Skoal Scolds

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Reader Jim Murphy, who blogs here, points us to the latest skirmish in the war against tobackey:

Country music's "Redneck Woman" promises to keep her can of Skoal in her back pocket from now on. Tennessee's attorney general had asked Gretchen Wilson not to pull out a can of smokeless tobacco during performances of her new song "Skoal Ring" because it glamorized tobacco use.

A warning letter said the routine might violate the 1998 tobacco settlement, which forbids tobacco ads targeting young people.

Whole AP account here. "Skoal Ring" refers to the outline of the can in a pair of jeans. Wilson, best known for the tune "Redneck Woman," has agreed to stop whipping out the tin.

Writes Murphy, "I can only imagine how Hank Williams or Waylon Jennings would response to a situation like this, but my guess is that it would have involved an extended middle finger."

Jacob Sullum asked recently whether movies cause smoking. The answer may surprise you, especially if you are an anti-smoking activist.

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  1. Five years ago, had you told an advocate of suing the Tobacco companies that it would lead to government interference in arts, you would have been called an hysteric.

  2. I know this is a tired refrain, but how is this not unconstitutional? The government intervenes on a valid, private contract covering a legal product, yet the First Amendment crowd is curiosly mum on this one. That’s right…we’re protecting the children here. Sorry.

  3. First Amendwhat?

    What are you talking about?

  4. She’s probably making $$$ from Skoal. Why else would she pull out a can of the shit during her performance. I know she’s a self proclaimed redneck, but why the hell would she do so otherwise?

  5. Addendum to last post: Therefore she’s a walking ad. Where’s the “unconstitutionality?”

  6. Since I frequently weigh in on the threads about smoking noting how I find it difficult to sympathize when I hear about non-smoking rules and ordinances, I should for the sake of fairness note that I have absolutely no problem with chew or snuff use, and in fact encourage all smokers to take it up. I’d even agree to buy spittoons for my favorite clubs and bars.

  7. Where’s the “unconstitutionality?”

    Gretchen signs deal to promote Skoal.
    AG tells her she can’t.
    Is this not the definition of censorship?

  8. “Gretchen signs deal to promote Skoal.
    AG tells her she can’t.
    Is this not the definition of censorship?”

    I ain’t losin’ no sleep over it.

  9. she doesn’t have a deal with skoal, though.

  10. Of course you’re not losing sleep. People only care about freedom for themselves and the things they like.

  11. Why assume she’s taking money here? Its a prop, its a symbol that resonates with her working-class/rural fan base, its semiotic. She has every reason to whip it out without being paid to do so.

    This is straight out freedom of expression.

    Even if she is paid, it is Constitutionally irrelevant. Show me where the Amendment says “unpaid” speech is protected but paid speech isn’t.

  12. “Of course you’re not losing sleep. People only care about freedom for themselves and the things they like.”

    While it’s easy to assume I suffer from a standard issue case of Lack of Principles, let me say this. I see how this is a slippery slope, and I see her side, but I also see the negative effects of tobacco and I also think there’s far more important things to worry about than whether some redneck can flash her can of chew around on stage.

  13. Reading the linked article would be useful advice for me in the future. I was under the mistaken impression that she had a deal with Skoal. The state’s involvement in this matter in noxious nonetheless. A handful of minors in the audience witnesses a can of chew being used as a song prop and suddenly you’re peddling the stuff to kids. That’s the wicked beauty of the tobacco settlement: how do you prove you’re NOT promoting to kids? If there’s even one in your radius, you’re screwed.

  14. in re: andy

    So it’s okay with you because you can see how people need to be protected from tobacco?

  15. Maybe if Skoal were to send her a very stern letter (maybe they could get someone from the UN to draft it – that seems to be what they do) absolutely forbidding her from using Skoal as a prop during her song.

    She keeps on, of course.

    Then what do the nannies say?

  16. I also think there’s far more important things to worry about than whether some redneck can flash her can of chew around on stage.

    Yeah, like whether a bunch of jumped-up lawyers with gubernatorial ambitions can reach out and control what we say and how we say it.

  17. From what I read (and others have mentioned), she does NOT have an endorsement deal. So this isn’t even a case of “you can’t advertise this to kids;” it’s more like “you can’t do anything which a kid might think is cool.”

    I wonder what they would have said if this woman had done this like a PSA: “Hey, kids, don’t smoke! It leads to lung cancer. If you MUST get a nicotine fix, try smokeless tobacco!”

  18. i certainly hope you’ve gotten your requisite exercise today. otherwise you might be burdening my wallet. or getting angry, cause that might lead to heart disease. or having a stressful job. or…etc.

  19. andy, you never answered his question.

    anyway, for the record, skoal isn’t chew, but dip. you stick under your lip and suck on it. and in my case, subsequently come very close to throwing up.

  20. I should think publicly performing crappy country-pop music would be far more harmful to “the children.”

  21. So how come they’re still showing Bogart movies on the movie channels? Guy smokes like a chimney. And that William Holden character!

    Why, kids could see that!

  22. But John, you can always tell the kids why those guys are dead!

  23. Just curious, but what about all these former jocks doing beer commercials. I remember being 15 and seeing some recently retired guys sipping suds on TV. Where was my Big Brother to protect me then? Shouldn’t the government step in and give anyone who could be a role model a laundry list of things they can and can’t do? It does take a village after all.

