Saddle up my hobbyhorse…

….and listen to me whine.

Here’s a tidbit from today’s New York Times:

In the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, which have been around since 1940, Tom (the cat) has used axes, pistols, rifles, dynamite and poison to try to kill Jerry (the mouse). And Jerry has stuffed Tom’s tail in a waffle iron and sawed him in half. But now they are really in trouble. Because of Tom’s smoking. In Britain, the Office of Communications, or Ofcom, which regulates broadcasting, said it had received a complaint from a viewer about two episodes, Reuters reported. In one, “Texas Tom,” Tom attempts to impress a female cat by rolling a cigarette, and lighting and smoking it with one hand. In the other, “Tennis Chumps,” Tom’s opponent in a match smokes a large cigar. In an posting online, Ofcom expressed “concerns that smoking on television may normalize smoking.” It also said that the Turner company, which is owned by Time Warner and is the licensee for Boomerang, the channel that broadcast the cartoons, had agreed to edit some smoking scenes from some of the cartoons “where smoking appeared to be condoned, acceptable, glamorized or where it might encourage imitation.”

I am irked to the tips of my toenails by the recent efforts to attack entertaimnment conglomerates for supposedly “glamorizing smoking” in films and TV. For one thing, is there a person in the civilized world today who doesn’t know that cigarette smoking can cause them bodily harm? At this point in America I would bet that a child is twenty times more likely to see an anti-smoking ad than a pro-smoking one. The notion that somehow they aren’t getting the message is ludicrous.

Is that to say that Hollywood doesn’t glamorize smoking? No – the camera glamorizes anything that happens in front of it: sex, violence, war, housework. As soon as it’s on the screen and receiving our rapt attention it is glamorous. But there is something Orwellian in the notion that our job should be to sanitize entertainment to eliminate the very image of smoking, including the entertainments of the past. Are we to treat smoking in the manner Stalin treated Trotsky? Anti-smoking campaigns have become the new safe puritanism. People who would call themseves first amendment purists seem to have no trouble signing on to them.

To the extent that the goal is helping people make informed choices about their behavior we already have the tools to do that. How many kids in the audience for Tom and Jerry are going to try to duplicate Tom’s rolling, lighting and smoking feat, and what would be the concequences of them trying? If one got far enough along to actually take a drag they’d probably be turned off of cigarettes for life.

If the goal is banning all smoking – think about how well that worked during Prohibition with liquor.

What our Mayor Bluenose and his cohorts forget is that there is only one thing guaranteed to render an image more seductive and desired than the cameras of the entertainment industry: banning that image. In essence these efforts to sanitize our viewing open the door to a whole new level of smoking porn. In honor of that here is:

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This blog pledges to try to make smoking as sexy as possible from here on out.

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