“SMOKE ! SMOKE! SMOKE ! THAT CIGARETTE”
CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported reently that, according to recent surveys (2006), the smoking bans have had a positive impact on health. I found this interesting and uplifting. It also made me reflect on the changing attitudes toward smoking that have occurred during my lifetime.
In 1947 Capital Records had their first million-seller with this song recorded byCountry-Western entertainer Sollie “Tex” Williams, who was to die of lung cancer a few years later. It was written by Merle Travis and is a rambling song with many stanzas but the chorus is the part that most people my age remember. It goes like this:
“Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette.
Puff, puff, puff until you smoke yourself to death.
Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait,
But you just gotta have another cigarette.”
I was just 14 at that time but I loved that song. I also loved the movies and couldn’t wait to emulate the sophisticated ladies with their long cigarette holders. Ah, the elegance of it all ! By 1955 I was out of college and on my own. Smoking was a “rite of passage” and I joined the crowd. I never did get the long holder but I felt very stylish as I puffed away.
In 1957 I caught the flu bug & was terribly ill for about 5 days. I remember that the first thing I did when I felt better was to light a cigarette. It immediately sent me into paroxysms of coughing and set back my recovery for about 2 more days. As a result I decided to quit smoking and I did.
It would be approximately 40 years before any real inroads were made regarding a ban on cigarettes. I particularly recall, in 1987, when I was working in our local hospital in the Emergency Department, that almost all the doctors and nurses smoked. Practically the first thing that you saw when you got to the back of the ER was the huge ashtray overflowing with smoldering butts and even a cigar if one particular doctor was on call.
It is incredulous now to think that it was actually condoned. Now the same Hospital is 100% smoke-free, thanks in large part to Dr. Collins who started his campaign as far back as 1990.
In 1989 I started going to AA meetings. They were traditionally conducted in smoke-filled rooms and I’d reek of tobacco. I am so pleased that today most of them are smoke-free. (An interesting fact is that both Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, the co-founders of AA, died of lung related diseases.)
Now it is 2006 and I guess the “ban smoking” controversy will go on forever, but, I, for one, can breathe easier and I hope I won’t be seeing St. Peter for a long, long time.