  24. Well, I’m disappointed in Gretchen. Agreeing to stop whipping out her Skoal definitel isn’t very redneck.

    So what’s next?

    Jason Aldean can’t sing “Hicktown” because he name checks Pall Mall cigarettes?

    Hank Williams Jr. can’t sing “A Country Boy Can Survive” because he mentions (depending on the version) Red Man and Beech Nut chewing tobacco as the appropriate thing to spit in a mugger’s eye?

    Chris Ledoux is dead, but several performers still sing his song “Copenhagen.” Is that banned now?

    What about generic references to smoking and chewing, such as those in “sunday Morning Coming Down”? Are they verbotne now?

    Why stop at tobacco?

    Can Willie Nelson no longer sing “Whiskey River” because he markets Whiskey River whiskey?

    Johnny Russell (is he even still alive?) can’t sing “Red Neck White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer”?

    Can David Alan Coe still sing “Jack Daniels If You Please?

  25. The brass spitoon dings
    Lady, those are some brown teeth
    Your breath smells like ass

  26. “As long as we live in a society where health care is paid for by theft (aka “taxes”), I support so called nanny laws.”

    which is why i’m asking after your physical and mental well-being.

  27. And all the cigs and Philip Morris references on “I Love Lucy” reruns that TVLand hasn’t excised (yet). And yes, that’s why Desi and Lucy are dead. (As an aside: they couldn’t say “pregnant”, but they could say “sexy”, as heard in an early episode with Bea Benadaret?)

  28. because they directly affect me, not because i think you’re insane or otherwise unfit for duty, that is.

  29. sage,

    Promise me. Promise me that you will one day compile all of your hilarious haikus into a book for me. That is all. And yes, I know I’m encouraging you.

  30. Do I like the idea of increased tobacco use (and the ensuing rise in Medicare costs)?

    Fallacy alert.

    Tobacco use in no way drives Medicare costs. Something like 80% of your Medicare expenses will be incurred during your final, terminal illness. Everybody dies of something, so regardless of what you die of, your Medicare costs pretty much are what they are.

    In fact, some tobacco-driven diseases tend to kill people relatively fast, and so might represent a net savings. Even before you factor in the pension savings.

  31. As zach says, by funding an all-inclusive health insurance program with my tax dollars, why haven’t I bought the right to be as irresponsible with my health as I want to be? Why doesn’t the ratchet turn that way?

  32. Two excellent points, R C Dean.

  33. What’s disturbing about this is that the esteemed attorney general is either unaware or unconcerned with the secret killer, which is frequently consumed by Ms Wilson and her fans at these concerts. That is, of course, dihydrogen monoxide, a chemical so addictive that no user in all of recorded history has been able to go without it for more than a few days without dying of withdrawal symptoms.

  34. R C Dean,

    “Everybody dies of something, so regardless of what you die of, your Medicare costs pretty much are what they are.”

    That doesn’t follow at all, as your next sentence indicates. There are very expensive ways to die, and relatively cheap ways to die (not including freebies like being hit by a bus). And contrary to what you said, I’d heard that tobacco-related deaths are considerably more expensive than the average; but I have no clue where I got that from and no data to back it up. Do you have any hard numbers on the topic?

    JMoore,

    I’m also curious if you have a source for your statement that healthcare costs of smoking are more than offset by SS and other savings. I’ve heard people come down on both sides of that (by an amazing coincidence, their statements about it closely match their policy advocacy), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone provide a reference or any numbers.

  35. J – there’s plenty more where this came from:

    http://www.cato.org/dailys/9-30-96.html

    “First of all, tobacco consumption is simply not a net burden on taxpayers. The Florida suit, for example, alleges that the state spends $290 million annually on smoking-related illnesses. Yet in 1994 tobacco taxes added $1.9 billion to Florida’s coffers, to say nothing of the $2.9 billion it contributed to state worker compensation funds. Nor is smoking a net burden on society as a whole. Economist W. Kip Viscusi of Duke University calculates that the total social cost of smoking-related disease, sick-leave, fires, excess life insurance, and foregone Social Security taxes amounts to $1.32 per pack. Yet, because smokers on average die earlier than nonsmokers, they save society $1.47 per pack in costs that otherwise might have been incurred for nursing homes, pensions payments, Social Security benefits and other insurance costs. When one considers that smokers additionally pay tobacco taxes that average 53 cents per pack, one is hard-pressed to show that smokers are a net burden on anyone. If anything, society owes them money.”

    R.C. Dean is correct that forcing people to buy health insurance for each other doesn’t give the State any right to meddle – just the opposite.

  36. What is this retard AG going to vet lyrics now? Of course, its censorship. What a maroon; lets hope he gets slapped down and hard.

  37. thats why weed should stay illegal…otherwise the government will tell every musician that they cant make any references to weed…just think about a world without dre and snoop and dave matthews.

  38. Mr. F. Le Mur,

    Thanks for the link.

  39. “As zach says, by funding an all-inclusive health insurance program with my tax dollars, why haven’t I bought the right to be as irresponsible with my health as I want to be? Why doesn’t the ratchet turn that way?”

    I guess if you pay a lot of money in taxes, you have that right. The problem is that the people who most burden our system are the ones who pay the least into it. You and I are subsidizing their foolish choices.

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