A Word On The Golden Age American Tough Guy Image

So what’s the anti-smoking lobby all about? Well, we know they’re not about anybody’s health — because they’re against harm reduction strategies like Swedish snus and electronic cigarettes.

Here’s what I think they’re about: I think they’re about wanting Americans to forget about icons like this guy in the picture.


Now, I know that sounds far-fetched, but think about it for a second. Guys who personified the particularly American brand of masculinity during America’s golden age — guys like John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, even guys like W.C. Fields and Groucho Marx — these were guys who had a few core things in common — let’s mention just two:

First, they didn’t take shit from anybody. They didn’t kneel for anybody. Somebody tried to tell these guys their business, that somebody found themselves on the business end of a gun, a boot or a razor-sharp one-liner.

Second, they all had vices. Things that made them all at the same time more vulnerable AND tougher than their peers. Those vices were usually visible, to varying degrees, but the most visible of them was a cigar, cigarillo or cigarette.

So what’s the big idea behind sweeping the iconic vice of smoking out of the public eye? If it was health, the FDA wouldn’t be trying to ban electronic cigarettes. Why are they anyway? Because electronic cigarette ditch the health hazard, but they keep that image alive. It’s the image, the icon, NOT the health risk, that the anti-smoking crusaders are actually after.

And I’m not talking about regular people — they really do have their own health and maybe even yours in mind. I’m talking about Big Pharma and Big Government. They’re the ones who want to keep lining their pockets selling snake oil, in the former case, and wanting you to forget the toughness and defiance iconized by the guy in the photo, in the latter.


  • I think you may be little off target with here, did you consider the big C and the major cause of mouth tongue, throat, laryngeal, stomach and lung cancers—-SMOKING!!!
    I would like to hear your stance on the gun lobby in your country, but I’m imagining what your stance is already.
    Equally well balanced & informed as this post??
    Let the duel begin ….


    • johncastlewriter

      Oh, I believe I’m entirely on target here. I think you’ve missed the point a little yourself, though. It’s not the act of inhaling cigarette smoke I’m arguing in favor of.

      As I hope my post makes clear, I’m not arguing that smoking tobacco is healthy; it’s absolutely not. My argument is that it’s not the health risks that are under attack. If that was the case, big pharmaceutical companies and the FDA wouldn’t be fighting tooth and nail against electronic cigarettes. The reason they are is that they don’t give a damn about anybody’s health. In fact, they WANT smokers to keep smoking. They want smokers to keep paying exorbitant, punitive taxes. They want smokers to keep trying pharmaceutical solutions that, for most people, just don’t work.

      They also want to exorcise the image of the smoker from the public eye. The image of the tough guy or tough gal who is more likely to resist authority than to obey. And electronic cigarette use — “vaping”, as it’s called — is the 21st century man and woman’s expression of disobedience. It’s our way of saying, “No, we won’t pay through the nose in taxes and to buy solutions that don’t work until we die. We’ve found a way to stop smoking, to stop dying early AND to stop paying your blood money.”


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