Sunday, July 10, 2011

NEWSFLASH: Smoking Is Not Sexy


Four years ago I took a directing class with Nina Foch, an extremely cool old lady who starred in Spartacus and An American in Paris back in the day, and who was adamant that we not include cigarette smoking in our scenes for class unless we deemed it absolutely necessary. Nina told us it was unethical to glamorize smoking in the movies now that we know what cigarettes actually do to people.

I didn't want to listen to her at the time. Smoking is so sexy, right?

But I've spent the four years since I took that class watching H try to quit smoking. And he's going through hell.

Maybe he looks kinda sexy with a cigarette in his mouth, but his breath isn't sexy. And it's not sexy when he wakes up an ENORMOUS ASSHOLE every morning because he's going through nicotine withdrawal. Or when we have to sprint off the plane or dash out of the movie theater just so he can have a cigarette before he rips someone's head off.

I won't bother going into the health risks. I don't want to consider the idea that H won't manage to quit eventually.

Just. Please. Stop glamorizing smoking, okay? Chill out on pinning and posting and shooting all those sexy photos of sexy people smoking sexy cigarettes.

Do you really want your little sister or brother or your eleven-year-old kid to take up the habit??

Image by Bryan Adams via Sasha Darling via Lizzie & Isaiah

35 comments:

  1. Agreed, agreed, agreed! It's probably the biggest argument my bf and I have. Neither of us smoke, but I find it disgusting and he thinks it's glamorous. I get so annoyed whenever we're looking at photography books or in an art gallery and he starts talking about how much he likes a photo photo/piece that includes a woman smoking. Ugh.

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  2. Agree and you know what else... Cigarette butts ARE GARBAGE! They shouldn't be tossed on the floor. Put them out and throw them in the garbage can!!

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  3. hmm. this problematizes three patti-smith-tagged photos, and that's just one tag.*

    i don't completely disagree with you, and i think glamorizing smoking to children is beyond the pale. as i think you know, i was a pack-a-day smoker for about 11 years, so i certainly sympathize with H (and you; i know it was hard on joe that i smoked, and i quit at his request). that said, i continue to get twitchy when the conversation about smoking comes around to full-on censorship. it infantilizes the viewer, i think, and freaking out about smoking in art makes it very easy to freak out at smokers, some of whom have it very hard (as H does). smoking remains legal, just as drinking and meat-eating and driving giant SUVs do, and while it's awful, i think it's incredibly important to be able to discuss it (and represent it) with a level head.

    *i don't mean to call you out, i mean to point out cigarettes' ubiquity, particularly in images of the sort you (and i) appreciate.

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  4. I thunk cigarettes are my husband's biggest turn-off. Whenever he sees a woman smoking he comments on how un-sexy it is

    best of luck to H. quitting is shitty

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  5. @lauren Listen. I won't even promise that I'll never put a cigarette in a movie again. It's a character trait. PEOPLE SMOKE.

    But as a prop in a modern glam-shot (see above). NOPLEASE.

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  6. modern glam's easy. i want to know about the grey areas. does one have to asterisk one's approval of older shots? what about street style?

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  7. also, that lindsay lohan pic was part of an editorial cover shoot from just after she got out of rehab; the cover story was called "retox."

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  8. @lauren it seems I've hit a nerve.

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  9. definitely agree with ESB.
    @lauren you seem to be looking for a technicality, it's the principle that matters, not full on censorship

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  10. @lauren yep; i don't want you to enable people to be sloppy and sanctimonious.

    @Anon you bet your ass i'm technical about this. censorship is the principle.

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  11. bleh. that first was @esb, obviously.

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  12. I would concur with the view that glamourising smoking is unethical, in the same way that I'd agree that glamorising, say, bulimia or heroin or alcholism or any number of unhealthy behaviours is. None of them are, really, very sexy at all but they get this aura sometimes.

    I didn't personally read the principle discussed in the post as *censorship*, it was the ethics of glamorising smoking in new creative work. I mean, if esb had said "images of smoking should be banned" you'd totally have a point, but she only said "making uncomplicated, sexualised and glamorised images of smoking is unethical" which is a different point i think.

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  13. I smoked for 3 months and decided to stop when it never did anything for me, but I'm a bit off to begin with.
    I don't think it's sexy. I think it reduces attractiveness. I've convinced a girlfriend to quit. I've helped a friend quit. However, if someone wants to smoke or have it in their art; more power to you but don't think I won't give you a hard time about it.

    Smoke 'em if you got 'em!

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  14. I hear you lady. I smoked for a decade before I quit three years ago. Kicking that habit was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Good luck to H!

