2 Used 2 / Time capsule / The archaeology of smoking

The archeology of smoking

When watching a film from 1944, 'Since you went away', a flint of the conversation invoked a sudden awareness times were changed beyond the unthinkable in 1944:

Corporal William G. 'Bill' Smollett II: Do you mind if I smoke?

Jane Deborah Hilton: Of course not. Bill, why are you so... so timid about things?

Corporal William G. 'Bill' Smollett II: What do you mean, Jane?

Jane Deborah Hilton: Oh, I mean about asking if you can smoke. Well, nobody else does that. (...).

I suddenly remembered my first job that I sat out a precise year, in an office with a chain smoker behind me and one in front . I coughed and coughed, at least for two months, and it was every few minutes, I tried to not do it, as it had to be extremely annoying. Both the coughing and the aim to suppress it were terribly exhausting. My colleagues did not stop smoking though. Why should they? Ofcourse, I did not even ask them to do so. Nobody would. I felt asking them could be explained like I had too big of an ego. Next, it would jeopardize job security and break the general idea about the freedom one should have to smoke. Like we were taught in 1944.

Coïncidentally, it was at the end of my contract that the law enforced a first step to give employees a chance to breath clean air while working. Later, the trains became totally smoke free. Then, the cafés. I felt finally justice had taken place, remembering where we came from.

My father had lost part of his lungs due to tuberculosis when serving in the army. What was left of them was undermined through astmatic bronchitis. He regularily had to leave or skip meetings, birthday parties and cultural performances as cigarettes were put on the tables as a normal expression of enjoyment and service. And ofcourse, smoked without any restrains. Still, he has to throw himself through a thick curtain of smoke when leaving the building of the old men's choir, that he was finally able to join thanks to smoking restrictions inside the rehearsal site.

After another law being enforced, I see people hanging around, smoking lonesome on balconies, in a car with the window open. It wasn't the law that made them change their behaviour. It was something different that happened. What? Why? How?

So things are changing. And that makes me very curious what customs and practise we see now, related to smoking, will soon be incomprehensible within a few years for us all. As incomprehensible as the Japanese or Chinese tourists we see walking in our Dutch Tulip Exhibition, their faces covered with a white patch. Or as surprising as when I learned scientist discovered alcohol damages the brains till you're 24. (They did not tell me in time.) Or as abhorrent that the clothes on my very skin were touched, because made by exploited, poor and fragile Bangladeshi women.  

So what's the story of the cigarette? Is there any effect on humans and animals in the production fields of this nightshade plant containing the biohazard nicotine? How is it manufactured and how do the poisonous ingredients being processed in the cigarette factory affect their workers and environment? How is it sold, by whom and where, and what cost does that have to people and environment - before it is even smoked? Why can a cigarette pack by-pass every sane product law? Why is there no enclosed description list of all side effects, as we know in medicine or when buying biohazard substances?

What questions did I forget? Which ones do I have to skip? How concize can my story become and how  visually interesting and impacting? Which tone to find? Can we make people laugh and feel confronted in one image? That is my challenge.

I can't read Japanese but did the designer of this picture maybe try?


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