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USA: the art of simple dying

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What problems cigarette makers have in the USA these days! The modern American woman aspires to many fine ideals: to be in charge of her own life, stay looking young and beautiful as long as possible, keep fit and healthy, smell fragrant, be a good parent, and have enough money to enjoy life to the full. Smoking removes control through addiction, prematurely ages and wrinkles the skin, destroys fitness and can cause debilitating and fatal diseases, makes smokers smell, sets an appalling example to children, and involves repeatedly spending money that could otherwise be used for, well, living life to the full. So how on earth can cigarette companies reassure women who smoke, and make those who have not yet started, think it is part of a normal, desirable lifestyle?

One way, it seems, is to give women their own magazine, cleverly mixing all the most enduring female aspirations and interests with pervasive imagery portraying smoking as a normal, rational activity, an integral part of the perceived ideal lifestyle of American women in the year 2000. Brown & Williamson, BAT's north American subsidiary, has done just that: it is funding a magazine misleadingly calledThe Art of Simple Living, that is apparently being sent, unsolicited, to women who subscribe to selfhelp and health and fitness publications.

Redolent of the American dream of happy married life, motherhood, and apple pie (the 21st century version), typical articles include “How to unclutter your emotional life”, “Bird watching—a family affair”, and even “Fitness loves company”. Seen in their true context, some are sentimental to the point of nausea, outside the spectrum of even the cruellest satirist's palette, such as “Parent talk: wheel life episodes—a dad watches his girls grow up”. Another fine example could have been tailormade for those who lose a family member from tobacco: “Writing simple, touching notes for every occasion”.

Cigarette advertisements abound— in one issue, all but two of the adverts are for cigarettes. There are competitions such as “Win a vacation in paradise”, adverts for trinkets—“Express your own unique style with the Misty Rainbow Collection”—and not forgetting to flatter the intellect of readers, “The thinking person's crossword puzzle”, part of a Carlton advert. And bowing to ever increasing hostile public reaction to passive smoking, we learn that “Superslim Capri means less smoke for those around you”.

The publisher's statement says the magazine “is edited for a select audience of modern women who are interested in personal and spiritual growth, as well as in fulfilling their responsibilities to other people”. So that's all right then. And financial support? This, the publishers admit, “is provided by the B&W Tobacco Corporation, which does not control editorial content. It is published for adult women”. Despite the disclaimer, there are obvious links between much of the content and the kinds of concerns that women have, and the issues that are bound up with their smoking. And like some cigarette adverts, many of the articles counter women's concerns about smoking, such as those about fitness or parenting. There does not appear to be any way to subscribe to this publication, and even better news is that anyone who is sent it can ask to be removed from the “select Simple Living mailing list”.

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