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In The Zone . .Emotional Chaos . ..Number 9. . .September 11


Emotional Chaos
Weekly Column by Brian Codagnone


Recently the government (I think it was the Bureau of the Excruciatingly Obvious) announced that the best way to cut tobacco use was to increase taxes on tobacco products. Of course, that's the government's answer to nearly everything. I suppose you could say the same thing about alcohol, newspapers, Cheez Whiz or Insulin. I have to ask, then, is the government interested in the health of the nation or using people's addictions to raise revenue? "The health of the nation, of course! Dead people can't pay taxes!", you say, and you might actually be right. I wasn't paying attention. There are those who argue that the government shouldn't be involved at all, that the Free Market (also known as "Supply and Demand" or "Fred" to its friends) should decide all business affairs. This is what Adam Smith (or Adam West, or Adam Ant) referred to as "the invisible hand of the free market", as all the good names were taken. This essentially means that an unregulated free market is the best way to run an economy or, if you want to sell crack to first graders it's no one's business but your own. Just don't try to sell them peanut products, or you're in for a world of hurt.

The Wall Street Journal is a very serious paper with no funnies that rarely runs headlines like "Raccoon Wins Lottery" or "Hilary and Elvis in UFO Love Tryst". Their headlines usually refer to such page turning articles as "The Bolivian Economy: Can it Survive the Recession?" and "Wall Street Insiders Look to Tin Futures". They're considered the leading experts on all things economic, so I never read it. Having invested heavily in "Hat Squad" paraphernalia in the early 1990s I thought my financial future was secure, but it just goes to show you how fickle the market can be.

What, then, do leading economists say? Well, since economists are two notches below astrologers (and three below meteorologists) when it comes to predicting the future, I say "who cares"?

We then asked tobacco executive R.J. "Buzz" Raleigh for a comment. Raleigh, as you may know, was the first big tobacco executive to declare that "catchy slogans will distract people from the fact that these things are killing them like mosquitoes on a windshield". This was the prevailing thought until an unknown marketing genius* discovered that ads showing pictures of young, hip, healthy people enjoying life to the fullest would do an even better job.

"Tobacco has been around here a lot longer than the government has", Raleigh confided, sitting behind the desk in his spacious, money lined office. "And we'll be here long after they're gone. Think of us as cockroaches."

We assured him that most people already did, which seemed to please him. Lighting a cigar off the head of a small animal, he leaned back and reminisced.

"When I started in this business, we couldn't produce cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco fast enough! I remember World War II, when we put cigarettes in Red Cross packages... there was nothing more comforting to a gut-shot soldier than to have a buddy light up a smoke and stick it into whatever orifice he still had intact. Then came the fifties. Now THAT was a golden age! Cigarette ads everywhere, People giving festive cartons of cigarettes for Christmas, celebrity endorsements... Remember the slogan, "The healthy way is six packs a day!"? That was mine! Then came the sixties! The Surgeon General comes out and say smoking is BAD for you! Can you imagine that? I mean, the guy claims to be the Surgeon General, but he wears an ADMIRAL'S uniform! Would YOU trust someone like that? Look, just because people DIE doesn't mean tobacco did it! People die every day! Our industry did a study showing that more people died from being hit by pieces of Skylab than were killed by smoking. Really!"

When pressed on the source of this study, Raleigh would only cite "a very wealthy scientist living in the Bahamas". "That's not the point, really. We find that increasing taxes on smokers only puts an unfair burden on a small, oppressed segment of society. What's next? Nuns?!" We left his office convinced that he had a point, but that Thorazine might help. Is this an issue best left to the Invisible Hand of the Free Market? Only the astrologers can tell.

*Studies show that the morals on Madison Avenue are even lower than those in the tobacco industry. Selling crack to first graders wouldn't provoke any moral qualms at all in the average advertising executive. In fact, the agency of Louden, Himmler, Stemkowski and Fultz has already copyrighted the slogan, "When you're out of Whack, you're out of Crack!".





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©2003 Brian Codagnone
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Surf Our Site

Home ... Misfits . Rafferty .. . S1019 .. . Star Crossed....
. .
Ginger & Shadow. ..Writer's Block.. ..Cool Links . ..More Cool Links .
Oddities ..Link To Us... Guest Comics . Online Store..
In The Zone. ..Number 9. . .September 11