Jewish World Review May 22, 2003 / 20 Iyar, 5763
End of the last great persecution of
the 20th century?
With regard to the last great persecution of
the 20th century, is it possible that we are finally seeing light at the end
of the tunnel?
The last great persecution experienced in this most repressive
of all centuries is, of course, the hysterical persecution of tobacco. And
the light that I hope we are seeing is the lighting of an elegant Marlboro
poised on the lips of a sophisticated sybarite. Is it not about time that
discerning adults be free to light up in a proper setting? In the land of
the free and the home of the brave, I view cigarette smoking as a First
Now there are indications that cigarette smokers have their
growing vanguards of freedom fighters. The most glamorous of these civil
libertarians is, it appears, Nicole Kidman, the Oscar-winning actress, who
boldly enjoyed a smoke the other day during a press conference at the Cannes
Film Festival. Almost immediately she was harassed by her director, Lars Von
Trier, who directed her new move, inelegantly titled, "Dogville." The ugly
name was, I assume, his idea, not hers. He has shown himself to be a cad.
She is showing herself to be a lady of taste and independence.
I salute her, notwithstanding her opposition to the recent war
in Iraq. Iraqis are famous cigarette smokers, so I suppose it is possible
that Nicole, in her opposition to the war, was merely showing solidarity
with the Iraqis in their right to enjoy tobacco in public places. Perhaps
she feared an American expeditionary force would bring with it the tobacco
patrols that now haunt such once-free American cities as New York, governed
by the Suicide Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Raise those taxes a bit higher,
Mike, and even non-smokers will call for your neck.
The American-led persecution of tobacco is another blot on our
history. Smoking was once championed by liberals, and though lighting up
just anywhere is insensitive to the rights of non-smokers, lighting up in
properly ventilated places is a right that all freedom-loving Americans
Nicole, I am with you. Let us sit down in a smart cafe, light up
and talk things over. Writers and other members of the intelligentsia have
long known the digitalis to the cerebral cortex that is supplied by benign
nicotine. It quickens the wit, strengthens perception and expands memory.
Civilized people have for over a century noted that tobacco was the sine qua
non of every intellectual salon. The obvious dimming in what Jacques Barzun
has called the House of Intellect is doubtless in part a consequence of the
persecution of cigarette smoking.
Nicole, after a glass of wine and a long leisurely smoke with
you, I might even see the sapience of letting Saddam off the hook. On the
other hand, you might come to my point of view and join me in calling for a
little saber rattling toward the Iranian mullahs. I particularly like
cigars, as did that famed Nobel-Prize winner in literature W.S. Churchill.
Not only are modern sophisticates such as Nicole joining us in
the liberation of smokers, but science is also coming to our side. A
massively researched paper in the May 17 British Medical Journal reports
that all the hysteria over "secondhand" smoke is without scientific support.
After studying the health records of 100,000 people over four decades, the
paper reports, "... environmental tobacco smoke was not associated with
coronary heart disease or lung cancer mortality at any level of exposure."
And the report goes on, "These findings suggest that the effects of
environmental tobacco smoke, particularly for coronary heart disease, are
considerably smaller than generally believed." I knew it all along.
There are other benefits to be derived from nicotine. It has
been used for the treatment of various psychiatric conditions, and at a
modest cost. It lightens up the gloom now experienced in such unwholesome
venues as health food stores and aerobics studios, where the clientele is so
morbidly obsessed with health that it has no time for life. Nicole's perky
temperament and lovely looks are a testament to tobacco's many benefits.
So smokers and friends of freedom, breathe easier. An end to
this dreadful persecution may be at hand. Nicole Kidman has joined our cause
and suggested to me a revision in Kipling's great line, "A woman is only a
woman, but a good cigar is a smoke." How about "A woman is only a woman, but
a cigar-smoking woman is a star"?
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© 2001, Creators Syndicate