The Life of Tommy Chong: An Advocate for the Smoking Industry
Known for his hilariously iconic performance as Leo in That ‘70s Show and ‘Man’ in Up in Smoke, Tommy Chong has been a huge advocate for the smoking industry. He’s had the opportunity to smoke with some amazing figures like George Harrison and Keith Moon. He has recently gotten involved on the business side of the smoking industry and has even dabbled in politics.
Chong was born in Canada and eventually became a US citizen in the ‘80s. During his teenage years, he picked up music and learned how to play the guitar. His first time smoking was when he was about 18-years-old. He fondly remembers the experience as giving him visions about how he could prosper in the world. And prosper he did.
After picking up a guitar at a young age, Chong joined a band in his twenties that eventually became Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers or the Vancouvers for short. The first single was, “Does Your Mama Know About Me,” which reached 29 that year on the Billboard Hot 100. They later had the opportunity to open for the Jackson Five.
Cheech and Chong
After breaking up with The Vancouvers, Chong met Richard Marin, better known as Cheech, in 1968 when Cheech was escaping the Vietnam draft. They created smoking-related comedy albums, performed stand-up comedy, and produced small films. Their first feature-length movie was Up In Smoke, which paved the way for many other smoking-related, comedic films. It was also the highest grossing comedy film in 1978. Four of their comedy albums were nominated for Grammy Awards for Best Comedy, one of which they won in 1973.
By this time, the smoker lifestyle was just beginning to make a name for itself. Cheech and Chong were the comedy act to go along with it. Before, everything else was done behind closed doors and considered underground. The idea of smoking like this was relatively new, and the act provided a way to introduce it the public where many received a warm feeling from it.
The comedy duo split during the ‘80s but have reunited several times over the years. Currently, they have come together once again for a 2017 stand-up comedy tour. They have also produced their own line of glass which has made Chong quite the entrepreneur.
Advocate and Voice for the Smoking Industry
In the early 2000’s, smoke shops and the Internet just began to converge. Chong and his son Paris took the opportunity to develop their own line of glass that they could sell online. However, in 2003, this was the time the US government spent millions on campaigns to rid the country of bongs and other similar “paraphernalia.” Chong was charged with promoting the company and spent nine months in prison and all of his inventory was seized.
A couple years later, the government discovered the seizure of bongs wasn’t very effective. Many of his fans felt that he was a victim to ineffective and intrusive legislation. Tommy Chong began to aid the Democratic party in Pittsburgh, and in the previous election, Chong voiced strong support for the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
Tommy Chong’s business has been going strong. His reunion with Cheech has helped it prosper and bring back some of the best, most classic comedy acts of all time. He continues to immerse himself in politics when it counts, and remains an icon in the smoking industry today.