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What would we call the Winston Cup? The Ivory Flakes Cup?

June 24, 1997

Boy, all those 30-odd (hack hack) years of Chesterfields are really taking their toll. I new it was a (cough cough) nasty habit when I got into it, but I was young and (wheeze wheeze) impressionable and I bought in to all that slick "Chesters beat the Resters" advertising (gasp gasp) campaign and before you knew it I, through no fault of my own, became addicted to the corporation's carefully manipulated nicotine levels and I was hooked.

So.

Where does the line start for those big tobacco bucks?

News of a proposed $368.5 lawsuit settlement between the government and cigarette companies means lots of smokers may be able to recoup the health-related costs of smoking, and as someone who recognizes a good, sound business proposition when I see one I am looking to cash in.

One small, insignificant question: Do you have to actually prove you were a past smoker, or will they take your word for it when you fill out the forms?

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And if you need proof, how long does it take to work up a good, muck-covered lung X-ray? Will smoking six cigarettes at a time in the months before Congress votes on the plan get me grandfathered in? I don't want full blown lung cancer, you understand, just maybe a little flagging emphysema, enough to land me a couple mil and then go away.

Probably won't work, worst luck.

Here I am, a happy, healthy 30-something who in truth came along too late in life to be swept away by the tobacco companies' big Boomer-targeted cigarette advertising campaigns and too late in life to be swept away by the tobacco companies big Generation X-targeted advertising campaigns.

A man without a country? No, I am a marketing group without a niche. That 34-38 age range that advertisers pay no attention to whatsoever. If you aren't a candidate for either Mountain Dew or Metamucil they don't want to hear about you. Is it my fault I never smoked and therefore am not a candidate for riches? Hardly. I was just never solicited.

Ah, but here I go again, being selfish, shortsighted and insensitive.

I know there are people out there who will experience very real and lasting affects of this tobacco settlement and I do not wish to make fun of them.

It's their lives and their financial status we are speaking of, and to them there is nothing light or funny about tobacco products.

And here I am speaking, of course, about the NASCAR industry.

Part of the settlement, as I understand it, would seriously scale back tobacco advertising in sports, meaning NASCAR operators could no longer glorify cigarettes by spinning their Marlboro-painted cars wildly out of control at 200 mph and scattering tires, sheetmetal and body parts in a rain of fire and molten steel into the cheering crowd.

I don't mean to trivialize the risks of smoking, but wouldn't NASCAR without tobacco be a little like basketball without Nike, or football without Miller Lite? And speaking of beer, wouldn't it be a little ironic in a nation where no one has ever been convicted of driving under the influence of tobacco that speeding racecars would still be able to carry the logos of Budweiser and Genuine Draft?

Perhaps as a person whose paycheck is directly subsidized by advertising revenues I am biased, but if tobacco is such a killer, ban tobacco - don't take it out on NASCAR tradition and revenue.

After all, what are we now to call the Winston Cup? The Ivory Flakes Cup? I don't think so.

I can't bear the thought of the track announcer uttering such stupid sentences as "the Dale Earnhardt No. 3 Pampers Extra Absorbent car is edging up on the Jeff Gordon Mattel Barbie and Ken car and, WHOA, there goes the Ernie Irvin Doan's Pills/Humana Hospital Medivac car into the A.J. Foyt Playtex Lift and Separate entry and - oh no, it looks like the No. 666 National Organization for Women car is into the wall and..."

Now there's reason for a lawsuit.

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