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Sunday Song Lyric:
I finally saw the film "Thank You for Smoking." I liked it, though not quite as muchas the book. The movie used Tex Williams' clever old ditty, "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette," for the opening credits. The song opens this way:
Now I'm a fellow with a heart of gold
And the ways of a gentleman I've been told
Kind-of-a-guy that wouldn't even harm a flea

But if me and a certain character met
The guy that invented that cigarette
I'd murder that son-of-a gun in the first degree

It ain't cuz I don't smoke 'em myself
and I don't reckon that it'll hinder your health
I smoked 'em all my life and I ain't dead yet

But nicotine slaves are all the same
At a pettin' party or a poker game
Everything gotta stop while they have a cigarette

Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
Puff, puff, puff until you smoke yourself to death.

Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait,
But you just gotta have another cigarette.
Interestingly enough, Tex Williams [and Merle Travis] wrote this song in 1947 — before the first Surgeon General's report linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer, and before the condemnation of the health effects of smoking in Reader's Digest.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, the song should be credited to both Tex Williams and Merle Travis, the latter of whom wrote most of it, though Williams was the first to record it.

Steve Lubet (mail):
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen covered it in the early 1970s, with quite a bit more irony.
10.22.2006 8:39am
llamasex (mail) (www):

But nicotine slaves are all the same
At a pettin' party or a poker game
Everything gotta stop while they have a cigarette


Interestingly enough, Tex Williams wrote this song in 1947 -- before The Tobacco companies' CEOs declared under oath that nicotine is not addictive
REP. WYDEN: Let me begin my questioning on whether or not nicotine is addictive. Let me ask you first, and I'd like to just go down the row, whether each of you believes that nicotine is not addictive. I heard virtually all of you touch on it. Yes or no, do you believe nicotine is not addictive?

MR. CAMPBELL (President of Philip Morris U.S.A.).
I believe nicotine is not addictive, yes.

REP. WYDEN: Mr. Johnston?

MR. JAMES JOHNSTON (Chairman and CEO of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company). Mr. Congressman, cigarettes and nicotine clearly do not meet the classic definition of addiction. There is no intoxication.

REP. WYDEN: We'll take that as a "no." Again, time is short. I think that each of you believe that nicotine is not addictive. We would just like to have this for the record.

MR. TADDEO (President of U.S. Tobacco).
I don't believe that nicotine or our products are addictive.

MR. TISCH (Chairman and CEO of Lorillard Tobacco Company).
I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

MR. HORRIGAN (Chairman and CEO of Liggett Group).
I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

MR. SANDEFUR (Chairman and CEO of Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company).
I believe that nicotine is not addictive.

MR. DONALD JOHNSTON (President and CEO of American Tobacco Company).
And I, too, believe that nicotine is not addictive.
10.22.2006 9:27am
John Thacker (mail):
Well, cigarettes were known as "coffin nails" at least back in the 1920s, as I recall references to them in books written in then. (I believe it was in a John Dos Passos book.) The term dates at least to 19th century. Here's an interesting site, "Coffin Nails: The Tobacco Controversy in the 19th Century," concentrating on stories and articles in Harper's Weekly from 1857-1912 about tobacco. Many, many references to addiction and such.

Not that it precisely gets the tobacco executives off the hook or anything, but at the same time it's difficult to believe the habitual smokers who said that they had no idea that smoking was bad for you.
10.22.2006 10:11am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
We have more of those classic Ron Wyden moments to look forward to if the Dems win in November.

Note that the opposition tried to get some of the witnesses for lying under oath but it didn't work because you can believe whatever you want.

Ron better not call me before his committee unless he wants to have to try and figure out what the term 'coprophagic cretin' means.
10.22.2006 10:12am
McGehee (never been able to log in) (mail) (www):

Interestingly enough, Tex Williams wrote this song in 1947 -- before The Tobacco companies' CEOs declared under oath that nicotine is not addictive


So, you're saying that a CEO's denial before a congressional committee wipes away generations of popular culture -- and a Surgeon General's warning that was mandated on the packaging for decades?
10.22.2006 11:13am
llamasex (mail) (www):
No, I am saying Tobbaco CEOs lie under oath, the who people are sueing tobacco companies lie under oath. Both do so for their own profits. It's a sick twisted world we live in.
10.22.2006 11:26am
llamasex (mail) (www):
I should add that maybe there is some justice in there.
10.22.2006 11:27am
Jay Goodman Tamboli (mail) (www):
You can watch the opening titles at http://www.shadowplaystudio.com/smoking.html.

