Viewpoint: Cain’s campaign ad didn’t deserve flak for cigarette usage

By Joshua Madden
A&E Editor

You can smoke in films and win an Academy Award – just ask Colin Firth, who played a king who was arguably a chain-smoker in “The King’s Speech” – but you sure can’t let your campaign manager smoke in a campaign ad.

My most recent column consisted of me largely bashing on Herman Cain and his silly “9-9-9 plan” and yet now, in a strange turn of events, this one will defend him.

For those of you who are unaware, the Herman Cain presidential campaign put up an ad where his chief of staff, Mark Block, smokes a cigarette. The ad ends with Cain making what I would describe as a creepy, Cheshire Cat-like grin.

I don’t think too many people would argue that it’s a good advertisement because, to put it simply, it’s not. It’s terrible. However, the fact that Block smokes a cigarette in the ad is not that big of a deal.

Critics are arguing that the ad promotes smoking, but there’s simply no basis for that. No one in the ad ever says that smoking is to be encouraged and, if anything, Block looks so awkward smoking in the ad that it’s hardly going to make any teenagers think that smoking is cool.

People smoke in films all the time. Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character in “The Ides of March” – a character who happens to be a political consultant very much like Block, as a matter of fact – smokes multiple cigarettes in the film. People smoke on TV all the time. Just ask the cast members on “Jersey Shore.”

Yes, that’s right, this is the second column about Herman Cain that’s contained a comparison between his campaign and “Jersey Shore.” I’m not sure who should be more offended, Cain or Snooki.

But whether we admit it or not, Snooki is more of an icon to the youth of America than Mark Block will ever be. Few people knew who he was before this ad went viral, and fewer will probably be able to recognize him a week from now. So is the fact that he smoked a cigarette on camera that big of a deal?

Of course it’s not. It’s his choice to smoke. He’s not encouraging anyone else to smoke, but he’s also not hurting anyone other than himself.

Our society is so set on interfering in everyone else’s lives that you can no longer smoke anywhere … evidently even outside if you’re on camera.

This fits into a bigger picture of smoking being banned pretty much everywhere. New York City recently banned smoking in certain areas outside.

Yes, that’s right, they banned smoking in outdoor areas. Most people can acknowledge how absurd that is.

The blogger and author Maddox (his pseudonym doesn’t include a first name) wrote about laws having the wrong focus in his Oct. 16 article “A Message to Cops,” saying, “I get happy every time I see a speed trap, because I assume it means all criminals have been locked up, you’ve caught the guys who broke into my car on three separate occasions and my stolen property will be returned shortly.”

I disagree with Maddox’s assertion that police officers are to blame when they have to spend time writing tickets instead of catching criminals. There’s only one group to blame: us. We are the ones who allow silly laws to get passed and then complain when they get enforced. We are the ones who blow incidents like this out of proportion.

So the next time someone decides to complain that Herman Cain has a staffer smoking a cigarette, take a second to remember that it might not really matter that much and tell them to find something more important to complain about before the rest of us lose the right to do something in public areas.

I think the fact that people are mad about this and yet some people still like Cain’s tax plan says everything that needs to be said about American politics right now. It’s time for people to grow up, says this young student.

Joshua Madden is a graduate student in information systems from Olathe, Kan., and is the Lariat’s A&E Editor.