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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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October 10, 2007 10:23 AM

Me and Strangie

Posted by David Postman

Jeff Weedman is a big fan of The Stranger, even when he's drawing comics of the paper's publisher, Tim Keck, defending the alt-weekly's tobacco ads. Weedman is running a one-man campaign to get The Stranger and other local publications to stop running ads from cigarette companies. We talked yesterday afternoon.

"The irreverence of The Stranger really appeals to me a lot. But that whole non-conformist attitude is really what the cigarette companies are trying to bank on. 'We're alternative like you. We're anything goes.' I think you can have some fun with irreverence but I really think tobacco is the exception. I think the addictive nature of it really goes above and beyond alcohol or illicit sex or even drugs.

"To me, for a progressive paper to be advertising tobacco is just very hypocritical and there's something ugly about it."

Weedman created a weekly web comic, "The Adventures of Strangie," to try to shame the paper into dropping tobacco ads. But his campaign is also aimed at the Seattle Weekly, the Seattle Gay News and Seattle Magazine. While the tobacco companies are using the weeklies to go for that alternative feel, he says, the glossy Seattle Magazine ads are tuned to that upscale audience.

"They have a new, rather insidious campaign, trying to talk about tobacco as if it were something for a connoisseur, trying to make it like it's a refined pleasure."

Weedman is a former smoker --- ah, the power of the convert -- who learned to really hate smoking while spending years as a waiter in the pre-smoking ban years. He was a volunteer for Initiative 901, which banned smoking in bars and restaurants.

He says that the mainstream anti-smoking groups don't want to take on the local media so he took up the charge himself. About a month ago he created Strangie, printed up some of the comics and tried passing them out on Capital Hill.

"It didn't go very well. But the idea of Strangie was a lot of fun and I wanted to keep playing with that."

Weedman also confronted the Stranger's Dan Savage at a speaking event. But now he seems settled on doing his work through Strangie. How's that going so far?

"My response so far has been a little tepid. I've gotten about 10 e-mails, half and half. People have kind of a blasé attitude about tobacco advertising and they say, 'I see ads all the time and I don't smoke.'"

But he says the ads are more insidious than people realize and he will keep pushing the weeklies and Seattle Magazine to stop taking money from the tobacco companies.

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