Friday, March 30, 2007

The (other) perils of smoking

Here in America, they warn smokers about the health risks of smoking cigarettes via a small message from the surgeon general printed in a thin, condensed font on the side of the pack, set at maybe 10 or 12 point type. It is smaller than the body text of this blog.

In England, I noticed immediately (being all kinds of astute and detectively) that the bottom third of the front of the pack carried a much more strongly-worded message (although not attributed to any health official). This was often the jarringly unsubtle "Smoking Kills" in 48 point Helvetica Black on a white field. The back of the pack had a similar message, but was even larger, taking up fully half of the panel.

Some of the Brits I met expressed surprise that the Ameican warning is so subtle. They thought, as our cities have busily been banning the practice in bars and restaurants and whole towns, that Americans were far more hardcore about the whole warning thing.

They forgot that in America nothing comes second to branding. Cigarette manufacturers here in the States would never allow their logo to be reduced so small on a package designed for domestic consumption.

But while the surgeon general has been kindly and patiently applying his earnest messages on the side of my pack to warn me about carbon monoxide, heart and lung disease, cancer and the rest of the seven or eight pre-approved blocks of copy they print for us, he completely failed to warn me about at least one very real danger I was facing.

This evening, I reached for a cigarette and my lighter. I could not immediately locate my lighter, and ended up closing my fingers on one that had come free with a recent cigarette purchase. I used this free lighter to bring flame to the end of my filtered friend, and that's when everything went wrong.

Free lighters are a bit of a mixed blessing. They are often better than no lighter at al, but they are seemingly designed to emulate the trajectory of certain rock stars: they live fast and hard and bright and then disappear or die out. They are not called disposable for nothing. Often, they shoot out a four-inch flame three or four times and then fail to ever produce so much as a spark ever again. The flint mechanism breaks long before the butane has a chance to run out.

Seemingly unrelated fact: my hair has grown much longer over the past year. It has crept down my face like ivy, and can now obcure my eyes completely when I let it hang down. I can nearly put my bangs in my mouth if I pull it down past my nose.

The combination of me leaning forward and the four-inch flame means that I lit the ends of my hair on fire this evening. It smelled awful. It made me feel foolish. I don't know why I ever stopped refilling my Zippo®.

The exact same thing happened to me about two weeks ago, but with a different free lighter. I'm starting to think I should maybe quit smoking.

15 comments:

Anna MR said...

Somehow, Mr Mahti Moon, I don't think the line "Cigarettes could seriously singe your bangs" sounds as ominous as references to cancer.

During my year in Hawai'i, I knew (or met, or saw) exactly one haole (white) person who smoked and exactly two haoles who would sometimes sin and pinch one off her, particularly before & after theatre shows (yes, I was the other one). All the other smokers I saw (or met, or knew) seemed to be native Hawai'ians or other non-haoles. I was told, however, that people in the East Coast are more smoking-friendly (if that is a term, and it is now, isn't it?). I know Chicago ain't exactly East Coast, but looking from Hawai'i, it's plenty eastwards. So that puts you at a vantage point to tell me - do Americans actually still smoke?!

Hope you haven't entirely ruined your curls, incidentally.

Minty said...

Maht-

I have all sorts of filthy habits; luckily, I don't have the lungs to smoke anything.

Have you seen Thank You For Smoking? In the context of that film, if both of us were kidnapped and nicotine-patch-drugged, you'd fare better than I would. But since that won't likely happen, I think smoking cessation is a good thing.

If you decide to give it a go, I wish you luck and success!

--Minty

Minx said...

I would suggest a gas hob lighter - I speak from experience and long hair.

The Moon Topples said...

Anna: Less ominous, sure. But I'd have appreciated the warning nonetheless. And, yeah, something like 10 percent of Americans still smoke.

I never had any curls, but my hair is not noticeably destroyed. Thanks for your concern.

Minty: I'm sure I'll blog about it if I do quit. Stay tuned...

Minx: I have never heard of this device. You wacky Brits with your "gas hob" lighters...

strugglingwriter said...

I usually adjust the flame on my disposable lighters, just to get the 4 inch flame, but I'm easily amused.

As far as the long hair thing, I have the opposite problem. My hair seems to be moving in the opposite direction, in a manner some might describe as premature.

The Moon Topples said...

Struggly: Sorry for your loss, as it were.

The four-inch flame is indeed amusing if one is expecting it, but not so much when one is unprepared and the lighter is right in front of the face...

~*SilverNeurotic*~ said...

Subconsciously lighting your hair on fire is probably a sign that perhaps the smoking has to go...lol. You could have easily gone for a haircut...but nope, you are still allowing yourself that risk which should say something.

By the way, do you have any data against American smokers and English smokers? Just curious whether the difference actually makes a difference.

Minx said...

Have you thought about a cigarette holder? I have one, but he gets bored easily.

I am sorry. I have just realised that I should be encouraging you to give up the foul habit. Bad smoker, bad, bad, smoker.

The Moon Topples said...

SilverN: I have no data about the relative habits on either side of the Atlantic. My guess is that it doesn't make a big difference. Smokers know the risks.

Minx: Where am I going to find a cigarette holder? And how silly would I look if I had one?

Thanks also for swatting me on the mose with a rolled-up newspaper at the end there. I am indeed bad.

One day, I'll repent...

Chris said...

I agree, the cigs must go. Think of how much money you could save for your trip if you quit.

You'd get a brighter, whiter, minty fresh smile.

Scotland has just celebrated it's first year with the non-smoking legislation in the pubs & restaurants. England is next, this August I think.

Ms Melancholy said...

Ah, but do you remember your zippo days when it would lunge like a flame thrower after you had just filled it? I threw away my zippo when I gave up smoking 11 yrs ago. Started smoking illicitly again 8 yrs ago and still miss my lovely brass zippo.

The Moon Topples said...

Chris: Um, thanks. August, you say? Wish I could go there before the ban takes place.

Ms. M: I had a Zippo-filling method that avoided the huge, finger-burning, fresh-filled problem. I have a Beatles Zippo on my desk. I'll probably break it out soon.

Meloney Lemon said...

You could just get a haircut?

Verilion said...

Mahty, mahty, Maht. Man what happens when you run out of lighters and matches? In Blighty (England to you) we have gas cookers and in the middle of the cooker is a pilot lamp (a wee little flame that always burns) and is ever so useful for that occasion when all flammables are in hiding. The pilot lamp is also useful for singing hair, burning it, burning hands and lighting fags. Electric cookers are nowhere near as useful during the above emergencies which is why I now have lighters and boxes of matches EVERYWHERE.

The Moon Topples said...

Veri: I have a pilot light on my stove as well, but I was working at my desk and in the middle of something and in a hurry. The disposable lighter was right there. Iwas lazy and weak, and I have paid the price.