Tony Horowitz explains in an OP/ED in the NY Times that to woo rural voters, Barack Obama should “Lose the Nicorette. Light up instead.” Why? Because — “Rural Americans smoke more than city-dwellers.”
Consider these statistics, culled from studies of smoking patterns. Americans who make between $24,000 and $36,000 a year smoke at twice the rate of those earning $90,000 or more. The same applies to Americans with a high-school education rather than a college degree. Rural Americans smoke more than city-dwellers. As for race, there’s a close correlation between states with high rates of white smokers and those where Mr. Obama polled worst in the primaries. Leading the pack of smoking states are Kentucky and West Virginia; industrial states like Ohio aren’t far behind.
Bottom line: small-towners in the Rust Belt and Appalachia don’t cling to guns and religion so much as they do cigarettes.
By rejoining them, Mr. Obama would also touch voters in several heavy-smoking swing states: Michigan, Missouri and Nevada. Added bonus — Virginia and North Carolina, two leading tobacco-producing states, are both in play this election.
An Obama supporter, Horowitz explains he’s also a fellow “Nicorette chewer,” but he does “miss the companionship of a shared smoke.” As a smoker myself for too many years, I must agree, for many people there is an aspect of social smoking. And Horowitz notes:
Indulging in a vice stigmatized by most Americans is an easy way to bond with people with whom you otherwise have nothing in common.
This aspect of smoking would be of help to Mr. Obama, too. I suspect the discomfort some Americans feel about him has less to do with race than style. He can seem aloof, over-groomed and fussy about eating the right foods and getting enough exercise. Bumming a smoke on the rope line, soiling the sleeve of his pristine suit with cigarette ash and interrupting the flow of his soaring oratory with a smoker’s hack would go a long way toward dispelling his effete image.
Horowitz’s piece is a great bit of tongue in cheek making an argument for a way for Obama to reach out rural voters. But in our society that recognizes that smoking is bad for our health, Obama’s better off to stick to the Nicorette — a habit I plan to take up soon, instead of smoking.