I saw lots of blogs link to that to point out how nice the typography of the titles is.
10.22.2006 1:08pm
BT:
Mr. Adler:

Merle Travis wrote "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke..." It was originally sung by Tex Williams. I got this information from a Travis CD I have and it also mentions it on the web site that you link to discussing Williams' career. Commenter number one is correct about the Commander Cody version which is the best version I have heard of the song.
10.22.2006 1:22pm
BT:
Mr. Adler:

I stand corrected, partially atleast. On the aforementioned Commander Cody album, We've Got A Live One Here!, they credit both Travis and Williams as co-writers. However, as I noted, the Travis CD I have mentions his composing the song with no mention of any input from Williams. Oh well, much ado about nothing probably.
10.22.2006 1:32pm
JerryW (mail):
REP. WYDEN: Let me begin my questioning on whether or not nicotine is addictive. Let me ask you first, and I'd like to just go down the row, whether each of you believes that nicotine is not addictive. I heard virtually all of you touch on it. Yes or no, do you believe nicotine is not addictive?

Although it may have been actually defined during the hearings the legal/medical answer to this question hinges on the exact definition of "addiction".

Many people feel all of the following must be present before a substance can be called addicting.

compulsive drug seeking
uncontrollable craving
long lasting chemical changes in the brain
emotional, psychological, physical dependence
need progressed beyond voluntary control
upon withdrawal produces psychological and physical synptoms

With all these requirements I would ask the lawyers in this group did the CEO's commit perjury when they said they personally did not believe nicotine was "addicting"?

I would assume they were answering "honestly" if they believed that even one of these requirements was not present. On this basis although their replies were terribly, tragically misleading and self-serving they were not "false"
10.22.2006 2:03pm
Le Messurier (mail):

compulsive drug seeking
uncontrollable craving
long lasting chemical changes in the brain
emotional, psychological, physical dependence
need progressed beyond voluntary control
upon withdrawal produces psychological and physical synptoms

I started smoking in 1957 and gave it up almost 18 months ago. That's 48 years at 2 packs a day. My overall health is fine. Was I addicted? Possibly, but only very mildly. I knew it was bad for me, but the "addiiction" involved the rituals of smoking: have a cup of cofffee; light a cigarette; get on the telephone; light a cigarette; get in the car, light a cigarette, and so forth. When it came time to give them up the key was not overcoming the symptoms of addiction in the list given; it was getting away from the rituals. In my wife's and my case it was going camping with friends (non-smokers) at the time we made the commitment. Neither of us had withdrawal symptoms, and we both believe that all the hoopla about eliminating smoking "in public places" is way over done. Being in a smoking environment really doesn't bother us. I sincerely doubt that cigarettes are truly addictive no matter how bad they are for you.
10.22.2006 2:35pm
Fub:
JerryW wrote:
With all these requirements I would ask the lawyers in this group did the CEO's commit perjury when they said they personally did not believe nicotine was "addicting"?
Emphasis mine.

I don't believe they were lying. A man can believe anything he wants. I believe I'll go have a smoke.
10.22.2006 3:03pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Johnny Bond recorded the song on July 22, 1947. At least so say the liner notes on two different collections, Johnny Bond and his Red River Valley Boys (ASV) and Hillbilly Boogie! (Columbia), the latter an anthology of different artists. Both albums give the author as "Travis/Williams". Bond also did such classics as "I Like My Chicken Fryin' Size" (not about poultry), "So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed" (not about poultry, either), and "Divorce Me C.O.D.".
10.22.2006 3:36pm
BT:
Johnny Bond also did the original version of and may have written, "Hot Rod Lincoln", which was also covered by Commander Cody. A real treat if you ever get the chance is to see Bill Kirchen, who was the original guitar player in Commander Cody, do his version of Hot Rod where he musically quotes everyone from Freddie King and Albert King to the Sex Pistals. It is very impressive.
10.22.2006 3:43pm
Shangui (mail):
I sincerely doubt that cigarettes are truly addictive no matter how bad they are for you.

