“There are absolutely no smoke breaks while you’re working here. Period. We cannot allow our employees to be outside with cigarettes in their hands and immediately come back in to serve customers,” reads the employee handbook at my part-time summer job.
On the next page of the handbook was a summary of the “cool” culture of the company, with many vintage photos of what the company considers cool, such as American icons like Buddy Holly and James Dean that inspire the company culture. Strangely enough, a majority of the so-called cool people in these photos happened to be smoking cigarettes. A company that bans employee smoking seemed to make the connection between cigarette smoking and “coolness.” Interesting.
Fortunately, the rate of tobacco smoking among young Americans has dropped significantly over the years. However, there’s still a lot of work to do to curb the problem of young people smoking. Part of this is ending the remaining equivalency between smoking, coolness and style.
Dacre Montgomery, the Australian hunk who plays the new character Billy on Stranger Things 2, does modeling as a side gig. In a photo shoot with Australian photographer Salty Davenport, Mr. Montgomery stood in front of the camera with a high fashion outfit on, complete with a cigarette in the mouth in one photo and in his hand in the next.
Cigarettes are used as a fashion accessory to increase the sexy and cool factor of models in photo shoots. It is clear the models often aren’t actually smoking them and that the delicate handheld carcinogen is simply being used as an accessory for the model to hold. In international fashion magazines like French Vogue, models can still be seen holding cigarettes on the cover.
This has since been banned in the U.S., but most people can attest they have seen a model holding a cigarette on mediums like Tumblr and Instagram, which have a huge focus on aesthetics or cool looks.
Still, these depictions of smoking as an accessory to add cool factor have huge potential to be detrimental to our progress on decreasing the rate of smoking among young adults. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50 percent of adults were regular smokers. Today, that number is down to 15 percent, according to the CDC. However, health policy makers across the country recognize that college students’ habits are much more difficult to gauge.
Look, smoking is not cool, fashionable or sexy. It is the leading cause of cancer across the board and truly harms the health of the entire body. From the lungs to the heart to the fingernails, smoking does its damage to it all. It is the root cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is becoming one of the most common causes of death in the U.S.
So think about the long-term implications before you pose for a photo with a cigarette in hand or admire your favorite actor’s super cool smoking photos. In a very small way, you are contributing to a bigger problem.