24 October 2005

Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette!

Our recent evening sojourn outside the contiguous U.S. borders got me thinking about all the young people who have taken up the habit of smoking. A/K/A "Draggin' a coffin nail", "Sucking on an adult pacifier", or "Giving in to peer pressure and trying to look 'cool' and 'one of the gang.'"

Words cannot express the thanks I have that states like Georgia have enacted laws against smoking in most public facilities. I do NOT like breathing in nicotine fumes while I'm trying to enjoy a meal out. If you want to smoke, that's your right. Just remember the adage, "your right to extend your arm ends at my face." Smoke if you must -- just go away and do it in your car, your home, or - if in public - away from my nose. I grew up in a home where both parents smoked; I've breathed in enough noxious chemicals for several lifetimes, thankyouverymuch.

Whoookay, now that I got my rant out of the way, on to the purpose of my post.

Over the last decade or so, I've been making unscientific, quiet "surveys" of cigarette smokers. This takes two forms:

1) Whenever I see one, I always try to discreetly look for a pack, in order to see what brand they smoke.

2) If I'm in a convenience store, and someone nearby asks the clerk for a pack or carton, I observe what brand they ask for.

What I've gathered, incredibly enough, is that among people who appear my age (40) and younger, precisely TWO (2) brands dominate: MARLBORO and NEWPORT.

And which of those two you light up depends entirely (!) on ... your race.

Every - EVERY! - youngish white person whose cig pack I've seen has the insignia of either MARLBORO or MARLBORO LIGHT. Broken down further, all the men smoke the regular (red-label) MARLBOROs. Women - and it seems there are far more women than men my age and younger who are nicotine addicts - smoke mostly MARLBORO LIGHTs (gold label), and ohhhhh maybe 1/3 smoke regular MARLBOROs.

And every single African-American smoker drags on NEWPORT coffin nails. I've never seen anybody of the black persuasion "coming to MARLBORO country." And vice versa for NEWPORT. Cigarette brand loyalty has become quite the segregated issue.

Again, this is informal observation in different locations - both here at home and over in Alabama. I've tried my damnest to see if I can spot a 30-something or 20-something smoker totin' a pack of something besides MARLBORO or NEWPORT. I have yet to find one. Honestly.

The other 'heritage' brands, i.e. CAMEL, SALEM (my Mom has about singlehandedly kept the SALEM brand in business at least as long as I've been on this Earth), WINSTON, etc., seem to be the favorites of my parents' generation. Just once would I like to find a 30-year-old smoker buy a pack of, say, PARLIAMENT or - good gravy - RALEIGH! (Do they still have those coupons inside the shrinkwrap?) Or a 'generic' brand!!

Which leads me to conclude one thing: despite any 'doth-they-protest-too-much' denials, cigarette smoking truly IS a product of peer pressure.

Don't waste your time with any indignant comments. My survey will continue. I'll gladly make another post if my observations warrant.

Meanwhile, I don't feel like "coming to Marble Row Country."

Ciao for *hack!* niao.

--Talmadge "Thank You For Holding Your Smoke While I Breathe" Gleck

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