Mixed Blessings

Intermittent Smokers, Lucrative Looks, Etc.

Anti-cigarette activists tend to divide people into two distinct groups: You’re either smoke-free, or you’re a tobacco addict. Life doesn’t necessarily work that way, though. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a growing segment of smokers are “some-day smokers” (as opposed to everyday smokers). “Between 1996 and 2001, the prevalence of current smoking was relatively stable in 41 states and the District of Columbia while the proportion of current smokers who were some-day smokers increased significantly in 31 of those states and the District of Columbia.” Among all U.S. smokers, 22 percent of men and 21.1 percent of women are some-day smokers. “Takes” readers with especially good memories will recall a recent Gallup study that said there’s “roughly one former smoker for every current smoker.” The proliferation of ex-smokers and some-day smokers makes it harder for anti-cigarette ads to argue that Big Tobacco ensnares its victims for life. On the other hand, these trends also make it harder for Big Tobacco to profitably market its wares. It’s scarcely worth lavishing ads on someone if he’s going to smoke just a few times a week—and then quit altogether. But if such unreliable souls constitute a big chunk of its current customer base, can the industry afford to ignore them? It’s almost enough to make one feel sorry for those evil tobacco companies.

Is baseball the national pastime? Not according to the sports and marketing executives polled by TSE Sports & Entertainment. Fifty-nine percent said the old ball game no longer has that status. Asked to say which sport is “most successful for reaching consumers,” 57 percent cited football. Golf (21 percent), basketball (14 percent), baseball (7 percent) and hockey (1 percent) trailed far behind.

If people were as satisfied with offline life as with online life, the world would be a happier place. The latest Conference Board Barometer finds 42 percent of wired consumers satisfied with their online activities—up marginally from the 41 percent saying so a year ago. They’re also more likely to feel cyberspace is a safe place: 27 percent said their primary Internet activities are safe, vs. 25 percent a year ago. As for e-commerce, the key is getting consumers to break the “purchase barrier.” Among those who have bought something online in the past three months, more than 80 percent said they’re likely to make another online purchase in the next three months. Just 20 percent of those who’ve yet to buy online expect to take the plunge in the next three months.

Who’s the most motherly sitcom mom? A Family Circle poll sheds light on that burning issue. Respondents were asked to say which sitcom mother they’d choose if they had to replace their real-life mother for one day—Debra Barone of Everybody Loves Raymond, Lorelai Gilmore of the Gilmore Girls, Helen Pryor of American Dreams or Lois Wilkerson of Malcolm in the Middle. Barone paced the field (43 percent of the vote), with Gilmore the runner-up (22 percent). Pryor and Wilkerson tied for third (18 percent).

It’s said intelligence is wonderfully well-distributed because most people are content with the amount they’ve got. One might not guess this is also true of looks, but an online poll by Allure suggests it is. People were asked whether their appearance has helped them get ahead in their careers or held them back. Sixty-five percent said it has helped; 15 percent said it’s been a hindrance.

Maybe it’ll be an olympic sport some day. In the meantime, a bathtub high-dive enlivens an ad for Noritz, whose water heater yields “limitless” amounts of hot bath water. Krueger of Torrance, Calif., created the ad.

Celebrities who mouthed off about Iraq did not endear themselves to the public, judging by a new survey conducted for VH1. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they feel it’s “inappropriate” for celebs to make a public display of their political views. There’s an asymmetry in the way people react to such opinionizing: 20 percent of those who agree with a celeb’s opinion think better of him for it; 37 percent of those who disagree with a celeb’s views think worse of him for it. Moreover, 29 percent said they’d avoid the brands these luminaries advertise.