In 2006, Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada defended a controversial decision to remove all instances of smoking from Marvel Comics titles. In a statement on Newsarama, Quesada went in to some detail behind the decision, best summarized by this rather blunt statement:
"So, the reason our characters don’t smoke in our books is because
I don’t want them smoking in our books, it’s as simple as that.
Say what you will, it doesn’t matter, smoking causes cancer."
Knowing how the P.R. machines of tobacco companies have responded to such challenges in the past, I couldn't help but imagine what such a pro-tobacco campaign might look like...
"Hi, kids! My name is Jay Garrick, otherwise known as The Flash. I've been running at super-speed for well over sixty years. To what do I owe such a long, super-cool life?"
"Why, cigarettes, of course!"
"Ha, ha! Surprised you, didn't I? I'll bet some of you are thinking 'But Jay, isn't smoking the number one evil facing our world today?' Not even close, kids! In fact, let me show you how smoking made it possible for me to gain super powers!"
"My story begins, appropriately enough, back in Flash Comics #1 (1940), as I monitored an important Hard Water experiment late into the night. As sleep beckoned, I called upon the sweet concentration-enhancing powers of Lady Tobacco...."
"The cigarette's soothing flavor was just what I needed, as the ecstacy of its problem-solving, life-giving vapors caused me to swoon into the nearby chemical containers...knocking them to the ground!"
"The rest, of course, is history. The Hard Water fumes knocked me out, which by all rights should have killed me...that is, if it weren't for the protective chemical embrace of my precious cigarettes!"
"I can still remember that moment during my recovery, as that freakishly broad-shouldered nurse was serving me mush...how thankful I was to not only be alive, but supercharged with speed...speed I would later channel as The Flash! Thank you, tobacco!
"Don't forget 'contributes
to super speed'! Ha, ha!"
Update: Sorry, Jay. It looks like DC Comics eventually modified your origin to reflect modern tastes, as reported by K 2 Ramblings. Thanks, Kelson!