24 days before  the release of Company, President Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act as part of a growing campaign in the U.S. to limit smoking. The act requires stricter warning labels on packages and banned advertisement on the radio and television which this artifact presents. Company mingles with the subject of substance use quite a bit in the film with interactions with alcohol, weed, and cigarettes shown throughout the musical performance. I think there is definitely conversation to be had about the appearances of substances and its meaning and I look forward to discussing it further with you all. I think cigarettes in particular struck out; while the main character, Robert, drinks and uses weed albeit to limited extents, he refuses to smoke cigarettes.

In Scene 4, Joanne pressures him to smoke and he firmly says no and later on in the scene while she stares him down, he said “Even though I am a product of my generation, I still do not smoke. My age is a very uptight age group. Middle age is breaking up that old gang of mine.” Not only does this open up the theme of age in the musical but with the context of the anti-cigarette act that Nixon passed a few weeks before the production’s release, I think it poses interesting questions. What generation does Bob identify with? Is smoking cigarettes an act that falls into the category of older or newer times? How may Bob being in the “middle age” group influence the way he views marriage taking into consideration that it is the  year 1970 and the younger generation is known to rebel against societal standards? Looking forward to hearing what you all think! 


Source: NYT Archives photo taken from Twitter ;  NYT Times link (Subscription needed)

6 Replies to “Cigarettes and Company”

  1. Wow, this topic is still relevant as ever! While this is officially a bit after the 2018 revival of Company, on December 20, 2019, the legal age to purchase tobacco nationally was raised to 21. The “artifact” can be found on FDA’s homepage here: https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/retail-sales-tobacco-products/tobacco-21
    And even before December 2019, there were still nation-wide efforts to limit tobacco sales. On the other hand, as explored in Company, marijuana is becoming more normalized and legalized. While tobacco seems to be becoming less popular and less used among the younger generation, it’s interesting that marijuana and electronic cigarettes (vaping) has also popped up as a (dangerous) trend.

  2. Hi Uchi!
    My first thought in relation to this anti-smoking act was the use of advertisements in the past few years, particularly the “The Real Cost” campaign. These were the ads where someone would buy a pack of cigarettes but pay with their teeth or their skin. Very disturbing if you ask me.


    It’s interesting to look at how the smoking demographic has changed over time. In our modern-day counterpart of vaping, it is much more popular among teenagers than middle-aged adults. “The Real Cost” ads also are targeted at a younger audience.

    I think Bobby struggles to identify with anything- a generation, a role, another person, etc. – and that is a big part of his character arc. He is coming into his own and becoming more comfortable with his own self. His line about straying from his generation speaks more to his lack of any real connection than his actual relationship with cigarettes. To me, cigarettes are just an example or a tool to show us this disconnect.

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