Send the Smokers to Auschwitz

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Belmont, California is trying to ban Cigarette smoking in private residences. Jesus, if they’re that bad just make them illegal already. The news showed this really whiny guy who claimed that smoke was coming into his apartment from the next apartment and was giving him smoke allergies. May I suggest a fan?

If there was ever a case of the slippery slope of one law leading to another this is it. The Anti-Smokers brigade has won and they aren’t close to satisfied.

I wrote this a while back about the aim to make all movies with smoking in them R rated.

Hello avid watchers of the culture wars. It’s now time to once again play another game of “What else will the Government not let us adults do in the name of saving the children?” To do this we unfortunately have to take yet another look at the most controversial movie scene of the last 20 years – yes, the interrogation scene in Basic Instinct. Don’t jump to conclusions though, because amazingly enough I’m not referring to the part where Sharon Stone unencumbered by panties nearly causes Wayne Knight’s eyes to pop right out of their sockets by uncrossing her legs. This time I’m going to look at something that happens about 40 seconds earlier in the scene, where Stone’s Catherine Tramell lights up a cigarette and is told that smoking is not allowed in the police station. Her classic line in case you don’t remember or had the will power to avoid that awful piece of trash was “What are you going to do … arrest me for smoking?”

Well, watch out Cathy, if you ever get that sequel off the ground they might. Congress, because they apparently aren’t tied up with foreign policy issues, are now having hearings on smoking in the movies. Some people out there want to give any movie that contains smoking an automatic earnings killing R rating. Does this mean my niece can no longer watch super evil Cruella De Ville puff away in the children’s classic 101 Dalmatians without adult supervision (don’t worry folks we all know nothing like this ever applies to Disney)?

Cue South Park elementary school teacher Mr. Garrison “Mmm ok, children smoking is bad for you.” Wow, we get it. No argument from me here. I’m more scared of the anti-smoking faction in this country than I am of the Ku Klux Klan. Can we just make slowly puffing ourselves to death illegal already? We already tax the things so heavily that I’ve recently turned to buying cigarettes from Russia on the internet rather than paying seven dollars for a pack in New York City.

Advertisements on television are already verboten. You know that game of you have to choose one or the other? How about this one? You will become one of the richest men in the world, but you must do so by becoming either a cigarette producer or a pornographer. Egad, can any of you recommend a good deal on a camcorder? It may be an urban myth, but I have it from good sources that 142 people died of exposure last winter while they ducked out of restaurants and bars that wouldn’t let them smoke inside.

Before seeing Mean Girls I was treated to a trailer (why are they called trailers when they come before the movie?) about smoking in movies. According to the trailer, 80% of movies contain some form of smoking. This didn’t seem that bad to me considering that 100% of the time I walk down the street in New York City I see someone smoking. Then again that’s more than likely because they have been forced onto the street by all those restaurants and bars. When the new law passes will that trailer only be allowed to be shown before R rated movies?

As a frequent movie attendee, all this controversy forced me to wrack my brain and remember all of the PG movies where significant characters spent all their time making cigarette smoking look so cool to the teenage and under crowd. Try it, it’s tougher than you think.

James Dean – Mr. Cool – in Rebel Without a Cause? Don’t remember him smoking there. Prison movies? Sure, everyone smokes in prison movies. PG rated prison movies? Escape from Alcatraz is rated PG, but isn’t escaping from prison worse than smoking? Face it all prison movies fall into two categories – prison movies rated R and prison movies that show the prisoner changing his life remarkably for the better. Are those the types of movies we don’t want children to see?

Basically, ignoring all those noir classics of the ‘40s where everyone smokes (Ban Bogie!) I could really only think of a few memorable recent movie smoking characters. One came 20 years ago in the movie Splash, the Opie opus that was so racy Disney had to create the Touchstone label to release it. In Splash, John Candy is shown smoking a cigarette during a hilariously ridiculous attempt to play racquetball with his onscreen brother Tom Hanks. Please someone protect our kids from the smut being put out there by Ron Howard and Tom Hanks! Candy’s character is hardly portrayed as a citadel of health. In fact, given the number of scenes he is shown dropping loose change to look up women’s dresses he is hardly portrayed as a role model in any sense. All this and the fact that Candy lived to a ripe old age of 34 and I’m guessing not too many kids saw Splash and dreamed of their first Marlboro. I can think of a few movies about troubled kids who smoke, but we all know every troubled kid movie either ends up in contrition or death. The Dennis Hopper led evil crew in Waterworld were called smokers because of their habit. Three points here.

