By D. E. Finley
After moving to Brazil, I’ve seen public service announcements on the backs of cigarette packs that make my stomach whirl like a seasick blender. Seeing disturbing photos of black lungs, an asthmatic child using an inhaler, a droopy, sexually dysfunctional cigarette, and a low birth weight baby in a jar don’t make me want to walk a mile or even get up off the sofa for a Camel cigarette. Maybe this is why I haven’t noticed as many smokers where I live in Campinas, Brazil.

Even though cigarette packages in the U.S. require one of the four Surgeon’s General’s warning labels, the small type with the warning is an after thought, compared to the huge, glamorous advertisement. And some of the U.S. warnings don’t seem that dangerous, especially to older kids considering smoking, which is when teens obsess at being cool and popular like celebrities Brad Pitt, the Olson twins, and Sponge Bob:

SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces
Serious Risks to Your Health.”
Yeah, and so does not eating Twinkies, not going to Pizza Hut, or not getting stoned.. Next!

“SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon
Yeah, and I inhale carbon monoxide in traffic every day on the school bus.. Don’t we need carbon monoxide for plants? So, it’s gotta be okay. Or was that carbon dioxide?

“SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result
in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight.”
Yeah, like I’m going to get (or get someone) pregnant at eleven. 4

“SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart
Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.”
Okay, this one is pretty scary, but I can always quit if I get terminally ill. I won’t be smoking through no hole in my neck. And so what if I did? It would look kind of cool.

When I was a kid, my older relatives were my anti-smoking ad campaign. Sitting, hostage, in the back seat of the Chrysler vessel with the windows rolled up, while grandma smoked her high-tars and Grandpa smoked his cigars, inhaling the fumes, was no Chucky Cheese party. Christmas and birthdays, meant getting gifts that our older relatives purchased with cigarette carton box tops like koozies, Joe Camel footwear, Marlboro Man key chains, and cigarette logo ashtrays. I hear that they’re collector’s items now on eBay. Too bad Mom gave them to Goodwill every year.

When I’d visit my great Aunt Martha and Uncle Winston who were chain smokers, their house especially reeked of stale cigarette smoke that had seeped into the walls and carpets. When, they’d smile at me, I’d see their yellow, tar stained teeth. I’d hear them hacking and coughing up black phlegm, six rooms away. The butts in the ashtrays, wastebaskets, and dumpster outside weren’t a pretty sight or smell either.

Thanks to my older, smoking relatives, peer pressure in elementary and junior high school rolled off me like SPAM or a Jehovah’s Witness at my door. When I thought of lighting up a cigarette, I didn’t picture a gorgeous cowgirl, sexy model, or the cool kids in school. I pictured wrinkled Aunt Martha hacking away into a white, cotton hanky, then kissing me with her tobacco breath, and giving me a hug so that I’d get to inhale the stale, nicotine fumes from her beehive hairdo and free, Phillip Morris sweatshirt. Her bug spray scented perfume didn’t hide the smell either.

My older relatives, including Aunt Martha and Uncle Winston, all met the Grim Reaper after getting cancer or strokes, although they tried desperately to negotiate with Camel Cash and Marlboro Miles. I guess the Grim Reaper didn’t need any more koozies either.

When I spot an empty pack of cigarettes on the ground in Brazil, I hope that the message will get through to people to finally stop or never start smoking (and stop littering). A sure fire way would be to put the photos of their aged smoking relatives on the backs of Brazilian cigarette packages. And, if that didn’t work, they could always use pictures of my older relatives; may they rest in peace.

Copyright D. E. Finley 2005.

To read previous articles by D. E. Finley click below:

Brazil: Going to the US Consulate

Brazil: Advice to Dialinda

Brazil: Feijoada Anyone?

Brazil Life: Winter in Brazil

Brazil Life: Home Safe Home
Brazil Life: Hose Shopping
Brazil Life: In-Laws In Town
Brazil Life: Got Floss
Brazil Life: Hiring a Maid
Brazil Life: Brazilians are so Nice
Brazil Life: Gringa Goes Shopping at Carrefour
Brazil Life: Amazon Encounter Lodge Vacation
Brazil Life: Keeping Track of My Purse

D.E. Finley is a writer and graphic artist. You can visit her website at
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