The New York Post hit a new low on Tuesday when they deemed Britney Spears having a cigarette in the company of her son worthy of front page news. Wars rage on in Iraq and Afghanistan while Americans face losing their jobs and houses at home but The Post thinks Britney's cigarette trumps it all.
Even more offensive are the misleading coverage and venom directed at Britney and, by extension, all smokers. The caption accompanying a photo of Britney smoking a cigarette in her Beverly Hills home reads, "Britney Kid's Smoke Bomb: Smoking'-hot mama Britney Spears passes on bad habits as Sean Preston, 2, lighter in one hand, grabs her cigs with the other." What you don't see on the cover is that the next set of photos are of Britney grabbing the cigarettes and lighter away from her son.
The news story inside the paper attacks Britney and quotes doctors and advocates vilifying her. David K. Li of The Post writes, "It's bad enough that Britney Spears can't even keep a lid on her nasty cigarette habit long enough to avoid lighting up in front of her young son, Sean Preston, 2 ½. But then to leave her dirty cancer sticks and lighter within easy reach of a toddler?" Mr. Li then quotes Dr. Jonathan Field, director of the allergy and asthma clinic at NYU Hospital, "The pictures are sad on so many levels... we think of people who smoke as outside of the norm, so just seeing someone smoking is odd -- seeing someone smoking in font of their child is shocking."
Really? Seeing someone smoking is odd? Dr. Field needs to get out more. Walk down the streets of New York and you will see people smoking on every block.
The next person quoted is Russ Sciandra of the American Cancer Society, "Parents who smoke are a poor role model for their children; celebrities who smoke are a poor role model for everyone's children." If Britney is such a bad role model and this act so "offensive," why does The Post so prominently display her doing it for their one million readers?
The feigned righteousness just oozes from the pages of The Post and their "experts." How many people in The Post newsroom have smoked a cigarette in front of their kids? I guarantee that many Post staffers and their readership have had parents who smoked in front of them!
The public education campaigns about the harms of cigarettes and second-hand smoke are impressive. The banning of smoking in restaurants and other public places is something I and most people support. The fact that the number of people smoking is declining is also something to celebrate. But let's not start demonizing smokers and implying that someone who smokes is unfit to be a parent.
They'll be coming after the smokers today, the parents who allow fast food tomorrow, and the ones who have TV sets after that.
Tony Newman is the director of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)