LA New Year's Eve ritual: The smoking deaths billboard

smokingdeaths-bboard.jpgLast New Year's Eve, Westside playwright and screenwriter Gideon Brower found community in an unexpected place. He waited with a small crowd that gathers on Santa Monica Boulevard below Westwood to watch a billboard that totes up estimated smoking deaths. At midnight, it resets to zero. "People cheer and drink champagne," Brower says in a piece that aired today on KCRW.

Here's the thing. The billboard doesn't reset to zero automatically. Every New Year's Eve for the last 20-plus years, an employee of the billboard company has climbed up the ladder just before midnight. When his cellphone gives the word, he starts the death count over again.

KCRW website story | Listen below on Soundcloud:

Brower wrote about this earlier in the year on the LA Times op-ed page.

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