I certainly don't doubt that this was your personal experience, but after only about 4 years of a pack+ a day habit I found the physical symptoms of craving almost overwhelming when I quit. I really felt like every cell in my body wanted nothing more than nicotine. For the first time, I started understand how Gollum felt about his precious.

It shouldn't be surprising that people have different reactions to these things; we do, after all, differ in all sorts of other physical ways. I've never had the slightest problem with booze yet clearly plenty of people do. I'm not allergic to bee stings, etc.

And I'll also agree that 1)the new rules about smoking in "public" places like restaurants, etc. are excessive and 2) the notion that anyone in the last 40 years of so has started smoking without being aware of many of the risks is absurd.
10.22.2006 4:20pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
When did Max Shulman write "Anybody Got a Match?"

I didn't realize Readers Digest was so watershed -- it was certainly the catalyst for my grandfather quitting (cold turkey, he was that kind of guy.)

As for "addictive", Johnston makes it very clear that he is using a definition that includes intoxication.

I've never have a problem picking up, or desisting from, smoking, but I've never smoked more than a couple of cigarettes per day. Caffiene, on the other hand, if I drink coffee for a weak straight, I feel like crap on the following Saturday if I don't have coffee. (It rarely serves to wake me up the way it ought to, beyond being hot and steamy, but it keeps me up 12 hours later. Note to self: switch to decaf.)
10.22.2006 5:28pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
I was a long time smoker and 6 months ago I had the laser accupuncture thing andit really worked. I have not had the need for a cigarette since. I've thought about it, even dreamed about it, but any "want" goes away immediately. I highly recommend this treatment for anyone who wants to quit. It's painless and is the closest thing to a "magic pill" that I have ever found.

Now back to the movie. Did you notice that no one in the movie ever actually smoked a cigarette?
10.22.2006 5:32pm
markm (mail):
I doubt that there's ever been a time when most people did not understand that inhaling too much smoke of any kind is bad for you.
10.22.2006 6:52pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I grew up in New York, after coal was phased out, before the incinerators were replaced by compactors, before unleaded fuel, and when the New Jersey refineries were belching out sulphur. They used to tell us that living in New York was doing the equivalent damage to our lungs as smoking 5 cigarettes per day. So I figured that one more wouldn't hurt. And now that I'm out in suburbia, I figure I could smoke a cigarette or two and still be ahead of where I'd be if I were living in New York.

I've heard of opinions that smoking was healthful, or more likely that it had beneficial effects. (Much as alcohol, especially red wine, is considered to have benefits for many people. Which is not to say drunkeness, or inhaling too much smoke, is healthful.)

And given the impact of Reader's Digest or the Surgeon General's report in changing people's minds, it seems there was a time when a lot more people didn't think smoking was anywhere near as harmful as most people think do now.
10.23.2006 1:07am
Angus:
How long have people known that smoking is bad for you?

King James I, 1604:

A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the Nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomeless.
10.23.2006 8:26am
deepstblu (mail):

"So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed" (not about poultry, either)


Wasn't that a cigarette ad slogan back in those times? (I'm presuming the song wasn't about cigarettes either.)
10.23.2006 10:52am
Brent (mail):
But nicotine slaves are all the same
At a pettin' party or a poker game
Everything gotta stop while they have a cigarette


. . . what's a "pettin' party"?
10.24.2006 9:22am
R Gould-Saltman:
Is nobody else going to mention the companion, somewhat more "old-timey" ditty, "Cigarettes and Whiskey and Wild Wild Women [They'll Drive You Crazy, They'll Drive You Insane]" (Also seen sometimes, or sung sometimes, as "Cigareets and Whuskey. . . . ")?


R Gould-Saltman
10.25.2006 3:41am
carlos (mail):
"So Round So Firm" was about smokes, Lucky Strikes. Travis took the slogan along with a bunch of those others found on the roadside signs, like Burma Shave, and created a hit with it in 1947.

Our grandparents and such would probably identify each and every "product placement" in the song :)

Cheers

CRR
10.25.2006 5:39pm