29 Feb 2008 8:00 am   //   Filed under: Media, Over!

On smoking in the media

Amy Winehouse did it for Harry Benson in the New Yorker. Josh Brolin did it for the January cover of GQ. Ryan Reynolds did it in “Definitely, Maybe.”

I’m talking about smoking, in all its glowing sexiness. This hazy cloud shows no sign of dissipating from popular entertainment.

I have a simple relationship with smoking. I don’t smoke because I have a low opinion of cancer. The few times I have smoked cigarettes, I enjoyed them. But I realized that I’m the sort of person who looks kind of dippy holding a cigarette. (The point of your 20s, I think, is to identify the behaviors that make you look or feel ridiculous, and gradually expunge them from your life.)

Moreover, tobacco companies have such a long and well-known history of evildoing that no one with any scruples would work for one today. Therefore, all tobacco company employees are unscrupulous.

Which brings us to celebrity smokers. A voluntary ban on tobacco advertising in magazines took effect last year (Oh, you didn’t know that?). You can’t air cigarette ads on TV or put them on billboards or even name a NASCAR race after them. Tobacco ads are over! – cultural waste to be recycled and mocked by Richard Prince and “Mad Men.”

Backed into a corner, tobacco companies are known to resort to desperate measures. Secret product placements in magazines and films and TV shows – ones that everyone, if asked, can *cough cough* plausibly deny – seem so rational that it’s hard to believe they aren’t happening.