LOLLIPOPS AND CIGARETTES….The founder of the Washington Monthly is a fellow named Charlie Peters, and one of the mainstays of the magazine for as long as I’ve been reading it is Charlie’s column “Tilting at Windmills,” a collection of short riffs that I consider the granddaddy of political blogs. In fact, if Charlie had founded the magazine 30 years later than he did, that would probably be the name of this blog and he’d probably be the one writing it.
The June issue of the magazine is online now, and with it the June installment of “Tilting at Windmills.” Some of the items will be familiar to anyone who keeps up with the blogosphere, but some won’t. Take this one, for example:
Did you know that the cigarette companies are making cigarettes with candy, fruit, and other sweet flavors? This is obviously designed to lure kids into smoking–according to the Boston Globe’s Stephen Smith, they are being marketed under teeny-bopper brand names like Mandarin Mint and Cherry Cheesecake–and is especially hideous because the earlier smoking begins, the more likely lung cancer will be the result. The guilty parties, by the way, are not fly-by-night companies but big-timers like R.J. Reynolds and Brown & Williamson. At least one state, Massachusetts, is trying to halt this insanity. Christine Ferguson, the commissioner of the Department of Public Health, is the hero. Other state officials around the country should emulate her. And isn’t it about time for the federal Food and Drug Administration to take on the tobacco companies?
Here in California, we passed an initiative a few years ago that taxes cigarettes and devotes part of the proceeds to running ads that discourage smoking. Now, depending on your point of view, this is either poetic justice or nanny state outrage, but one thing I can tell you for sure is that the result has been some viciously funny commercials ? usually aimed at the cigarette companies themselves rather than the dangers of smoking. And every once in a while, after a particularly brutal (but funny!) commercial, I even feel a little twinge of sympathy for them.
But then I read a story like this one, and I realize that no matter how hard they try, even clever ad agencies can’t come up with anything as brutal as real life. Candy flavored cigarettes? That would probably seem too over-the-top even for a California anti-smoking ad.
And of course, they’re not aimed at kids. Not at all. Everyone likes candy, right?