Public Service Announcement: Dear Tobacco Industry

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I had plans for a post like this in the works long before we ever got the news from my family member’s care team, long before this blog even came to be. This post is a culmination of many years of turmoil and devastation brought forth by the tobacco industry, a multi-billion dollar conglomerate.

At some point down the road, this may also serve as the basis for an e-book about what this industry has caused us, and is continuing to cause us as we move forward in dealing with my family member’s illness.

First and foremost, I want to make sure we’re clear that when I say “tobacco,” I’m talking about commercialized tobacco, not ceremonial tobacco, which is one of the customs that many Native Nations have as part of their spiritual practices and as a means of giving thanks to someone.

The tobacco industry’s antics have drawn countless critics over the years, and with good reason. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of their sleazebag marketing tactics well into the 20th century, and how some of those involved kids’ cartoons. For instance, I came across a Flintstones cartoon from the 1960s on YouTube hawking tobacco products, and it was horrifying to say the least.

That was my initial reaction, and it still is. I mean, wtf kind of crack was someone smoking in order to think that was a good idea?!

But then I got to thinking, this kind of advertising was typical of the times, and I can say it probably would’ve gotten to me if I was a kid back then, and I saw this on TV after school one day.

My family member was a kid at the time this aired, and I’m betting dollars to donuts they probably saw it at some point while it was aired, along with countless others of their generation.

While this probably wasn’t their catalyst in starting what would turn out to be a decades-long addiction, this (or similar advertising) likely planted the seeds for it by creating that brand awareness and association. It’s sort of like Hamburglar, the Fry Guys, and Ronald McDonald for Mickey D’s, in a sense.

In some circles (even now), smoking’s considered the thing to do, and back when my family member came of age, it seemed to be everywhere. Just look at any episode of Mad Men, which takes place when my family member came of age, and try to find someone who doesn’t smoke and doesn’t get crapped on for it.

After a little more research in this area to confirm the Mad Men portrayal of smoking in the 1960s, and confirming that this was indeed accurate for the times, I saw mention of instances where representatives from tobacco companies would show up at high school functions with their wares for free giveaways. This person came of age in the 1940s or 1950s if my math is right.

Since then, the industry’s held promotional campaigns involving freebies, mail-order catalogs, loyalty programs, and events they either hosted or played a big part in setting up, and with specified demographics in mind. It’s really unnerving, not to mention twisted af.

All this, even after the Surgeon General issued a statement speaking to the harm this industry’s products cause.

Over the years, there seemed to be fewer advertisements in magazines and on billboards, with the advertising being limited to store windows and display signage, as well as direct mailings.

Progress, right? For sure.

However, like the Hydra in Hercules, when you cut off one head, a dozen others pop up. In recent years, the tobacco companies started presenting vaping products as a viable alternative, and in some instances, even promoted them as a means to quit smoking!

We saw this in advertising for a certain vaping product that hooked people that weren’t of legal age, and they played on the product’s innocuous design, which resembled a flash drive.

A few years back, one of the local TV subchannels used to air an infomercial advertising a vape system, and after the backlash from the other vaping product’s marketing tactics, the company added a huge disclaimer that took up nearly the top half of the screen from the beginning to the end.

That was the last time I remember it airing. Good f’ing riddance, as far as I’m concerned.

One of the radio stations in my area airs an ad for a local chain of vape shops, and it talks about how their products can help with quitting smoking.

But in reality, it’s trading one addiction for another, like I heard another radio ad during the baseball game one weekend. Like the ad says, don’t we deserve better?

We do. My family member does, and so does everyone else who’s out there dealing with the long-term damage this sick industry’s products have caused for them.

So this is what I have to say to the tobacco industry: FUCK YOU! Fuck you, and the horses you rode in on. Whatever good y’all do is irrelevant, and it amounts to semantics. Whatever good you do only serves to shift the focus from the fact that you make products that kill people solely for the sake of it, and that you profit off of it.

As someone who’s currently reaping the consequences of what your products have sown, and the marketing tactics you used to make it happen firsthand, tell me something: how tf do you live with yourselves?

If I sound angry from this, it’s because I am. It kills me knowing that these products are destroying my family, and knowing these were designed to be as addictive as possible.

That said, if you’re currently employed with these companies and want to leave the tobacco industry, then you’re welcome to contact me. I won’t bite, I promise! I’m hoping I may be able to help you. Another thing I can promise you for sure is that whatever you share with me will stay between us.

Scout’s honor.

Over to you, readers. Have you been in a similar situation, whether it’s with a family member, friend, or someone you know in any other capacity? How have you dealt? I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways.

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