1. I spent that movie wondering where the hell Dennis Hopper and his pals were able to conjure up cigarettes, given that the whole planet was covered with water and they treat the one potted plant in that movie like a chilled canteen in the middle of the Sahara.
2. Hello, they were the evil guys!
3. Maybe like three other people than me were stupid enough to actually go see that movie.

Indiana Jones didn’t smoke. Luke Skywalker didn’t smoke. If at any point Darth Vader ever smoked, you know that’s why he was forced to wear that inhaler 24-7. Bruce Willis smoked in Die Hard, but then again that movie was rated R and to be fair he only resorted to smoking because there were a bunch of German terrorists trying to kill him. Johnny Depp didn’t even smoke in Pirates of the Caribbean despite the fact that he was:

A. A pirate!
B. Portrayed by the chain smoking can’t go an interview without one Johnny Depp.

The only somewhat damaging scene I could think of was Saint Julia Roberts lighting up in a hotel hallway during a scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding, in which she was immediately admonished by a bell boy not to smoke. Wow, it sure sounds like we have an epidemic going on out there. If you planned on making a movie about how your favorite grandfather tragically died from emphysema due to a lifelong smoking habit, I hope you don’t mind having it rated R.

Look, I’m going to ignore the free speech aspects of this conversation even though recent developments have totally convinced me that our first grade teachers out there have spent too much time discussing smoking and too little time on the Bill of Rights. You’ve heard them all before and you’re either cackling with glee or shuddering in fear under your bed. Instead let’s just discuss the impact of an R rating on a movie. It’s significant. There isn’t anyone out there who doesn’t understand how much money a movie forgoes by getting stuck with an R rather than a PG. My guess is that something much funnier than any of the last 15 Ben Stiller vehicles could be made about the hoops that filmmakers are forced to jump through already to ensure a PG. “The boyfriend can hold her ass but he can’t cup it? Ok, I understand we’ll fix it.”

Look at Chris Rock. Chris Rock, and quite rightfully I might add named the funniest person in America by Entertainment Weekly, despite the fact that everyone on the planet would have to agree that he has yet to make an even somewhat amusing movie. Unfortunately, for Chris’ movie career, he’s at his best when he’s gleefully profane, and despite what I’d hope are his best efforts, Chris Rock can’t get financing for an R rated movie. Yes, I was forced to sit through Down to Earth and Head of State because of all you busybodies out there and I’m not particularly happy about it.

Now if kids aren’t going to be allowed to see smoking in movies, how in the world is television going to be able to justify those three or four episodes of Friends where Chandler not only smokes, but relishes doing so in the process. Load up on your HBO stock because I have a feeling the only thing you’ll see on free television in about ten years is Barney. At least, I won’t be subject to those graphically violent and depressing news broadcasts anymore. Here’s a message for Stan Glantz, the head of this light it up rate it R movement. When I’m forced to sift through the ten million or so articles and books that are going to come out about all the sad nonsense that has gone on during the Bush administration, because Congress was too busy examining the essential issue of cigarette smoking on film, I’ll be looking for you and I’ll be less than happy.

Cigarette update – if anything it’s gotten worse since I originally penned this. There was a sequel to Basic Instinct and we’re about two weeks from all smokers being rounded up and put into concentration camps. Luckily they don’t need gas ovens – there plan is just to stick us all in a small room and let us happily smoke ourselves to death. It’ll be televised live in kindergarten classrooms all across the United States. “Keith Richards is dead!! We finally got him!”

Actually, if you think about it though, cigarettes are one of the few examples of how the Government has positively effected the economy. Presently, a pack of cigarettes costs about $8.50 in Illinois and $3.50 in Indiana. That’s $5 in pure taxes – over 60% of the price, and that doesn’t include the $2.50 or so I’m sure they charge in Indiana. They’ve multiplied the price of these things 8 or 9 times, and cigarette companies still have more money than God even with a legal tab equivalent to that of sum total of Asia. Think of all the good that has been done with all that tax money. Thanks to smokers kids learn not to smoke and even better than that, they probably know how to read.

Any idiot who smokes in today’s climate must really enjoy it. Is a closet on the third floor in the middle of winter too much to ask?

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