From The Publisher

Odds and Ends


Odds and Ends

We'll be honest. We've been pretty sick for the last few weeks, and just got back to work Monday afternoon, so we haven't been able to put a lot of thought into this column. We'll try to make up for it, but putting a little thought into several topics.

First, we wanted to pass along a strange sight from our semi-regular winter visit to Las Vegas. There's a row of booths, perhaps 10 feet by 12 feet each, running along the Strip right outside of Harrah's Resort and Casino. They're been there for years and years; many sell t-shirts or souvenirs, but there are other types of novelty booths, including one selling photos of tourists riding a motorcyle. It was probably a Harley but we can't remember for sure - which helps us make our point - the booths are basically unmemorable.

On this visit, we noticed something very different. One of the booths had a new occupant: an eCig company, which was demonstrating the product for passers-by who were welcome to try one (and of course, to buy some). But every time we passed by (which was often - we were staying in the neighborhood), it was a very lonely place, with no customers at all. And unfortunately, every time we passed by, the lone salesperson was male. Needless to say, that made it a rather uninteresting place for us to spend much time. It also seemed like a rather odd marketing decision. It's certainly possible that whoever leased the space was unaware of the smoking fetish; but no matter what was being sold there, you would think someone would have suggested that a pretty girl might be a better salesperson; just about every other booth in that area had female sales staff, and they weren't even selling potential fetish objects. At any rate, not a particularly "satisfying" experience, but sort of interesting nonetheless when it comes to the attempt to mainstream eCigs, in lieu of the real thing.

Even sadder: if there had been a female salesperson there, and she was smoking one of the eCigs we've seen on TV recently that actually show nice exhaled smoke - that might have been one of the best sightings we would have had in Vegas this time. We visited three casinos in our abbreviated visit: one upscale, one mid-range, and one lower-end. In all three, sightings were slim. We had a few decent ones in the higher-end casino, mainly because the women were more attractive; the smoking wasn't anything to write home about. And while there were a few more smokers in the lower-end place, they were primarily of the "crunch up your face and exhale out of the side of your mouth" variety. This onetime American oasis for smoking seems to go downhill every time we visit.

On another nostalgic note, we caught a brief TV commentary today about actor Kirk Douglas and his appearance on the Oscar telecast; there was an accompanying photo from an Oscar ceremony back in the mid 1900s. The photo wasn't visible long enough for us to identify the woman he was with - but she was wearing white gloves and a cigarette in a short black holder. Can you imagine a photo like that, taken in the audience at this year's Oscar telecast?

Although, maybe if eCigs catch on - perhaps one day they'll be socially acceptable enough for that to happen. We know that's wishful thinking, in a world where the FTC wants to regulate smokeless cigarettes, and just about the only thing left for New York City to do is ban you from thinking about smoking. Just call us optimists.

And thanks for coming by to check out the March-April issue of Smoke Signals.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up


You Can't Make This Stuff Up
SMOKE SIGNALS MAGAZINE - January - February 2011

Happy New Year! And welcome to 2011.

It was 91 years ago - in 1920 - that Prohibition became law in the United States. The "Noble Experiment" in legislating morality failed, of course, and the eighteenth amendment to the constitution was repealed in 1933.

Almost a century later, a group of legislators and bureaucrats continues to follow the same fruitless path, trying to outlaw smoking. However they're not the moral equals of the misguided prohibitionists, who at least had the courage of their convictions.

But today's "prohibitionists" are cowards. They know that any attempt to actually ban smoking would likely go down to defeat. So for decades, the politicians who do the bidding of the anti-smoking movement just eat around the edges in their attempts to legislate morality. Continual harrassment of smokers, trying to get them to quit, is one of the major weapons in their arsenal.

And now, they have another proposal: try to make smokers vomit - or at least feel really, really guilty - whenever they look at a pack of cigarettes.

