Analysis of an American Tradition: Smoking

Essay by hoover88College, UndergraduateA, April 2007

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Hey, Wanna Smoke?You don’t always die from tobacco. Of former smokers in the US 1,743,000 people have emphysema from smoking Women who smoke increase their risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and SIDS. Of current smokers in the US 719,000 have had a heart attack from smoking. Cigarette smokers are 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers. In the US 637,000 have had a stroke from smoking. Also 138,000 have lung cancer from smoking. But smoking is “cool” right? “Humphrey Bogart is cool. James Dean is cool. Smoking is Cool. Being thin is cool. Smoking cigarettes will make you thin”(Landesman 1). America, as a culture, has perceived smoking as a “cool” trend. Many “cool” people of the early days unashamedly smoked cigarettes so if you wanted to be cool you had to smoke too.

In 1910 the United States was producing 10 Billion cigarettes a year.

In 1930 that number jumped to 123 billion. What changed this? There were three main factors that influenced this increase in production. World War 1, dieting, and motion pictures all came about between 1910 and 1930. Cigarettes were rationed to soldiers in the war as a way to pass time and keep calm in times of desperation. Body image started to become a growing trend in the early 1900’s and more women turned to dieting because thin was in. Smoking cigarettes suppressed appetite thus bringing on the assumption that smoking cigarettes made you thin. Perhaps most influential of all was the impact of cigarettes in motion pictures. Directors looked for something for the actors to do while they were on screen that captured a sexier and bad-ass appeal. This tactic is most evident in the 1944 motion picture, To Have or Have Not, starring Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart...