Blowing smoke. Smoke screen. Smoke and mirrors. Smoke gets in your eyes.

Is there an ironic connection here? These phrases are used to apply to lies, subterfuge...

And now, blowing smoke applies to smoking tobacco. Whoops, not pipes or cigars, but cigarettes. Is anyone so suseptible to advertising and propaganda that they take either the tobacco industry or the anti-smoking bloc seriously?

First, the tobacco industry. Tobacco companies generously gave free cartons of cigarettes to the troops to support the war effort during WWII (remember that "real war") and were applauded by a grateful nation for their patriotism. This highly competitive industry paid advertising agencies millions to develop imagery to sell one brand over another even though all cigarettes were mostly the same. The industry catered to what was perceived as hot, cool, fab, neat, sophisticated, even healthy. Tobacco farmers whined their way into inclusion in the general farming subsidy bills. Every kid who tried a cigarette behind the garage knew that cancer sticks or coffin nails would stunt their growth or grow hair on their palms? Whatever. No one would sell cigarettes to a minor without a note from a parent. Since smoking was forbidden to anyone but an adult (like drinking), kids had to do it. And they discovered that tobacco (unfiltered originally) sent a jolt to the body, soothed the nerves, staved off hunger pangs, discouraged advances from an overly aggressive or less-than-desirable man (an established woman's trick that generally worked).

But nobody was fooled by slick advertising. Even adults. Right?

So why the fuss now? Why do smokers have breaks from their desks to take an elevator to the street and stand around puffing? Looks like a bomb threat evacuation sometimes. But office work isn't all that productive or efficient anyway. And today's office buildings aren't well-ventilated enough to circulate clean air. People are probably suffering as much from second- hand carbon dioxide as from second-hand smoke.

So why all this attention now to the demon cigarette? Because a funny-looking retired Navy doctor lobbied against cigarettes? Because celebrities and celebrities relatives die from lung or heart diseases? Because blame must be placed somewhere. An individual certainly can't be blamed for dying. It must be the advertising agencies who coerced him into smoking. It must be the tobacco industry that lied to the American Public and to Congress. Nobody has ever lied to Congress in recent history? Oliver North? The Watergate Plumbers? An aspiring Supreme Court Justice? Any lawyer? Another member of Congress?

Ah, but there's an obvious answer to this confusion. If blame must be placed, place it on stupidity. Enact laws against stupidity. Place a label on all media, including and especially tv and newspapers that believing is hazardous to your health.

Just because this answer won't work is no reason not to accept it. It's no more stupid than any other response to a stupid issue. Just say no to stupidity. It's the American Way.

Want to see a serious web site on smoking? Check out National Smokers' Alliance Yes, there is hope.