NO SMOKING REACHES MONTREAL - Complications Ensue
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Thursday, June 08, 2006

As of May 31, it's no longer legal to smoke in a bar in Montreal. I know, we're a little behind California. The French influence extends to cheap day care and too much smoking. (Though, weirdly, there is very little contact between France and Quebec, except among highbrow intellectual circles. Montreal looks to New York more than anywhere else.)

On the other hand, I've noticed a resurgence of smoking in pictures ever since Pulp Fiction. For a while there, the only smokers on screen were villains and nutcases. Lately I've seen a few too many Cool Smokers.

Now kids, say what you will about film having to follow reality. If you're writing a tv series about fashion models, you have to have them all smoking like chimneys. 'Cause models do.

I call bullshit, to quote John Rogers. There's lots of things we don't put on screen that people do. I'm not just talking about going to the bathroom. I'm talking about taking forever to say something meaningful. TV and film are constructed realities. All you owe the audience is the emotional truth.

'Cause the only reason kids pick up smoking is to be cool. (Very few people are dumb enough to pick up the habit past 18. Which is why they invented Joe Camel.) If you make smoking look cool, you're convincing kids to smoke.

Personally, I think making a character cool by having them smoke is a crutch. Actors love to smoke on screen because then they don't have to put so much into the acting. Same thing in the action description. Give a character a cigarette and you can tell us all about how he's puffing, and that's so much easier than finding the right words to convey what we're seeing on his face, or the right words for him to say that seem like nothing but convey so much.

Some will argue that it is not our responsibility as writers to make society better. I disagree. It's everybody's responsibility to make society better, and we have more leverage than most. That doesn't mean you can't do The Sopranos; a convincing portrait of bad people can ask questions and open up conversations just as well as, or better than, a puff piece about Dr. Lucile. And I loooooved Thank You For Smoking.

There's "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." And, "In order for evil to triumph, it is only necessary for good men to do nothing."

At a minimum, don't make things worse.

So: butts out onscreen. Villains and neurotics. It may seem like a cliché, but it's a cliché that there's something cool about cigarettes, too. There isn't.

7 Comments:

baruch hashem.

Amen brotha.

By Blogger Al, at 11:53 PM  

Wonderful argument. It’s indefensible. I am so glad that every city in the world will eventually become the same. I thought the cool thing about Montreal was that it was not every other place in the world. It’s a Brave new world and thank God that Montreal is JUST like Mouse Jaw. There is a reason I avoided living I Saskatoon.

No matter what you think/say/believe smoking makes a character cool. Go ahead and throw any theory at me. You are wrong and you know deep down in your soul that smoking is cool. It ain’t a crutch. Its what people do. Hate me, hate me…but please let the last place people (even imaginary ones) be able to smoke is in a simple script.

No smoking in bars? If you spend more than three hours a week in a bar do you really care about your heath?

Please let imaginary people smoke. Is that too much to ask?

By Blogger DJ, at 12:18 AM  

Actually, Deej, I care much less whether you smoke in a bar than whether imaginary characters do. Your smoking in a bar just makes the bar a little less pleasant for nonsmokers, and there could be nonsmoking sections for that. It doesn't convince any 14-year-old girls to take up smoking.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 9:24 AM  

Point, Set, Match to Mr. Epstein.

By Blogger DJ, at 10:16 AM  

Smoking bans are becoming quite common and I think it's been a good thing.

Just think about
smoking and lung cancer when it comes to whether or not smoking should be banned in public places.

By Blogger Craig Osenbaugh, at 12:17 AM  

Hi. Thought you might find it interesting that more and more cities worldwide are going non-smoking. Beijing announced on Friday that it would ban smoking in time for the Olympics. The ban would cover most public buildings. According to the USAToday article, “restaurants, bars, and hotels can still allow smoking but must provide smoke-free areas or rooms.” In a city where “23% of those above age 15 smoke,” one restaurant preempted the ban and went smoke free last week. The restaurateur already reports improved business and customer satisfaction.

You should check out my challenge to the industry to go non-smoking. His blog on HospitalityLawyer.com is at: http://blog.hospitalitylawyer.com/

By Blogger Hospitality Lawyer, at 5:02 PM  

There is now a new quit smoking drug available in the market. This latest breakthrough is known as Chantix. It is able to help smokers snub out their addiction by working on the brain.

By Blogger adelen, at 1:53 AM  

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