Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em (While You Still Can)

The level of vitriol aimed at smokers today is at an all-time high. Once as benign as a cup of coffee, cigarettes have become demonized and those who smoke them are being further pushed away from society, ostracized to the sidewalks — until that’s banned too.

The confusing indoor smoking ban that was passed across Ohio last November became a heated water-cooler conversation starter, but the loudest voices seem to always come from people who are vehemently against smoking.

In this week’s CityBeat, smokers get their say. As with other drugs, there’s a good reason people start smoking: We like it. Check out our take on “Why We Smoke,” an update on the smoking ban’s enforcement difficulties and a list of the Top 20 cultural icons who make us want to light up.

It’s an admittedly unsafe yet legal recreational activity that many of us find relaxing, stimulating and rewarding. After all of the negative propaganda about cigarettes, we felt it was time to give voice to those of us who derive great joy from lighting up. (And, yes, we expect to get more than a couple angry letters.)

Part of this week’s cover story package in CityBeat looks back at those famous and infamous folks who have inspired people to smoke over the years. From James Dean to Keith Richards to Johnny Depp, celebrities have made smoking look cool and helped thousands (maybe millions) on their way to a nicotine habit.

But there are also those notable and notorious people who have made us want to quit smoking. Here is a bonus companion list to the smoking cover story, featuring five cultural icons who ruined it for the rest of us.

Five Influentials Who Make Us Want to Quit Smoking
1) Yul Brynner
From his famous post-mortem commercial: “Now that I’m gone, I tell you: Don’t smoke, whatever you do.” Dude, you’re bumming us out. We thought you were an android.

2) Joe Camel
The tobacco companies had a hard time convincing the public that this was not an attempt to get kids to start smoking. The new “Dora the Explorer Ultra Lights” aren’t helping our cause either.

3) Marge Schott
There are things to love about ol’ Marge: She was funny, she helped facilitate a Reds World Series victory and she gave oodles to charity. But between the racism, homophobia and Nazi-sympathizing of her national reputation, those omnipresent cigarettes looked … well, what’s the furthest opposite of the word “cool”?

4) Andrew Dice Clay
The crude (in an unfunny way) comedian’s relatively quick plummet from superstardom proved that his material was pure shock value, drawing a crowd only because of the bawdy language and his lowest-common-denominator sense of humor. His “Jersey prick” shtick greatly perpetuated the “smokers as asshole” stereotype.

5) Courtney Love
The black widow of Grunge brings smoking down to the level of such activities as vomiting, rambling incessantly and flashing your hoo-ha in public.

— Mike Breen

(Photos: Rat Pack:; Keith Richards by David LaChapelle; Hunter S. Thompson:; James Dean:; Johnny Depp:; James Bond/Sean Connery: MGM; Bette Davis:; Humphrey Bogart:; Greg Dulli by Chris Cuffaro; Johnny Carson:

Explore posts in the same categories: Arts & Music

21 Comments on “Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em (While You Still Can)”

  1. McKracken Says:

    Here, here! Smoking is the dirty little secret no one will talk about, at least from this angle. Clever idea. Can’t wait to read the cover story.

  2. exilein Says:

    Well Patty and Selma almost got me to quit – though I’ve heard some men like raspy voices – but then when Faith (from Buffy of course) picked up the habit, I knew it was going to be ok.

  3. citybeat Says:

    exilein: Slightly raspy voices (like Faith’s) are hot — when you get into that late-period Lucille Ball rasp, it’s a little less alluring.

    – breen

  4. Sean Says:

    Men like raspy voices until they close enough to smell the ashtray in your mouth.

    As a former smoker I support the right to light up, but as a former California resident I gotta say, it sure is nice to be able to go out to a bar or a restaurant and come home not smelling like smoke.

  5. anon Says:

    What is negative propaganda about cigarettes? The truth?

  6. Marilyn Says:

    I dunno Mike. I rather like Bette Davis’ raspy ole voice.

    And yeah, I’m a smoker. Everyone can sue me!

  7. Kenny Says:

    The anti-smoking information/propaganda is about the healfth risks. I think we’ve all got that now. It’s very obvious that cigarettes are dangerous – it’s written on the packaging. But, like the anti-drug campaigns, it ignores why we do it. It denies that any pleasure can be derived. I think to be effective, you have to be honest about the whole story.

    Second hand smoke? Enough people disagree about the risks that it seems premature to pronounce it deadly. It’s an annoyance more than anything. If it was solely about health risks, smoking would be banned outright.

    I like the idea of this story, though I think you will all get a special seat in hell for publishing it. I’ll see you there.

  8. Gregory Flannery Says:

    Kenny, hell fortunately allows smoking.

  9. FOXYROXY Says:

    I am extremely biased about the smoking thing, I have to admit.

    As a kid I was forced to live in a house with 2 chainsmokers, my mom and stepdad. My sister and I both have asthma now, and were both very sickly children. Could be coincidental, I guess, but I will always wonder what my health would have been like if I had not been forced to breathe in the secondhand smoke of 6 packs a day for almost 18 years.

