Saturday, November 3, 2012

Surgeon General's Warning

I can assure you, gentle reader, that I've not been living under a rock for the past ten years or so. I can further state that I've seen cancerous lungs, lungs with the ugly tar seeping from every corner, pictures of oral cancer and have been adequately disgusted and "grossed out" as the youngsters put it. I've taken classes on cancer biology and read peer-reviewed papers on the nasty chemicals that go into the "cancer stick" and how each one of them is designed to kill you in unique ways that even a sadomasochist would find eye opening. Finally, I have common-sense. I know that I will not dabble in something as dangerous and possibly addicting as cigarette smoking only to spend the rest of my adult years struggling to kick the habit and losing my breath, my cardiovascular and pulmonary functions and the health of my loved ones who have to be complicit in the act of inhaling my exhaled toxins.

That said, and with abundant warnings, graphic depictions, awareness campaigns and advertisements, people should have gotten the message that smoking is, if you'll pardon my poor humor, injurious to health. So the geniuses decided to hit the common man where his attention lies most-- the television screen. Every program is mandated to show a brief health advisory that tosses out the well known adage about smoking and health. Fair enough I guess. But these warnings appear every time someone on screen lights up. Someone hands over a pack of cigarettes to another man or woman on screen? Advisory in white block appears on the bottom of the screen. Also, if the viewer is actually wondering if the cine star on screen is encouraging the impressionable youth in the audience to pick up a pack of (insert famous cigarette brand name) and start puffing away, rest assured that the geniuses have that covered too. Another block of white at the bottom of the screen assures me that the actors of the industry do not endorse the act of smoking. Oh such relief I've never felt in my life!

The act of lighting up has been identified with a damned-be-all attitude. There's also a sense of sexuality and magnetism that the stars manage to pull off with the right cinematography. The dark room is lit by the sole light of the lighter, its unmistakable clink and the protagonist's face lit up in the warm glow of the cigarette. A puff of smoke exhaled and his options weighed, he sets off on the road to perdition. Or stares out at the dark city at the light of dawn, pondering the existence of his banal life. Or simply a post-coital indulgence for whatever it's worth. While the majority of us could understand that smoking is ultimately harmful, it still is present in our classics and in some of our present day films. There's no stopping the act of smoking in cinema, but atleast the audience is aware that it is for the sake of the movie or staying true to the source material and not a subliminal act of brain-jacking (go buy cigarettes now!!). Ah, but the government doesn't know that.

Let's be frank. A person who smoke everyday is completely aware of the consequences. Even an uneducated person can be made to understand the situation: this is bad for you, don't do it. Yet they do smoke. I think it's absolutely ridiculous that a warning before the trailers, during intermission and at at every available moment on television is going to change the mind of hardened smokers. It ruins the TV and cinema experience for the rest of us. If you care so much about the issue, ban cigarettes. Shut down the tobacco industry. But that's never possible. The Prohibition has taught us that banning it will drive sales underground. So do what else can be done: pressure tobacco companies to put out more labels and vulgar imagery, jack up the prices of cigarettes and tobacco products...anything.

Just don't hold our television and cinema viewing experience hostage for the vain hopes that some moron in the audience will have an out of the blue epiphany when they see Clark Gable light up.

1 comment:

Vyaas said...

The morons you are referring to are mostly minors who are sold cigarettes without showing proof of age(heck, they're in their school uniforms when they buy them!). Take a stroll down Taylor's road next time when school's out and count the pairs of lungs charring after their idols. The Vidyalayas and Vidyashrams don't give a chalk piece about the surrounding tea-shops selling minors cigarettes. And lets not even start with kids from poverty stricken slums who pick up bad habits with commensurate facility. Hence, the patriarchal censor board steps in with prompt ludicrousness and vainglory, reminding parents, teachers,businessmen and law-makers of what a shitty job they're doing raising our country's youth.