Needless to say, we're exaggerating. But we're sure you've seen (or can picture) the graphic photos that they want to require on every pack's warning label: rotted lungs, oxygen masks, gravestones, crying babies.

(A few other nations, like New Zealand and Brazil, already require very graphic warning labels on their cigarette packs. We have been unable to find any claims, let alone proof, that those labels have had any effect on smoking rates in those countries. What we DID find that was somewhat amusing, was a British story from 2003 about a huge increase in sales of cigarette cases - coinciding with a law requiring annoying large warning labels in Britain.)

We have no doubt that American smokers will shortly be seeing some graphic warning labels every time they light up. But we also have no doubt that the labels will have very little, if any, effect on smoking rates in the US.

Warning labels may have made a difference in the American smoking rate - in 1966, when they first appeared. Smokers now KNOW the dangers of smoking- and have for decades. Many feel guilty that they smoke - many others don't feel guilty at all - probably the majority of smokers are somewhere in the middle. But anyone who still smokes in the year 2011 isn't going to make a decision to quit based on public service announcements - articles about the dangers of something they're calling "third hand smoke" - or nasty pictures on their cigarette pack.

What's laughable about the whole situation is that today's "prohibitionists," who keep poking their heads out from behind their barricades to fire another legislative or regulatory shot at smokers before ducking back down, have already accidentally SUCCEEDED.

Two of those shots - drastically restricting the area where people are allowed to smoke, and increasing cigarette taxes to unbelievably high levels - have succeeded in drastically reducing the percentage of people who smoke, and drastically cutting the amount that individual smokers consume. It's impossible to know whether those numbers can be cut much further without an outright ban - but we seriously doubt it.

Effectively, the anti-smokers have won.

But cowardly, rabid anti-smokers aren't trying to just cut the smoking rate. They're trying to ELIMINATE smoking, without banning it.

And a lot of bureaucrats' jobs (for example, many at the Food and Drug Administration, which is proposing the new warning labels) depend on the anti-smoking movement. There's no way they can declare victory and walk away; they have to keep "campaigning" against smoking, in order to justify their continued employment.

So welcome to 2011. The US smoking rate has been cut from 45% in 1954 to 21% today; and the ratio of former smokers to current smokers among those 65 and older is greater than 5-to-1. An unbelievable number of people have chosen not to start - or have quit.

Anyone who stops to think about it, would most likely conclude that the war against smoking has been won - and that those who still smoke, aren't doing it because they haven't been scared enough.

But new warning labels are on their way.

You can't make this stuff up.

Smoke Signals Community: What's Next?


The Smoke Signals Community...What's Next?
SMOKE SIGNALS MAGAZINE - November - December 2010

So we've given the dust a couple of months to settle, after our tumultuous summer of redesign work.

The feedback has been relatively positive - traffic and membership have increased - and we think that we're off to a pretty good (re)start. But what comes next?

First of all, we hope to see conversations on the messageboards pick up. We've been pretty busy with the newest Smoke Signals project (which will launch shortly) - so we haven't been as active on the boards as we probably should be. We resolve to be much more visible there in the months ahead; we hope that you'll join us.

Second, we plan to beef up our news "reporting" on the site and our blog. To that end, we hope that producers will make a greater effort to keep us advised of their new video releases and other news. It's obviously easy for us to update with news from Smoke Signals and the producers with whom we have close relationships; we'd like to be able to bring news from ALL producers to the community on a timely basis.

Third, we would like to invite you to participate more actively. In the early days of Smoke Signals Magazine, we had lots of reader-contributed articles and columns. As online newsgroups and then messageboards became prevalent, reader submissions became fewer and further between. Of course, we still accept and encourage you to submit smoking fiction, and we still pay for published stores. But we'd also like to hear from anyone who has an idea for a column or article on any smoking fetish subject. We have the space - and the readers - that will allow for in-depth writing not usually seen on other internet sites in our community.

