Some days it's five packs. Others, none. Bright bits of teal litter catch my eye, and I'm drawn to them. Yes, I'm addicted to taking pictures of improperly discarded Newport packs. This has been going on nigh three years now. I probably have 1,000 pictures on my phone, mostly in NYC, and at least six other states.
There's no art to this. I don't find the packs beautiful. It's the teal that catches my eye. What is it about teal? Perhaps most associated with the late eighties, teal is the color of Miami Vice, the color of the Miami Dolphins, and more recently, the color of woke dye jobs.
[Seinfeld voice:] What's the deal...with teal?
Whereas I love Miami Vice (but neither the Dolphins nor signal queens), it's not a color I can pull off. I'm just not built that way, be it clothing, decor, or an automobile. I'd have to transform on a cellular level if I drove, say, a teal sedan. Teal belongs to people like Vanilla Ice and Paris Hilton. Hirsute Greek land developers, maybe. Ladies of the night.
My wife and children roll their eyes as I stop to snap another ciggy pack photo. "Mom, why does he do that?" they implore. "I'm not sure," she replies. "It's part of an art project," I tell them. "I'm going to print them all someday and make a Chuck Close-style montage of a Newport pack."
It's a lie. The fact is, I take pictures of what we as a society throw away. I went through a flosser phase--those individual ones with a plastic handle (often teal as well!). It's so curious that there are people 1) so concerned with oral hygiene that 2) litter so much.
I also photograph the homeless (humans discarded by society) due in part to our appalling lack of psychiatric hospitals. Thanks, Ken Kesey. I justify the latter by giving money or preferably food to the homeless subject of the photo, but ethics aside, I feel compelled to record their existence. All anyone does is look away from them. Pretend they're not there.
Back to the subject...why Newports? Because they're the most littered cigarette pack (source: me). According to this article on cigarette sales data, Newports account for 13% of U.S. cigarette sales, but as you will find if you glance to the gutters of American cities, four of five littered packs bear the distinctive teal with white pinstripes and upside-down Nike swoosh of the brand introduced in 1957 by Lorillard (now RJ Reynolds).
Why the name "Newport"? My guess is brand managers were going for a "fresh" theme to pair with the bracing menthol additive, and what's more fresh than coastal Rhode Island? The town of Newport is a tony enclave where the cost of living is 100% higher than the national average. Ahoy, polloi! indeed. Sea spray in your face, menthol chillstick cradled in one hand while the other rests on the walnut helm of your Hinckley Bermuda 40. Like the poet said, the canvas can do miracles.
The first pack I shot: May 11, 2018.
Black Lungs Matter
Of course, Newports are in the news this week, part of President Asterisk Parkinson's plan to help those who can't help themselves. Ever kindly, the Royal Doyen of Race Determinism, Master Youaintblack, has given the gift of subtraction to his most loyal voting bloc by announcing the ban of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. The process of the ban began yesterday, and will take years to effectuate.
Not Kool, Joe.
"But Rudie," you say, "menthols aren't the exclusive property of black smokers." No, friend, they are not, but it's pretty overwhelmingly the case. According to the CDC (cough! cough!), black smokers choose mentholated cigs 85% of the time, Hispanics 47%, and whites 29%. So yeah, it's pretty much a black thing, but it's brown too. And white.
Nevertheless, the majority minority rules. Perhaps you recall this meme from the 2020 campaign.
A (black) medical doctor's article about menthol cigarettes and race was published in USA Today, um, today. I expected to find some scientific evidence provided by Dr. Nia Heard-Garris that the flavoring chemical--the actual menthol--was more harmful to human lungs than regular cigarettes, thereby necessitating its removal from store shelves nationwide, but nah.
Biden's flavor ban has nothing to do with Almighty Science, but with marketing. Menthol cigarettes, as Dr. Heard-Garris points out, are marketed to black folks in predominantly black neighborhoods. Ya heard?
It's almost like how they advertise sailboats in places like Newport, RI.
This racial blame game misses the point. Whether black smokers choose Newports because of marketing, or flavor, or a deep-seated affinity for teal is irrelevant. The logic of this decision is not only flawed, it's illiberal:
--Cigarettes bad, therefore taking cigarettes away = good.
--But only some cigarettes. Only the ones most black smokers like. But also half of Hispanics.
--Because we want to protect most black smokers. And maybe Hispanics? From themselves.
--Because most black smokers shouldn't have what they freely choose.
--Because it was marketed AT them...well, at least once their preference was clear.
--Solution: taking away what they like will make them...stop smoking?!?
No. Smokers are addicted to nicotine, not "flavor." They aren't going to stop smoking if you take away their favorite cigarette, they're just going to be pissed off and smoke something else.
For that matter, all cigarettes have unique flavors. As a former smoker, I still recall the not-so-subtle differences between Camel, Marlboro, Gitanes, Dunhill, Winston, hell, even Vantage with that silly hole in the filter. They have unique flavors. The very concept of flavored cigarettes is absurd. It's akin to saying apples, bananas, and oranges are fruit, but kiwi is "flavored fruit."
"Flavored cigarettes" were banned in 2009 amid an outcry that the flavors were marketed to children. Flavors such as "Mintrigue," "Midnight Berry," and "Mocha Taboo" were alleged to be a gateway to youth smoking, much like the media aspersions cast upon cartoon mascot Joe Camel in the 1990s. (Camel bowed to the mob, killing off Joe in 1997. Aunt Jemima, Land O' Lakes lady, and Uncle Joe have recently joined him in whatever ring of hell is reserved for innocent, smiling, cartoon POCs (and desert mammals).).
And while we're recalling nanny state policies, don't forget Mike Bloomberg's ban on single-serving soda containers above 16 oz. It ultimately failed, whereas his 1999 ban on smoking in public indoor spaces set the tone for the eventual law of the land. At least Mike was universal. Biden is singling people out based on a combination of behavior and the color of their skin.
No one knows where this helter-skelter Constabulary New World of race-based bans will go from here. Is malt liquor next, but beer is safe? Cognac bad, whisky good? This war on preferences by group is definitionally racist, and that fact hasn't escaped Twitter.
So. The small-picture upshot is that I'm done taking pictures of Newport packs on the sidewalk. Joe has taken the joy out of it, and anyway, they'll all be gone in a few years, only to be replaced by another brand.
The big-picture? This is about power.
One of the clearest expressions of power is to take away. It's what we do with misbehaving children, which is how socialists see the people. We are the children--and black smokers are being singled out today, but yesterday it was (mostly white) investors. The day before it was female athletes.
Socialists and communists seek more power. The consequences of their actions are unimportant. As Jesse Kelly has recently pointed out, class division was the lever generations ago. Race is the lever now. The more ridiculous the power grab, the better, because it wears us down. The ridiculous becomes routine. Then they come for the big stuff--guns, property--once we're worn out.
We roll our eyes today at what once would have moved us to rebellion. We "smdh" today at once would have incited a riot.
So smoke 'em if you got 'em. You won't have 'em for long.