A Whiff of the Past
They still make cigarettes in Greensboro, although it's just as hard to smoke here as it is anywhere this side of California. This morning I drove past the Lorillard plant on East Market Street, and I could smell the tobacco in the air. It's a nice, earthy smell, not like sitting in a smoky restaurant. You can smell it in downtown Winston-Salem, too, near RJ Reynolds.
Tobacco has been big in this state since before it was a state, and we have profited immensely. Our two best-known private universities, Duke and Wake Forest, were built by tobacco money. Farmers and factory workers had good jobs. Corporate leadership was strong. You can't spit in Winston-Salem without hitting some public amenity named after a Reynolds.
Yeah, I know cigarettes will kill you, that's one reason I've never smoked them. And tobacco companies shouldn't lie. People ought to be allowed to smoke--we ought to be allowed to do a lot of things that we probably ought not do. Maybe the decline of the tobacco industry is a net plus for America. But it has a downside, too.
Reputation Belied (Mostly)
I was driving down East Market Street to renew my driver's license. It took about five minutes. Everyone was polite. But true to form, the photo I will be carrying for the next five years is pretty hideous.