And finally, we would like to invite you to participate more informally. In our new format, we no longer have the "Letters to the Editor" column - and that's because there's no real need for it anymore. You can instantly post a comment on ANY article on our site. We think that can be a much more interesting form of "letter writing" - and we hope you'll take advantage of it.

Are there other features or changes you would like to see in the new Smoke Signals Magazine - or on the Smoke Signals Community site? Let us know - just use the comment box right on this page.

Thanks for sticking with us as we tinker and grow!

Wow. That Was a Lot Harder Than It Looked.


Wow. That Was a Lot Harder Than It Looked.
SMOKE SIGNALS MAGAZINE - September- October 2010

Every generation probably says the same thing to the next: "Wow, things were a lot better in the good old days." We wouldn't say that it's really true that everything used to be easier. It just often seems that way.

For example, ten years ago, it was easy to redesign a website. You took out your trusty WYSIWYG editor, typed for a little while, uploaded the page - and voila - a new look! As you've all been able to witness first-hand, however, that's not quite the way it's worked with the Smoke Signals Community website.

Without boring you with the recent history, which you've also witnessed - we'll just say that the initial re-design of the site didn't work as well as we had hoped it would. And that led us to decide on the second re-design, which took place over the summer. Central to this version of the site was one major realization: for the last sixteen years, people have come to Smoke Signals for news/stories/articles - and for our messageboards. The site we unveiled in April lost sight of that fact. With the new changes, we think we've moved back toward our real roots - as well as moved into the future with functionality.

We hope that this new Smoke Signals Community site will be a lot more user friendly for all - and that people will bear with us as we fix the final few bugs in this design. For example, not everything in the messageboards works quite properly yet - because we're using a beta version of the latest messageboard software. The final release should come any day, which will fix the remaining bugs there. We're also still learning how to work everything, which means that our first free issue of Smoke Signals Magazine (of which this article is a part) may look a little disjointed - but we hope to have all of those little bugs worked out quickly as well.

We're also very aware that our forums, long a "most visit" destination, have been left by the wayside for the last few months while all this work was being done. Now that registration is no longer required to post - we hope you'll all stop by and say hello after you read this month's issue of Smoke Signals.

One reminder, and one piece of news. The reminder: many of the "Facebook" type of features are still here on the Smoke Signals Community site - they're just not on the front page any longer. If you log in and look to your left, you can access them on the "User Menu" - and send messages, make friends, and share photos and videos.

The news: this fall, Smoke Signals will be unveiling a brand new sister site, which we think will be a very cool new addition to the smoking fetish world. We're excited about it, and hope you'll find that it's worth our excitement.

Enjoy the redesigned site and the September-October issue!

The Smoke Signals Community has Reopened


After a few months of experimentation with the new Smoke Signals Community, and with some feedback from you, we realized that some changes would be necessary..

Those changes have now been made.

We understand that the messageboards, which for more than a decade had been the centerpiece of our site, were hard to find and hard to use.

They are now on the front page of the site - and perhaps more importantly, no longer require site registration. They are open to everyone, members and visitors.

We also understand that people have come to depend on us for news and updates from the Smoke Signals family of sites as well as the smoking fetish world at large. For that reason, we've made two other major changes.

You're already aware of one, because you're reading it. The latest news and opinion from the Smoke Signals editor/publisher's desk will always be featured in this spot on the site - and the very latest from our Smoking Fetish Blog will always be featured "to our right."

The other should also be pretty obvious when you check out the rest of the site. We have moved the online Smoke Signals Magazine to the Smoke Signals Community site. For the first time since we began the magazine in 1994, it will be available to everyone, without a fee. Articles from the latest issues will be highlighted on the front page; articles from the entire magazine can be accessed from the "Table of Contents" to your left.

Finally, the areas of the Smoke Signals Community that let you make friends and share messages, photos and video are still here. They're all available from the "Table of Contents" and the "User Menu" and we hope you'll use them.

Thoughts? Opinions? Feedback? Please, let us know.

And thanks for your patience :)

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