By Michael Margavitch, Columnist
Here's a familiar scene at Hofstra: stressed out students puffing on their cigarettes. How did they start smoking? Usually, it's either the result of peer pressure, or parents and relatives who smoke around them. Sometimes parents don't want the blame placed squarely on them even when, in some cases, they really are responsible for their child's cigarette addiction.
What do they do? They blame public figures labeled as role models. The press criticized Disney star Miley Cyrus for smoking cigarettes after paparazzi photos caught her in the act. Now, Republican candidate for the 2012 presidential election, Herman Cain, battles criticism that one of his campaign ads glorifies smoking.
In case you missed it, the questionable ad features Mark Block, the mustached manager of Cain's campaign, calling on supporters to donate their time and energy. After his monologue, Block begins to smoke a cigarette. This quickly cuts to a close up of Cain's face on the right side of his logo with Kristin Branch's ridiculously cheesy "I Am America" blasting in the background.
Many thought the ad was too bizarre not to be a hoax. However, the Cain campaign responded that the ad was meant to be taken seriously.
Not everybody views the ad as a laughing matter. People expressed their fury over the use of smoking in the ad not only because it was irrelevant, but because it could be construed as subversive and a bad influence. Obsession plagued analyzers who wanted to know the purpose of the cigarette. Was Cain selling tobacco? Was Herman Cain trying to appear rebellious and draw in a younger or blue collar crowd? What was the motivation?
Even Bob Schieffer of Face the Nation aired his grievances about the ad while confronting Cain on his show. Schieffer, a survivor of smoking-related cancer, felt Cain acted irresponsibly as the Republican frontrunner. He eventually forced Cain, who complied with Schieffer's request, to directly tell young people not to smoke on his program.
At the end of the day, nobody should care. There is plenty more that Herman Cain has done to deserve criticism: the sexual harassment allegations, the possibility of illegal funding of his campaign by Block's Prosperity USA group, and even the misguided use of "I Am America" in the ad.
We should focus less on the aesthetic components of ads and instead listen to the message candidates try to convey while taking into account their past actions.
Overall, parents should educate their children about good health choices. This includes warning their children of the dangers of smoking.
If you smoke but you don't want your kids to smoke, you have a problem. That problem is hypocrisy. You have to lead by example if you desire a specific outcome. Don't blame Miley Cyrus. Don't blame Herman Cain. Take responsibility for yourself and your actions.