Cigarettes = Bad For Kids. Heroin and Cocaine? Not So Much.

In the United States, advertising of tobacco products – and to a slightly lesser extent, alcoholic beverages – are among the most-restricted forms of speech around. Tobacco advertising is banned outright on television and radio.


Ostensibly, because the government doesn’t want susceptible individuals – specifically children – exposed to cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in any way, shape, or form.

It’s the leading preventable cause of death, don’t you know.

So, you know, that’s why you never hear ads for cigarettes on the radio. (Remember radio?) Federal law, yo.

Overall, though, the moral guardians are kind of missing the big picture, I’m afraid.

While listening to an “adult contemporary” radio station which shall remain nameless recently, I heard – in a forty-five minute timespan, mind – songs by reasonably popular artists celebrating and arguably glamorizing cocaine, heroin, and marijuana use, not to mention binge drinking. Oh, and some sort of machismo-laden thing about putting guns down people’s throats and “capping” them.

Oh, and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl“, but that’s a (manufactured) controversy for another day.

I hate smoking, I really do. It’s a filthy and disgusting addiction, and it’s killed people I cared about in pretty gruesome ways. (Death from lung cancer is not pretty.) If I was galactic dictator, it’d be banned outright. Probably. Unless I could nationalize the industry, jack up prices to obscene levels, and reap ridiculous profits off the suffering of addicts, or something. Hey, a homie can dream, right?

I’m not really advocating censorship or anything – heaven forbid! – and spare me the angry comments, I’m not necessarily against pot either, O touchy legalization advocates, but I just find it extremely inconsistent that in order to protect the youth of today you can’t advertise chewing tobacco, which is about the least glamorous substance on earth, when all is said and done, on the radio – no matter how un-glamorous you make it, or how many disclaimers you put in – but you can play songs with demonstrably ambiguous depictions of cocaine or, you know, heroin, one of the few drugs nobody’s ever made a serious effort to “legalize”. Any time of day or night, doesn’t matter.

I happen to like radio. Call me old-fashioned, but, you know, I grew up before the era of the Walkman; radio was – and still is – how I discover new music. (Well, that and Wikipedia, nowadays. Leningrad Cowboys, Apocalyptica, the German group Gregorian, Tangerine Dream, Metalium – all groups I like which I discovered through Wikipedia. Go figure.) Radio is… not doing terribly well, probably because of the internet. The tobacco industry is fairly reprehensible, but they do have nearly limitless amounts of advertising money to burn. In this day and age, maybe it’s time to rethink the tobacco ban, you know? Let the cancer industry subsidize the radio industry again.

I don’t really want to hear cigarette ads on the radio, when you get down to it. But if it means I don’t have to listen to fewer ad spots for “adult novelty” webites and intimacy-enhancing herbal supplements – “Uncle Nemo, there’s a woman screaming on the radio, but it doesn’t really sound like she’s scared or in pain; what’s that all about?” – and means that commercial radio as we know it survives for another decade or two, well… I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

Published in: General | on May 17th, 2010| Comments Off on Cigarettes = Bad For Kids. Heroin and Cocaine? Not So Much.

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