Don’t Smoke!

Apologies in advance for the quality of the tape (shot off the t.v., but, then again, it was a t.v. show), here’s Allen on NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien”, from May 10th 1994, performing “Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag” (alternative versions of the poem/song can be accessed here and here). “Don’t smoke don’t smoke don’t smoke/Don’t smoke/It’s a nine billion dollar/ Capitalist Communist joke..” Recordings of the piece are available both on the Harry Smith-produced First Blues and the John Hammond-produced First Blues (always some confusion about those titles there!). Timeless, but Allen was particularly incensed by the blatant hypocrisy of the tobacco lobby, and, in particular, Senator Jesse Helms, five-term Senator from the tobacco state, North Carolina (“Nine billion bucks a year/a Southern Industry/ Buys Senator Jesse Fear who pushes Tobacco subsidy”). Likewise the puritanical misplaced rhetoric of the purported “War on Drugs” (“30 thousand die of coke or/ Illegal speed each year/430 thousand cigarette deaths/That’s the drug to fear”).

From the July 2011 Fact Sheet of the World Health Organization – “The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced. It kills nearly six million people a year of whom more than 5 million are users and ex-users and more than 600,000 are nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke. Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco and this accounts for one in ten adult deaths. Up to half of current users will eventually die of tobacco-related disease.”
“Don’t smoke don’t smoke don’t smoke don’t smoke, don’t smoke..”

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