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  15. my grandpa died of emphysema. he was a smoker for most of his life. there's nothing sexy about smoking.

    my heart goes out to you and H. i have watched boyfriends, friends, and family try to quit. some succeeded and some didn't. the ones that succeeded said they were able to stop because they replaced the habit with something else...sucking licorice sticks, playing with a stress ball, doing cross-word puzzles, etc. and also because they were REALLY ready to quit.

    good luck, stay strong.

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  16. Agreed. At least there's awareness in the states, here in Italy, it's still chic and sexy as ever. gross.

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  17. I disagree.

    It's art. Everything is "glamorized" here: take the subject, for example: Lindsay Lohan is a drunk, substance abusing, felon. I think it's rather fitting.

    If you don't want to smoke, don't smoke. If you don't want to eat meat, don't eat meat. If you don't want to drink, don't drink. But leave your ideals out of the photographs - it just makes them boring.

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  18. Totally agree. A friend of my hubs died at age 30 from lung cancer. There is nothing sexy about chemotherapy.

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  19. i'm glad you posted this, actually. i'm going through something similar with Willie. He's a smoker and I've asked him to quit multiple times. He's tried and tried, and NOTHING has worked. I get sick of sitting around waiting outside for him to quit, I get sick of him being snippy when I ask when he's planning on quitting. Like you, I also hate to think what might happen if he doesn't quit soon. But it's disgusting. And it's hard to get in bed with someone who smells like an ashtray.

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  20. My husband has been trying to quit for the past 10 years. Personally, I hate the whole QUITTING process. The mood swings, the cravings, the occasional indulgences that lead to starting again, the broken promises.

    When I see my high school students smoking, it totally bums me out. Forget the inevitable health problems it will cause -- that shit makes you UGLY ! AND FAST. That's what I always tell the girls. I mean, they don't care about cancer because they're invincible and the world might end tomorrow anyway. But getting ugly ? Now that's scary !

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  21. Where I live in Europe, people still smoke constantly and nearly everywhere. I do think increased social sanctioning about smoking not being cool, as has happened in N. America over the past several years (tied in of course with extremely effective cigarette tax hikes and smoking bans), has helped reduce smoking rates.

    While I understand the fears over censoring that issues such as this touch on, my public health persona is all for some unambiguous social pressure against smoking. People still have freedom to smoke or to glamorize it, but I don't think making smoking more taboo is a bad thing.

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  22. So many agreements and disagreements here.

    @lauren and @tonia both make valid points.

    Aussie and I are both smokers, and have both tried and failed to quit. I find it gross, but kicking butts has been really hard. Obv.

    I think older shots (ie patti) are reflective of the times and vintagely glamorous. However, newer ones (linds) are just ... skanky.

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  23. I agree. Looks sexy on a rare occasion. Smells disgusting. Can't wait for the hubs to quit one day.

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  24. I agree with 17 beats that it's the quitting that's horrible. During several of the Hawk's (unsuccessful) attempts to quit, we nearly broke up - he was feeling horrible and acting horrible and the whole think was unspeakably horrible. I dread the process almost as much as I dread all the health risks.

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  25. @17 beats @WPM that is what we're going through now. again. 's good to know i'm not alone.

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  26. Several of my hard-core smoking friends quit after reading Allen Car's "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking". The reviews on Amazon are mostly raves:
    http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Way-Stop-Smoking-Non-Smokers/dp/1402718616

    I guess I'm lucky that I've never found it cool or attractive and thus never picked it up. Harder to quit than heroin I hear though I've never tried either.

    I had a smoker boyfriend that would get the nicotine gum if he was in a place where he couldn't smoke, it kept him from totally going out of his mind on a plane. Maybe get him the gum if all else fails.

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  27. I am a smoker. It's a stupid habit that I picked up in a temper tantrum when I was 18. It isn't cool, or sexy. It smells disgusting, it's unhealthy, and I feel a degree of shame when I do it around certain people (like if kids are passing by when I'm in a public place.)It is a habit I keep hidden from my friends kids, and the kids in my family. My lack of willpower, the fact that I kind of like doing it anyway, and that the quitting is fucking miserable keeps me doing it.

    So... yeah. I'm gonna say that you should think before you use smoking as a vehicle for cool.

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  28. Um, I don't think anyone was calling for censorship. You get to make whatever kind of images you want. I get to tell you that I think glamorizing smoking is an asshole move.

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  29. @Amanda. Yes. To all of it. Good to know I'm not alone.

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  30. fucking hipsters. make up your mind damnit. smoking is totally cool.

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