HomeCultureSmoking in Southern Literature: A History

Smoking in Southern Literature: A History

Traditionally, Southern literature has emphasized family significance, justice, history and a sense of community. It has also addressed issues like the dominant religion in the region, racial tension, the land and the role of a person in society. Cultural and social issues like smoking have also found their place in this literature.

Tobacco was a major cash crop in the South. Some of the significant issues that have been studied in relation to tobacco use include the health impacts of smoking, prevalence and effectiveness of anti-smoking campaigns. Experts have also reviewed policies and theories about tobacco production, smoking and regulation. For example, some recent studies have focused on using the best vape tanks here to study the effect of vaping on the human body.

The Agricultural Ideal

Historically, Southern literature is quite characteristic of both the authors’ tradition and the subject matter. Unlike the Northeast, the South was not inhabited by Puritans trying to create a theocracy, but by a large number of people with diverse motives who saw hope, both economic and religious, in a warm and attractive South. While the Puritans considered nature and themselves damaged by original sin, early travelers, explorers and promoters of Southern life, such as John Smith, Robert Beverley Jr. and William Byrd, saw its tempting fertility as the New Eden, where humanity could begin again. In Southern literature, another version of New Eden can be distinguished—the agricultural ideal, which was supported by Thomas Jefferson. He believed that this is how Americans would flourish in small, self-sufficient families, where they could enjoy the purity of nature and avoid the temptations of urban labor.

It was in the late eighteenth century that slavery became increasingly important to the Southern economy. After the invention of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, Antebellum’s Southerners were more often than not characterized by northerners and European visitors as lazy, despotic, cruel, religious or, at least, ignorant. Although it helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Connecticut-born Harriet Beecher Stowe depicted African Americans mostly in stereotype.

Southerners responded to the cruelty of slavery in different ways. Writers made a departure from the unpleasant features of time and place in the poetry of isolated pastoral abstractions, which could be established anytime and anywhere, as in the works of Philip Pendleton Cooke, Thomas Holley Chivers and Edgar Allan Poe. The following response of critics was expressed in the image of Southern people in a negative way (greedy, lazy, vulgar). This is how comedians such as George Washington Harris, Joseph Glover Baldwin and others described Southerners in their works. Another reaction was polemical, as represented by Louise McCord and George Fitch.

The novel about the plantation has become a stable genre in Southern literature, characterized by a benevolent, pipe-smoking patriarchal master and his pure and charitable wife, who presides like a childish Negro in the plantation “family.” Slave narratives like those of Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass provided an entirely different version of plantation life.
After the war for Southern independence, novels about plantations became part of the “local flavor” movement, showing a nostalgia for places, people and times that had not yet been affected by industry and urbanization.

Poets such as Henry Timrod and Sidney Lanier were mourners of “Lost Cause, but Thomas Nelson Page, Kate Chopin, Grace King, George Washington Cable and the black American Charles Chesnutt did not lose their nostalgia. They were often ambiguous about condemning racism, seeking beauty in many aspects of the Southern landscape instead.

The Southern Renaissance

When we think about a Southern renaissance in literature, we recall such authors as William Faulkner, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Katherine Anne Porter, Mark Twain and Robert Penn Warren. The Southern Renaissance refers to the period between the two world wars when Southern writers were far enough away from the war for Southern independence and slavery to consider their region somewhat objectively due to the methods of international modernism, such as the flow of consciousness, complex views and unbridled assumptions.

Writers of the Southern Renaissance sought to consider two important topics in their works. The first was memories of the past on land that had suffered military and economic defeat, social shame and a legacy of racism. To some extent, this answer is reminiscent of the protection of pre-writers. Still, the burden is a complicated legacy of shame and guilt that makes history the destiny of the individual. The second central theme of the Southern Renaissance is the individual’s relationship to his community, which is closely related to the burden of the past. In the literature of Northeast America, identity is proudly and definitely individual in the Puritan and metaphysical traditions. On the contrary, the personality or honor of a Southern individual is based on his position in his community, a position largely based on the family.

Although its responsibility may be great, this emphasis on society over the individual can lead to lively exchange, concern, community values and heroic Southern Stoicism, in which people face decline and defeat in the face of public courage and resilience.

Zora Neale Hurston

After the Renaissance, Southern literature continued to flourish. Some people were influenced by Faulkner, such as Reynolds Price, James Dickey, and Barry Hannah. Black writers such as Alice Walker, Ernest Gaines and Zora Neale Hurston also made a name for themselves. The women’s tradition in Southern literature has become particularly strong thanks to the fiction of Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, Ellen Douglas, Elizabeth Spencer, Lee Smith and many others.

Tobacco Use in the Southern Literature

Smoking varies from one geographic region to another. Some of Southern literature has focused on the rates and prevalence of smoking in this region. People in some communities and regions suffer from poor health due to cigarette smoking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the South has some of the highest smoking rates, with around 22.7 percent of adults smoking. What’s more, people in the South and Midwest use different tobacco products that include smokeless tobacco and cigarettes.

Adults living in rural areas have the highest cigarette smoking prevalence at 28.5 percent, as compared to 25.1 percent in urban areas. The health of individuals that live in these rural areas are affected by smoking more than those in metropolitan and urban areas. That’s because they lack proper health care. Socioeconomic factors, policies and culture also play a role.

Mark Twain, who was known to smoke 20 cigars a day, famously said quitting smoking was the easiest thing he ever did, because he’d done it a thousand times.

Southern literature has focused on the risk factors for smoking. For a person to decide to smoke or use the vape tank for flavor, they must have some sort of motivation. It’s a known fact that smoking comes with many health consequences. For instance, cigarette smoking has been identified as one of the leading causes of preventable deaths, not just in the Southern U.S., but also in other parts of the world.

What are some of the major risk factors for smoking? A Southern Brazil study on smoking prevalence and risk factors indicated that tobacco growers’ families and those who live with smokers have higher prevalence rates. Up to 36.4 percent of smokers lived with people who smoked in their homes, while 39.4 percent of smokers are likely to be tobacco growers. Internationally, the study showed that risk factors for smoking are higher in rural residences, especially among young people.

Southern literature has also revealed that the tobacco industry historically presented advertisements to target young people, especially in rural areas. This has been achieved through the use of rugged images like those of hunters and cowboys.

What’s more, Southern communities have more interior and exterior point-of-sale advertising for smoking products. Even today, advertising plays a significant role in making vaping products like vape tanks popular.

Southern states like West Virginia and Kentucky have the highest death rates that can be attributed to smoking. People in rural areas or those known as “cancer alleys” have up to 20 percent rates of lung cancer. These rates are higher than those of the people in urban areas. For instance, incidences of lung cancer are higher in the South, at 76 percent, as compared to those in the West at 58.8 percent.

Other effects of smoking that have been highlighted in Southern literature include coronary heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All these effects of smoking have higher rates in Southern states than in other regions.

Today’s Southern literature has a lot fewer incidences of smoking, as the practice has been banned from many places and people are aware of the risks. Gone are the days of writers like Faulkner depicted smoking a pipe in their study, but North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia remain the leading tobacco-producing states in the country.

Summer Reading List