Black Lungs Matter?

I wish I were a trendy person. I often wonder to myself why I’m not. When I was a teenager I use to dream about being able to buy the hood uniform: Space Jam J’s, Eddie Bauer winter coat, Guess Jeans, Polo sweat shirt, diamond stud earring… All that. But when I got my first job, at a grocery store, and was faced with the option of throwing one hundred dollars towards a Moschino t-shirt or just having money in my pocket until my next check, I chose the latter. Again, when Black Planet was popping, I was still shooting game the old fashioned way in shopping malls. When all of my friends were connecting on Facebook during its inception, I was just figuring out MySpace. Typically, I find the crowd is going in a direction that’s polar opposite to my soul, which makes me hesitant to join in what my peers are enjoying in real time.

I found a similar scenario with addictive vices. My peer group of West Indian, first generation American friends, was not into drugs (I don’t consider marijuana a drug). I attribute this to propaganda in the music we listened to saying things like “weed was found on King Solomon’s grave, weed is the healing of the nation,” or, my personal favorite, all you need is a “Guiness and a spliff,” to be a bedroom god. Some of my American friends, however, dabbled in speed, dippers, boat, syrup, ecstasy and other less mainstream drugs. Despite this cornucopia of brain chemical-altering substances being within my radius there was one drug that wasn’t: cigarettes. I did not know too many people smoking cigarettes growing up. I attribute this to the 80’s and propaganda, like the D.A.R.E. (Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education) campaign, making cigarettes an uncool drug to use. My generation (Generation X) never saw cigarette commercials on live television. We may have had a parent or uncle who smoked cigarettes, but we didn’t want to smell like them. Also, names like “cancer stick” discouraged its use amongst many from my peer group.

I’ve lived long enough to see cigarettes have a flipped Bell Curve, regarding popularity. We went from its popular use in the '70's, to its discouraged use in the ‘80’s, mega lawsuits against cigarette companies in the ‘90s, it being an uncool thing to do in the first decade of the new millennium, to its rise as a prominent life shortener of choice in 2020. That’s right, I’m here to say it. Cigarettes are back; oddly enough during a pandemic caused by a disease that predominantly attacks, wait for it, the lungs. Now this opinion is not based on hard facts because I’m honestly not that interested to do a research paper on the subject. That said I feel like cigarettes are back with a vengeance. I can’t watch a vlog, podcast, or rap video without seeing someone smoking a ciggy or one tucked on top of his or her ear to be modeled before it's used. I remember a time when women would say cigarette smokers were unattractive. At least that’s what I heard in my corner of the world. Now it seems like people have phased out their Black and Mild for that scratched teenager, nicotine. You know scratch, as in nick and teenager, as in teen. You now nick-a-teen (bars)… Anyway, I question is this due to a lack of drug awareness programs, decline in the anti-cigarette sentiment, or is something deeper going on?

We live in a trendy society. Everyone keeps up with what everyone else is doing. The rate we consume watching someone smoke a cigarette has, most likely, increased considerably from the 1980’s to now. We not only see it from people in our regular lives, we also see it from people in our cyber lives, online. We all have cyber lives and outside of sleep, some of us spend more time there than in the real world. It can be assumed two generations have grown without the taboo sensitivity cigarettes evoked in Generation X and Generation Y, because after it disappeared from a heavily regulated media platform, the television, it regained in popularity from its real use through a less regulated media platform; the internet and social media.

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