Tobacco smoking this Valentine’s Day as a means to celebrate is not only ironic, but should be outdated. After all, February is National Heart Health Awareness Month and it’s important to shed light on a health epidemic that still exists all over the world: the habit of tobacco smoking. According to the American Heart Association, for every 5 deaths in America, 1 of the 5 is the result of tobacco smoking. In addition, tobacco smoking contributes to 20 percent of all heart disease related deaths. So what’s the deal?
Tobacco smoking has gone through a lot of changes in terms of its position in American culture. In the 1930s, Philip Morris ran an ad campaign that suggested smoking their tobacco cigarettes was a behavior approved by physicians for the successful treatment of throat irritation. Cigarettes were then promoted as a trendy social activity, its marketability was eventually recognized by the fashion industry. High-end smoking accessories were created in response to the smoking trend, from cigarette holders to cigarette cases. For example, Marilyn Monroe donned a ruby and gold cigarette holder that eventually sold for about $6000 in 2000. However the harsh health consequences of tobacco smoking were soon discovered, which leads to today as the social scale realization that tobacco smoking is a bad habit and slowly losing its glamour. If American culture can evolve into seeing tobacco smoking outdated as a whole and not only on Valentine’s, then perhaps its lackluster can help tame the bad habit in other countries.
In 2006 the district court ruled that tobacco cigarette companies like Philip Morris were guilty of racketeering by knowingly hiding the health issues associated with the use of their product. As a penalty for their actions, the court held that tobacco companies should foot the bill for advertising and promotions to create awareness of the damaging effects of smoking and the addictive nature of tobacco.
At present, three networks have been selected in showcasing these anti-smoking campaign ads; NBC, CBS, and ABC. However, the biggest news in this pop culture political stew of a case is that Viacom and Fox have submitted an appeal to the court for their inclusion in featuring the ads. Viacom and Fox both argue that their networks offer a strong relevant influence on age and market groups targeted by the anti-smoking campaigns particularly the youth age group and the African-American market. Remember, Viacom owns MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and BET. What are the implications of the court allowing Fox and Viacom to get in on the nationwide, privately funded advertising against tobacco smoking? Well first things first, there will definitely be space for the ads on Superbowl Sunday. The question is, will featuring anti-smoking campaigns deflate the reign of tobacco smoking on that 1-in-5 statistic? It seems as though the information of the adverse effects of tobacco smoking may be communicated through these channels, but they may not necessarily be received.
Heart health is of great importance throughout life, but it is not always high on an individual’s list of priorities. Throughout decades of pop culture, tobacco smoking has been seen as a coming of age activity. While the promotion of preventative action to prohibit tobacco smoking may help a great deal in decreasing cigarette use, there is still a demand for cigarettes. Tobacco smoking remains a part of American culture in many places, and despite a collective attempt to render the habit “outdated”- there will no doubt be a couple thousand packs sold this Valentine’s Day.
By Victoria Chuidian
American Heart Association