Leah Mueller

Like a Cigarette Should

In the 1960s, news came on 
at 5 and 10: then midnight, 
to recap the same stories. 

Your parents always said something 
disparaging about Nixon, 
before turning their attention 
towards the consumption of

as many Benson and Hedges 100s
and Schlitz Malt Liquor tall boys
as their bodies could stand. 

Cigarette commercials 
featured grizzled cowboys, 
glamorous women, and

dapper men with black eyes 
who refused to switch 
from their favorite brand.

You liked beer commercials better:
Hamm’s, with its cartoon vistas 
of pine trees and tumbling rapids, 

and Lowenbrau’s promise 
of eternal friendship. In 1971, 

cigarette commercials were banned, 
while beer ads continued. It was
still legal to advertise smoking 

in magazines, billboards, 
and other forms of media.

Sunday newspaper supplements
overflowed with cigarette ads. 
It seemed like consumers
smoked more than ever.

Fifty years later, 
fewer people smoke, 
but almost everybody drinks. 

Beer ads have become 
sophisticated and boring, 
while folks die from cirrhosis.

Advertisers still want you 
to buy lethal products, but
they read the side effects
in ten-second soundbites,

or not at all. In the meantime, 
your body weakens a little each day. 

Still, you miss those commercials: 
the innocence of addiction,
the promise of eternal bliss,
and those goddamn pine trees.

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