"Asthma doesn't seem to bother me any more unless I'm around cigars or dogs.The thing that would bother me most would be a dog smoking a cigar." - Steve Allen
In my book, Barking From the Front Porch, I tell stories and prognosticate on issues such as smoking, health care, hygiene, food, alcohol and entertainment in the 1950's. Occasionally, I intend to blog about some of these topics, sometimes using excerpts from my book. The electronic media allows me to provide my readers with a broader perspective, more photos - in colour, no less - and sometimes some entertaining video. So, here I go! This one is more about my chapter entitled Learning to Smoke.
It has been said that, to a smoker, there is nothing so annoying as the nagging of a reformed former smoker. I am one. Let's face facts. Smoking is addictive. I once saw a television documentary where a drug addict admitted that he had much more difficulty giving up cigarettes than quitting cocaine. I gave up the habit about forty-five years ago - cigarettes, that is; not cocaine - but the smell of a freshly lit cigarette is still intoxicating to me. Out on the street, I sidle up to smokers just to get a little whiff of that wonderful, deadly, forbidden fruit.
In the 1950’s smoking was mandatory. Everyone did it, and you did too even if you never lit up. Second-hand smoke was at kitchen tables, in bedrooms, in cars, buses and airplanes - Who thought that was a good idea? - in dance halls, beer parlours, restaurants, schools: everywhere. By the time you were five years old you were addicted to nicotine simply by virtue of being alive. Not only were you hooked; you wanted to be hooked. It was cool, sophisticated and even healthy. Full page magazine ads displayed tough, swarthy cowboys on spirited horses breathing fresh mountain air and taking a break to enjoy the fresh clean taste of Marlboro cigarettes. One ad went so far as to say: More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette. And one Lucky Strike ad told us that 20,679 physicians say, “Luckies are less irritating.” Not to be outdone, a Viceroy Cigarette ad showed a dentist saying, “As your dentist, I would recommend Viceroys.” I guess they make your teeth look whiter and your breath smell fresher! Click on the Lucky Strike ad to take you to a selection of old cigarette ads.
When we got our first black and white 21 inch console Zenith television in 1958 we could watch reporters, entertainers and game show hosts puff away while they worked; then during a commercial break we could watch the same game show hosts promote the smooth “well-mannered” taste of Du Maurier cigarettes. In movies and television shows all the popular actors and actresses of the day lit up as they played their roles. It was an expected glamorous part of the show. How an unsavory habit like cigarette smoking came to be associated with elegance, sophistication, and glamour is a testament to the ingenuity of the marketing and advertising industry as well as the conscience and scruples-barren tobacco industry. To this day, the marketing of e-cigarettes and various candy flavoured tobaccos is targeting the most impressionable and vulnerable in our society, our youth, to ensure they become hooked on nicotine thus ensuring a never-ending income stream for the tobacco barons.
In the mid-1950’s a few radical scientists, researchers and doctors began to link smoking to lung cancer and respiratory diseases, but their fear-mongering was largely discounted as something which might happen in the future; whereas today we had to build bomb shelters and learn how to hide under school desks, away from windows while preparing for imminent nuclear annihilation by the Soviet regime. Fear of being blasted into Kingdom Come made people so jumpy they needed a cigarette to calm their nerves.
You may read more of my personal adventures with cigarette smoking in the book, Barking From the Front Porch.
In the meantime, click on the attractive young lady below to view some old television commercials promoting the use of tobacco. Even Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies is featured in one of them.
Gerald M. Sliva
Still Barking! Blog of