    Do to yourself whatever you want to. But give others the choice to not do it with you. The Libertarian in me hates the smoking ban. The ashmatic in me beats out the Libertarian though, and rejoices.

  10. citybeat Says:

    That’s sad, Roxy. You must have had a rough time pre-smoking ban at some of the lesser venelated bars.

    For the record, CityBeat is 100 percent against chainsmoking in a house full of sick and asthmatic children. 🙂

    I would be more supportive of an overall ban on cigarettes than what we have now. Outlaw ’em, I say. Alcohol too. I agree with Kenny – if it’s purely about health risks, do away with it altogether.

    – mike

  11. Gregory Flannery Says:

    And dancing, too. I’ve never believed all that jerking around can be good for you.

  12. Marilyn Says:

    If we are talking of health risks, why wouldn’t we ban, say all soda, little debbie cakes, and chips?

    Americans are too fat. I don’t like to say this, but it’s true. Look at the children. Look at their parents. So is banning these substances the same as banning cigarrettes?

    I take the Twinkie defense!

  13. David Gallaher Says:

    We have an obesity epidemic in this country because we can afford to buy too much food.
    Ironically the looming war on obesity is just another example of being a wealthy country. We fight all these destructive wars on manifestations of human behavior because we can afford to fight them. In other words, for the same reason a dog licks its balls.
    The slogan, “one hundred more cops,” which is every politician’s mantra, is another example of our wealth as a country.
    I’m not saying we all ought to be poorer. What I’m saying is who knew that we, as a neuvo riche society, would squander our relatively new-found wealth fighting wars against our own personal death wishes?
    And, make no mistake, the wars on our death wishes are far more deadly and destructive than our death wishes, such as smoking.
    And, irony on top of irony, the war on terror is the ultimate war on the ultimate death wish.
    The secret to breaking the cycle is to acknowledge and agree that governments should not be used for us to mind other peoples’ business.
    Any chance?

  14. FOXYROXY Says:

    Breen–I have had to leave bars more times than I can count, especially in winter. E-gads. But now that the ban is on–yay!

    Oh Marilyn, the food cops are gathering steam, too. There will come a day when a Twinkie will be a controlled substance, you watch and see!

    And David–even our PETS have to go on diets in this country! It is astounding.

    This is all just such a slippery slope. What is that saying, a right is only a right until it impinges on someone else’s right? Man is that ever hard to gauge.

  15. anon Says:

    Comparing smoking to dieting is lame. You porking out doesn’t affect me. You blowing smoke in my face does.

  16. McKracken Says:

    Then get out of my face.

  17. David Gallaher Says:

    anon @ 4:40,
    What you fail to grasp is that you want to go beyond forcing smokers to get out of your face. It is your mentality (or lack thereof) that is causing laws to be passed about fast food menus, and serving sizes.
    Are you okay with that?

    As I said above, you want to use government as your tool to mind other people’s business.

  18. Marilyn Says:

    Anon, you fail to see the big picture.

    If overeating is costing your health insurance big bucks, then ultimately YOU will pay.

    Porking out by others IS going to cost you. Take it to the bank.

  19. Heather Says:

    Wow- it always amazes me to see such aggression towards people who believe that they should be able to go out in public without inhaling other’s smoke. That’s right, everyone should just get out of the smokers’ way because it is their right to do whatever the hell they want, including saying that the health risks of second hand smoke are disputed. It’s folks like this that make Cincinnati look so assbackward. Eat what you want, do what you want, but you who claim to be “Libertines” do not have the right to make others, including restaurant/bar employees to breathe your smoke because of your choice to remain ingorant.

    Aggressive comments like “Then get out of my face” are nothing more than a selfish child’s response to not getting what you want.

  20. David Gallaher Says:

    Marilyn and Heather,
    I think of we three as the Musketeers/Mouseketeers/Stooges here, so I am reluctant to skirmish with you in public here.
    But what are the alternatives?
    If the health insurance industry were not the puppet of the likes of Hillary Clinton and the government in general, in ways too complicated to elaborate
    on here, it could adjust its rates to put the appropriate “cost” on overeating, and not spread it to the skinny.
    Aggression is towards nannies.
    We like to think we are adults, evidence notwithstanding. Restaurants are businesses. They should be allowed to create whatever atmosphere they choose. Their employees are not forced to work for them.
    I will agree that there is general confusion over what contitutes “public,” but the evirons of a private business are not, just as I said in another thread. Your home is private, even though the nearby sidewalks and street are public.
    The distinction is very key.
    BTW, as a peaceful anarchist, I would completely eliminate “public.”
    Imagine if you can the tranquility that would ensue!

  21. Kenny Says:

    Heather, when you take something away from people that they’ve been free to do for centuries, there’s bound to be a little frustration during the transitional period. I have seen as much “aggression” from non-smokers than I have smokers. The nastiness goes both ways.

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