Smoking in Movies

Movies in the 1980’s appear to make smoking the cool thing to do. Almost every heroin or protagonist character smokes cigarettes. Let’s just look at a few:



We start with the original badass: Bruce Willis in Die Hard. He is portrayed as this awesome guy, he defeats everyone ends up winning his wife back. We are all supposed to like him, and he smokes almost constantly in the movie.



We have Veronica from Heathers. She is not your typical heroin, she does kill innocent people, but yet she is the protagonist we are supposed to like. And she smokes and it makes her look cool.



Ren from Footloose is only shown smoking once when he is angry and dancing in the warehouse. This makes the connection that smoking will help alleviate stress and make you more calm. We love Ren, he is our main character; he stands up for what he believes in and of course he smokes.



Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon is another genuine badass. He is literally registered as a lethal weapon because he is such an amazing fighter. He is our hero in this movie. He overcomes his depression and channels his anger towards locking up or killing bad guys. His picture could be in the dictionary next to chain smoker though.


Sandy from Grease (1978) is transformed into the kind of woman a man wants. She tries to impress Danny by putting on tight leather pants and a sexy little shirt AND she smokes! This is a direct connect between being cool and smoking.



In 1980 when Popeye the movie was released this brought smoking into an even younger generation! Popeye is never seen without his pipe.



Even advertisements in magazines showed models smoking. Which is hilariously contradictory for this particular ad considering it is for Chanel, which is famous for their fragrances.

Don’t forget the music industry. This song which was releases in 1985 also promotes smoking as the cool thing to do!

This article outlines the trends in smoking through time. It offers doesn’t offer a huge spike in tobacco use during the 1980s but it does show a tremendous decrease as we get closer to modern day. Perhaps this is due to advances in technology and medicine that has reaffirmed the dangers of smoking.

Either way as we continue though the movies of the 80’s the overwhelming trend of the popularity of smoking is becoming more and more apparent. You certainly don’t see many of the modern movie heroes smoking as often.






Drinking Age

Up until the 1980’s the drinking age acted like a crazy roller coaster; it was raised, then lowered, then raised again. Slowly more and more states were making the drinking age higher. After prohibition ended in 1933 drinking age varied from state to state. In some states the law was unclear. For example, in Colorado there was no designated drinking age until 1945. In 1971 the voting age was lowered to 18, so many states used this as justification for lowering the drinking age to 18. This is very strange for our current generation to fathom. Our generation that has been trying to sneak alcohol since they were 16 or younger.

This wikipedia page lists all the drinking ages as they changed throughout time.

Starting in the last-seventies some states began voluntarily to higher the drinking age to 20 or 21. It wasn’t until 1984 that the national government got involved. Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. The Act required states to higher their drinking age to 21, otherwise the state would be punished by a decrease in the federal money.

The raising of the drinking age caused a large uproar among the youth, especially those who were anywhere from 16-20 years old. Many of the 18-20 year olds were already accustom to drinking and then that right was taken away from them. Those that were 16-17 were looking forward to being able to legally drink in a year old two. The common uproar in the 80’s and still holds value today is: “If I can go die for my country at 18 why can’t I have a beer.”

Many colleges were upset about this ruling because then you have excessive partying and drinking because you have students just getting free from their parents.


However, opinions have shifted because now most of America agrees that the drinking age should be 21. Rumor has it the American Medical Society even thinks the drinking age should be raised to 25! The drinking age question may come back to the congress table  in the future, though.

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Cocaine in the 80’s

So far cocaine has been featured in nearly every movie we’ve watched with the exception of the teen movies, and to be hones when I think of 80’s movies its hard to block out the image of Scarface sitting with face down in a gigantic white pile of powder. So I guess the question is: how rampant was cocaine use in the 80’s?


According to this rehab website, cocaine was the “most popular recreational drug in the 80’s”. The article even claims that cocaine usage was more rampant than alcohol use. That is a pretty hard core claim. The movies of the 1980s certainly seem to portray cocaine as a drug of the beautiful and the rich. What may be more relevant is the massive amount of modern movies that portray the late 70’s and early 80’s as a mecca of cocaine amidst a disco glamor backdrop. Movies like 54 which portrayed the famous nightclub in its heyday and Blow, a hard luck story about a cocaine smuggler portray a decade where drugs were everywhere: at every party, in every nightclub, and in a vial in the pocket of every Hollywood starlet.

One of the best examples of cocaine use amongst Hollywood youth is that of Drew Barrymore darling of the movie E.T who went to rehab at the ripe old age of 14 for cocaine usage and was often reported to be spotted in the popular nightclubs of the 80’s like Studio 54 snorting cocaine and smoking cigarettes.

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We see cocaine use in 80’s movies like Wall Street where it is just part of the new world of making money. There are articles like this one where Dennis Quaid claims that cocaine was an expense built into movie budgets.

It seems coke was to the 19080s what pot was to the hippies of sixties and seventies, and nowhere is that better portrayed than in the films and social scene of Hollywood.