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Boomers just won't go away quietly

Those of us getting a little long in the tooth, gray around the temples (and beyond) and slower out of the starting blocks, had better take note.

Somewhere along the way, the statement "Lead, follow or get out of the way" has simply become "get out of the way."

No longer satisfied with whining about us being too slow in buffet lines and way too slow in the left lane, some of our youthful progeny, it would seem, are now wondering if it wouldn't just be better for everyone over, oh, say 40, to get into the business of pushing up daisies immediately rather than putting in the traditional 20 or 30 years of water aerobics, blue plate specials and shuffleboard.

And at least one former presidential candidate and one major tobacco company would seem to agree.

I've seen this coming since the first time I saw the words "boomer" (as in baby boomers) and "zero" (as in zero population growth) in the same paragraph.

Technically, I am too told to be considered a "boomer." That generation is usually said to be those of us born between 1946 and 1964. Basically the guys came home from the war and (what with there being hardly any television at all to watch) started making babies. Since I was born in 1944 (my father got home early) I am only an honorary boomer.

But if you think back to what else was going on in 1964, it was when the pill was just coming into vogue, so all of the babies born to that postwar effusiveness combined with the unutterable boredom of the Eisenhower years were learning how to have sex without having children.

But one great big generation drawing Social Security, combined with one small generation paying it, is bound to make for some strong sociopolitical undercurrents, and the first ripples just hit the shore.

Actually the first visible ripples came back during the 1996 presidential campaign when former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm _ before being found by Reform Party voters to be even loonier than Ross Perot, who earned their nomination instead of Lamm _ had to live with a quote from his days as governor.

What he said was: "We've got a duty to die and get out of the way with all our machines and artificial hearts and everything else like that and let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life."

Of course Lamm was 49 when he said that. Today, pushing 66, he is much quieter on the issue.

And, facing serious limitations on their "Lung Cancer and Heart Disease are Your Friends" campaigns here in the United States, major cigarette companies are now concentrating on other nations with apparently more realistic policies regarding age and population.

According to the Associated Press, Philip Morris (the company that made my brand during my days as a smoker) commissioned an economic report that showed that the Czech Republic saved $30-million in 1999 because it did not have to support, house and care for smokers who died prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses.

Is that a public service or what?

The report said the financial benefits from duties and taxes outweighed the costs of health care, lost working days and fires caused by cigarettes. The "indirect positive effects" of early deaths _ the resultant savings on health care, pensions, welfare and housing for the elderly _ helped the government achieve a net gain of $146-million from the tobacco industry.

Thank goodness the forces of good, i.e. the tobacco companies, can still disseminate important information like that in other countries, even if we have muffled Joe Camel here.

Maybe it is time for me to shuffle off into the sunset. I'll just light up a Marlboro and start eating those double cheeseburgers accompanied by cheese-and-gravy-drenched french fries that the Kid Who Wants My Job keeps leaving on my desk.

But first I have to either write out a living will or join an HMO, whichever is quickest and most painless.