While the anthropomorphic webcomic Original Life is far more lighthearted than its prequel series, every so often cartoonist Jay Naylor likes to stretch his dramatic storytelling muscles and indulge in a more serious tale. The latest storyline, with Janie helping her friend Stacy try and kick her cigarette smoking habit, has been an interesting mixture of humor and drama. Of course, there is a long tradition of print comics focusing on smoking cessation attempts, including Bloom County, which seems to have inspired 300% of the webcartoonists out there and I may be low-balling that figure.
The last couple of comics have shifted away from humor (both black and light) and closer to nightmarish as Janie struggles with her personal demons while lying in bed. Now, admittedly I’ve never smoked, but for some odd reason I’ve had nicotine-craving-dreams in the past (no doubt caused by my habit of dating girls who smoke). So I can honestly express my doubt that people fighting off nicotine cravings have giant anthropomorphic cigarettes taunting them (especially as self-doubts can do the job so much better on their own). No. The true horror was mentioned at the very start of the storyline: Stacy is only 14 years old.
Now, I know people tend to start smoking when young. My dad did, as did my brother (both of who managed to quit). But it’s still disturbing to note that even with the laws intended on protecting children from this sad habit, they can still get hooked. Indeed, the very fact it is illegal makes it tempting to some; it becomes a rite of passage. What’s more, Stacy’s hallucination even hinted where Stacy’s descent began… stealing cigars and pipe tobacco from her father. Much as with many bad habits children pick up, ultimately it’s the parents who inadvertently taught their children in the first place. And at such a young age, quitting can be far harder than when an adult. And that’s saying something.