The rise and fall of smoking in the west


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I would have thought Europe in general, and France in particular, would have been higher. I guess I’ve been influenced by stereotypes.


I was watching a channel about Chinese masculinity, and smoking was one of the things you do if you’re a male.


It’s striking to see the cigarette advertising plastered around entry points into mainland China. NASCAR style doesn’t even come close.


We (the US) are replacing it by smoking other things, like vast tracts of pristine wilderness as a result of increasing wildfire frequency and severity thanks to climate change.


To be fair, forest fires and prairie fires are part of the natural cycle.


The role of Edward Bernays and his propaganda on behalf of the tobacco industry cannot be understated as a cause of that post-1920s rise. If all he had done was make the idea of women smoking acceptable (“Torches of Freedom”) we would have seen that spike. His propaganda techniques live on in every current denialist campaign connected with unhealthy products and ideas (e.g. fossil fuels, firearms, gambling, mixing church and state, modern movement conservatism, etc.). This pioneering work is why I consider the tobacco industry particularly evil.


…or Mexican.


You are very correct, and the respective ecosystems have evolved accordingly over thousands if not millions of years. But the increasing severity and frequency of the fires in the last hundred years or so disrupts that natural cycle of disturbance, resulting in ecosystem instability and habitat degradation.


I’m pretty sure he inspired the Aaron Eckhart character:

Thank You For Smoking


As I understand it, part of the issue, for forest fires, is we keep building around the woods and then put out every little fire. In the past smaller fires would keep the dry, dead underbrush in check. The severity is a result of more fuel being readily available.

The good news is, even after massive fires, the forest will come back even if we just leave it alone. It’s a blink of an eye in time.

Prairie fires don’t have this issue as much and indeed there are often times controlled burns where they purposefully light huge swaths of it on fire. It is a pretty cool sight when they do that in the Flint Hills.


In Japan right now, flabbergasted that people still smoke in restaurants, bars and hotels. Many a meal ruined by an errant whiff of tobacco. Last time I was here I couldn’t lay on my bed because the room reeked of stale smoke. Strangely I rarely see smoking outdoors. The social stigma is strong I guess.


Hear! Hear! When outsiders move to Colorado, they start scolding us for ‘not planting any trees’ on our treeless semi-desert plains, because, “who would want to live there without lots of trees?” Didn’t we know they were coming and terraform just to make them feel at home?

You can try and explain that every aspect of our climate kills trees, but they know we’re just making excuses. So, you just grimace and nod your head as they plant their yards full of cheap, weak, FLAMMABLE trees from other climates, water them ferociously (with our precious desert-y, alkaline water), and watch them turn yellow and die anyway. !Fuego!


That is indeed a big part of the issue. It’s also a big reason why Pando, the giant Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) clone in South-central Utah is dying, and it’s to blame for some of the more severe fires for the two or three decades immediately pre-2000. But the more severe forest fires of the last two decades are also a result of warming and drying cycles throughout the West, especially in wilderness areas with comparatively little human development. Also, with regards to severity, the most severe fires can take the forest back to almost glaciation-level disturbance. Most of the fires in natural disturbance regimes are surface fires; that is, they don’t burn away the soil organic carbon and other nutrients, and leave them available for immediate succession to take advantage of. In these cases, recovery is much faster and less onerous. In cases of severe fires, especially areas where drought or beetle mortality has left a lot of standing dead trees, fire severity reaches crown-fire levels, often burning away the total pool of soil nutrients and rendering the ground infertile for years to come. It’s these fires that wreak destructive havoc on the west, and the ones I complain about here.

In more open areas in the west, it’s a result of invasive annual weeds contributing to a buildup of flammable debris. But that’s more characteristic of the shrub-desert and steppe ecoregions of Wyoming and the Great Basin.


I have read that the cigarettes distributed to GI’s in WW2 were significant too. Especially as if you didn’t smoke, during declared smoking breaks the Sgt would find something “constructive” for you to do.


I participate in a (much smaller) controlled prairie burn, every year or two in central MO. Even relatively small brush really flames up. As a pyromaniac, I find the process quite enjoyable. I’m guessing this would be frowned upon in California.


There are some weeds that just plain DESERVE to die in an inferno!


That continued onward in the civilian workplace. Smoking breaks have been one of the few breaks during the day allowed by employers to blue-collar and service workers, which created a lot of peer pressure to smoke.


Ironically, in California, one of the worst invasive weed species will not physically die in an inferno.

c.f. Carpobrotus edulis