that politicians like Bloomberg are no longer afraid to wage war against smoking, even in New York City, the global center of cosmopolitan cool.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg won state approval to raise taxes enough to make a pack of cigarettes cost $7.50 in the city. He got away with it, despite some howls from the tobacco lobby and pro-smoking groups. The voters wanted another Rudolph Giuliani, a man bold enough to crack down on jaywalkers in midtown Manhattan. Now that Bloomberg is also force-feeding the voters what he thinks is good for them, New Yorkers do appear to have another Rudy.

I surrender. It's hard to wage much of a fight for the right to do something that you know is going to help to kill you.

Already I live with the shame that the end of the Cigarette Century brings upon us holdouts. I am the cigarette-smoking equivalent of the notch-baby -- after hiding my smoking from my parents throughout my teen years, I now hide it from my own kid!

Now 13, my son seems to have no interest in smoking. Maybe he has more good sense about it than I did as a teen, when I wanted to look cool. I hope so. Nine out of 10 smokers start in their teen years. Get your kids through those years without puffing and they're probably in the clear.

"You probably don't think cigarettes look cool, do you?" I asked him.

"No, I think cigarette smoking does look cool," he informed me. "But, I'm still not going to do it."

Way to go, kid. I want you to live. You make me want to live a while longer, too.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Clarence Page's column by clicking here.


08/16/02: Rights matter, even in circus trials
08/09/02: Jousting with Rumsfeld's fog of wit
08/06/02: Covert action is cool again
08/01/02: Powell's premature obituaries
07/30/02: A common sense tip on internal snooping
07/18/02: Jacko plays race card badly
07/12/02: Last flight for a pioneer airman
07/08/02: Dems will miss Watts, too
06/28/02: 'Supreme Court reads polls, too
06/25/02: 'The Body' bites, then bows out
06/21/02: Punishment first, then the crime?
06/18/02: Reporting still risky for Haiti's press
06/14/02: Bush's security plan leaves large gaps
06/04/02: Fix FBI's culture gap first
05/28/02: Fidel's new apartheid for tourists
05/21/02: Now McKinney's lunacy sounds like the Democratic Party line
05/19/02: A paradox of historical proportions
05/14/02: 'Murphy Brown' revisited in age of Ozzy
05/10/02: America looks like a model of tolerance and inclusion
05/07/02: Forget it, Bill, you're no Oprah
04/26/02: Mapping out ethnic and racial change
04/23/02: A game of another color
04/19/02: It's high time to open up pot-law debate
04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
03/19/02: A slur? Where is thy sting?
03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

© 2001 TMS