a burgundy zine

How Smoking was Denormalized

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By: burgundy bug



Source: Sketchbook Tour // Oct. – Dec. 2018 | Penelope Peru Photography P³

Cigarettes? Yuck. Cigars? Even yuckier… As the kids these day would say. Teen tobacco use was at an all-time low with only 10.4 percent of youths smoking in 2017, Truth Initiative reports. This marked a 45 percent decline since 2011, when 18.6 percent of teenagers smoked cigarettes.

How did we get here? When did smoking stop being cool, despite it remaining an over romanticized aesthetic?

Read: Cigarettes: Over Romanticized and Over Done ’till Death

The Burgundy Zine

A Bit of Context…

As we learned in our previous article about the romanticization of cigarettes, tobacco has been indigenous to America for 8,000 years.

Yet, it wasn’t until about 2,000 years ago that humans started chewing and smoking it during ceremonies and events, according to the Cancer Council of New South Wales (NSW).

The safety of smoking has been put under the microscope since 1602, a review published by Health Education Research reports. However, it took until the 20th century for these concerns start gaining some traction.

By 1964, the Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, Dr. Luther L. Terry, released the first report of the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

Minnesota was the first state to enact the Clean Indoor Air Act in 1975, which prohibits smoking in public places, on public transportation, and in places of employment.

36 states have implemented smokefree laws as of Jan 2018, the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation (ANRF) reports.

Nevertheless, a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggests these designated smoking areas don’t provide adequate protection from environmental tobacco pollution.

Now, Hawaii might be the first state to outright ban the sale of cigarettes altogether, according to an article published by Hawaii News Now in Feb.

The proposed legislation would raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes to 30 by 2020, 50 by 2022, and cap off at 100 by 2024. Mind you, Hawaii was also the first state to raise the minimum smoking to 21 in 2016.

How Smoking was Denormalized

In addition to statewide smoking bans, tobacco products were denormalized by depicting the industry as dangerous, powerful, and an enemy to health, as discussed in research published in Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology.

Denormalization was also implemented through no other than one of America’s favorite forms of mass media: television. There are about 120 million households with televisions, according to Statista, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics found the average American spends about five hours a day in front of the TV screen.

Anti smoking commercials effectively convinced 104,000 Americans to knock the habit in 2014, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reports.

Cigarette taxes have also been rising over the years, reaching as high as $2.46 per pack in Rhode Island, according to the Tax Foundation.

The effectiveness of these tax increases are cloudy. While multiple studies attest to their success, research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found they only decreased smoking by 0.3 percent to 0.5 percent, and that it would take even larger taxes on tobacco products to reduce smoking by just 5 percent.

The Maryland Department of Health’s anti smoking public service announcement to curb youth smoking

Source: Anti Smoking PSA-90s | recordman33

Growing up throughout the 80s, 90s, and early 00s, millennials may recall the organizations and public speakers that would present the dangers of spoking to their elementary, middle, and high schools.

The spike in youth anti smoking campaigns was the result of a nationwide surge in state funded tobacco control efforts, according to research published in the British Medical Journal.

These statewide campaigns significantly decreased tobacco use from 1981 through 2000, research published in the Journal of Health Economics reports.

Just Say No by Grange Hill Cast music video

Source: Grange Hill Cast – Just Say No (music video) | David Harmer

The Downfall of Denormalization

After years of pouring millions from tax revenue into anti smoking campaigns, the denormalization of smoking has been squashed by the vape sensation that has taken ahold of our nation.

To prevent renormalization of smoking, experts recommend implementing policies that would:

  • Ban the use of e-cigarettes where tobacco products are prohibited
  • Ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone who cannot legally buy cigarettes
  • Apply the same marketing restrictions that are placed on tobacco products to e-cigarettes
  • Ban any marketing that would promote the use of e-cigarettes along with conventional cigarettes
  • Ban e-juice flavors that may entice users (i.e. vape products that taste like candy or alcohol)
  • Ban stating that e-cigarettes are an effective alternative to cigarettes until these manufacturers provide sufficient evidence to support the claim
  • Ban any health claims regarding e-cigarettes unless they meet regulatory standards
  • Establish standard regulation of vape product ingredients and functions

The Future of Denormalized Smoking

Although the vaping craze has made efforts to denormalize smoking even more of an uphill battle, there’s still hope for the future.

Organizations such as The Truth have launched advertising campaigns to dispel common myths associated with vaping.

“If you vape, you’re four times more likely to start smoking cigarettes”

Source: Boat Horn | Safer ≠ Safe | truth | truthorange

While the effectiveness of such campaigns have been questioned over the years, they are only a single component in the global effort to “make smoking uncool.”

Anti-tobacco campaigns, research, and smoking cessation treatments have cumulatively decreased youth smoking by 45 percent in the last few years.

If we continue on the path of dedicating more research towards the health risks associated with vaping and spreading the awareness, we may just be able to prevent the renormalization of smoking.

Interested in having content featured in an upcoming blog post or issue of The Burgundy Zine? Head on over to the submissions page!

For all other inquiries, please fulfill a contact form.

burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

View more posts from this author