” When Will They Ever Learn” — A Mort Laitner Short Story

When Will They Ever Learn

 By Morton Laitner


I’m lying in bed, reading Time magazine while in the background the voices of the Kingston Trio chirp out, Where Have All the Flowers Gone. I see a timeline entitled, “Tobacco—The War over Warning Labels.” I recall as a fifteen year old seeing the warnings on the packs of Newport’s I brought for my Mom. She loved their menthol flavor. They were filtered which supposedly protected her from those dangerous tars and nicotine. It was in mid to late Sixties, after all the flowers that Congress passed a law that mandated cigarette packs carry the following words:

Caution: Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health.

I continued studying the timeline and read:

March 2012 the CDC announces its first national antismoking campaign, including billboards and print, radio, TV and on line ads using graphic images of smoking’s danger.

Time does not question the timeliness of this national campaign. It just states the facts for the reader to draw their own conclusion. I quickly subtract 1965 from 2012 in my head and came up with 47 years. The Feds were “finally” bringing in the Big Guns at the CDC and spending vast expenditures fighting Big Tobacco. Here was another example of American exceptionalism as our nation slipped down the list of world’s healthiest countries.

As questions popped into my head, I got off the bed and moved to my computer to learn more about this CDC. What was its focus? What did the letters CDC stand for?

Wikipedia did not fail me. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Its name said it all. An organization that fights and prevents the spread of disease like cancer, bronchitis and emphazima. Their national antismoking campaign came from an organization which was formed in 1992. The campaign seemed delayed but now that they were in the fight, Tobacco better watch out.

Feeling somewhat protected, I walked back to the bedroom holding a Sports Illustrated, plopped down and started to flip through the pages. A full page ad caught my eye. It read:

For the ultimate pleasure, always bet on Red! It’s Rich, it’s Red, and it’s Non-Menthol.

The advertisement pictured a roulette wheel with the ball resting in red 28. A box of non-menthol Newport’s and two smoking lit cigarettes almost kissing in a glass ash tray. There in the lower left portion of the page was the warning:

SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Dioxide.

   I raised my head off the pillow and thought, “What a weak warning and Sports illustrated a magazine ready by millions of American teenagers. They are seeking this same Madison Avenue junk I saw47 years ago wondered why these ads still existed.


One thought on “” When Will They Ever Learn” — A Mort Laitner Short Story

  1. rushessay.com

    I am not a smoker and no one in my family smokes. With this, I am very thankful. I feel for you about the weak warning. At the end of the day, it is still advertising. We all know that smoking is bad and yet some people still choose to smoke. Maybe in the future, the warning will be also be strong. Let us just wait for that time.


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