Friday, May 27, 2022

Guns Are the New Cigarettes

 Smoking was very fashionable when I was a kid. There were t.v. commercials that promoted it, there were brands for women and brands for men, and the product was available everywhere and affordable. The tobacco industry employed thousands and thousands of workers.

Everybody smoked.

I have no idea why, but my family was an exception. My parents and grandparents didn't smoke, although their siblings did. But my tobacco-free household was the exception to the rule.

Movie theaters were hazy with smoke. Buses were clouded with smoke. Go to a restaurant, everyone would be smoking with their meals. Cigarette butts lined the gutters. Every house had ashtrays.  And nobody gave it a second thought. People weren't defensive about smoking, it was just something everyone did.

Big Tobacco knew as early as the 1950s that smoking was linked to lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, and emphysema. They released "study" after "study" that showed no link between tobacco and cancer.

Lots of people were dying, though.

It took a long while for reality to sink in. Figure that cigarettes became widely popular in the 1920s. So by the 1960s, people who started smoking in the 1920s were getting sick. In droves.

My best friend's mother was a chain smoker. She died of emphysema in her 40s. And this unfortunate woman was not an outlier. I had numerous friends whose grandparents were battling cancer. My parents' friends were all sick.

In the face of such carnage, Big Tobacco could no longer lie their way out of responsibility. Better yet, the widespread public perception of smoking changed.

Smoking was banned in theaters. Then on planes and buses. Then in restaurants, hospitals, libraries and schools. Then in bars. Then in outdoor settings. Nowadays, if you light up a gasper in a crowded Irish pub, you'll get the stink eye and the bouncer along with your shot and chaser.

So many people had to die for this major social change. It was a rare family that wasn't touched in some way by smoking-related illness.

Guns are the same way.

The NRA will tell you that there's no correlation between gun violence and gun ownership. They have "studies." They have a veritable Bible of philosophy on the goodness of guns.

The assault weapons ban enacted after Ronald Reagan was shot was allowed to expire in 2004.

If guns have a 40-year run of death and destruction the way cigarettes did, the American public will finally be fed up and ready to enact bans around 2050. Sadly, that is my prediction. We are looking at a situation where gun violence will have to touch a majority of American families, the way smoking-related illnesses did, before any action will be taken.

Then it will be taken. Gun owners will get the bouncer and the stink eye. They will be shamed in public for their bad habits. They will give the guns up for their own safety and encourage their friends to do it too. They'll do it because they will personally know multiple people who have died due to gun violence.

This is the anatomy of a public health crisis. People blithely use a deadly product and justify their use, right up until there are widespread deaths directly linked to the product. Then, and only then, do people step back and show some common sense.

The difference between guns and cigarettes is that not many kids died from smoking-related illnesses. Kids are dying from guns. But until lots and lots and lots of kids die, until the gun-toting citizenry loses its own loved ones, nothing will be done.

Gun ownership is a public health crisis. It's a plague masquerading as a pastime.

As a teacher, I hope I survive it.


jenmoon said...

I think I've come to the conclusion that the only way anything changes is if a bunch of powerful red...people... get affected by gun violence enough that they are unable to speak about it any more, let's put it that way.

Okay, probably not even then, who am I kidding.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Your post is a good reminder that, in the middle of an untenable and horrible situation, a different perspective based on a long-term overview and past similar experience can ultimately lead to the political will necessary to effect social change. But my gawd, it's tough when you're still in the midst of it and the victims are so random, young and innocent. Reaching that tipping point to change has such a high, high cost. For America's sake, I hope that tipping point will someday arrive and all these needless deaths will not have been in vain.

Bob said...

I heard today that the shooter bought TWO assault weapons and nearly 2,000 rounds of ammo all at the same time and that didn't raise a red flag?

Bruce.desertrat said...

Steve Scalise was shot and seriously injured in 2017 by a domestic terrorist (a Democrat, so they had zero compuction about immediately calling it an act of domestic terrorism) who has consistently voted down any sort of gun control measure since.

So sadly not even when they're personally affected do they do anything about it. Obama was wrong about them 'clinging to their guns and religion....their guns ARE their religion.

And they want to make them our religion, too.

Mike said...

Both my parents smoked and died of cancer. I never had the inclination to smoke. But the secondhand smoke curse could still get me.

baili said...

wat a nice way to say it friend !

how amazing your family had no desire to fit in when it was about just harmful fashion.

i heard about this accident and few earlier ones which is heart breaking indeed . i still can't believe that anyone with awaken mind can do such act .

ellen abbott said...

I hope you're right but, man, that's another 30 years.

Bill Lisleman said...

The promoting of guns as a cool manly thing is like the cigarette promotions. Also there is plenty of money in gun sales. The culture needs to change.

yellowdoggranny said...

afraid our children won't live long enough to see that happen.

Fundy Blue said...

I'm so glad that Debra featured you for her post of the week, Anne. It is excellent! Your post, though dark, is also hopeful. My father died of emphysema at 58, after a decade of misery. I lived through this era, because I was born in 1950. Your juxtaposition of the smoking health crisis and gun violence was illuminating. I'm a retired elementary teacher. I was trying to write about art for my Friday post last week, and it morphed into the Uvalde tragedy. I hope you do survive your career. After Uvalde my husband was hugging me a lot and saying he was so glad I was retired. Thank you for addressing this crisis.

Rommy said...

I hope something changes in my lifetime. I'm doing my best to be politically active, get out the vote, and such. But it's hard not to feel crushed by the senselessness of it all.