America the Taliban
Etched in memory is a horrifying article by the late Alice Trillin, who was lying in a bathtub when she coughed up blood and realized she had cancer—not from smoking, but from years of breathing in secondhand smoke from her parents.
In these pages, I wrote about declining to meet Humphrey Bogart, because it was obvious to me he was dying of cancer—even though everyone else was oblivious to the situation—because I was uncomfortable at the idea of intruding. (http://tinyurl.com/2c9zul)
Every time I walk down raffish South Street around the corner from my house in Center City Philadelphia and see young people—mostly girls—smoking cigarettes and trying to look cool, I want to collar them and tell them about watching my father die. But, of course, I don’t. I am not a buttinsky.
Now, the MPAA has caved in to a virulent anti-tobacco group called SceneSmoking.com that launched a letter-writing campaign to film studios and actors complaining about on-screen smoking.
In justifying the R ratings, MPAA Chairman Dan Glickman said that “smoking is increasingly an unacceptable behavior in our society.”
No, Dan, smoking is a personal choice. If done in private, it is not unacceptable behavior.
Unacceptable behavior is having oral sex in the Oval Office with an intern and then lying about it, throwing up on Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa at a formal dinner in Tokyo or giving an unsolicited back massage to the chancellor of Germany for a worldwide TV audience.
A good friend of mine, an unapologetic smoker, put it this way:
I like cigarettes—vast quantities of them. I like alcohol—vast quantities of it. And if I am not allowed to smoke in restaurants and bars, I will stay home where I will eat and drink better and cheaper.
I remember spending six weeks in Rome with my father, who was writing a biography of the American ambassador, Clare Booth Luce. At a party, a priest said to me, “Give me a child between birth and five years of age and I will give you back a Catholic for the rest of its life.”