Thursday, December 28, 2006


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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I wanted to smoke when I was young, to be cool and sophisticated like all those movie gals. Besides, it was so "in". I was very lucky, however, and was allergic. I thank my lucky stars every day.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Maya's Granny said...

I quit when I was 34, because I ran out of cigarettes and my Bic ran out of fluid on New Year's Eve. I am so glad that I did.

What I remember most about those days is that we never asked if anyone minded our smoking and only street walkers smoked while standing outside a building or walking down the street. How the world has changed!

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes...remember the song well and often early in my smoking career would belt out a chours or two.

I think I was around seventeen when I forced myself to partake in that "right of passage" for my generation. And of course my choice for that grand occasion would be Lucky Strikes. But after a week or so of coughing and spitting I finally made it.

And for the next forty years....come hell or high water I proudly carried on the tradition until my mother passed away a little more than nine years ago from lung cancer.

And ever since that day...I have been smoke free. Of course I must say that I do tend to listen quite intently now for the other shoe to drop should the payment for that folly become due.

5:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smoking is terribly addictive. I quit smoking twice and know pretty well that I couldn't smoke one cigarette, without starting to smoke again. Unfortunately, kids in this country still start smoking because they think it is so cool!

2:39 PM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

Yes, my pa gaqvew up after having gotten skin cancer removed from his ear back in the 1980's. Soke free areas are here in Oz too but when I walk out of my hospital for some fresh air it cannot be done without walking through a thick cloud of cigarette smoke first..grrr!! Still, alot of nurses and doctors smoke in the industry. I find t amazing with the quit campaign we have and the awful pictures they display on the cigarette pckets now too..all real pics that I see at work too.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ginnie,

Interesting post. Yes, things have changed a lot. I remember trans-Atlantic flights with a smoking "section" -- which comprised the last four rows of the plane. I hated being near it.

I also remember smokers in unventilated offices. Gross!

A funny note: My husband, who is a smoker, just got back from his native Turkey. "It was terrible!" he exclaimed, "People smoke everywhere! In restaurants, in buses, in the Post Office." I didn't say anything....and then he got it.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though I am an occasional smoker (perhaps 5-6 a day), I do not like smoke-filled rooms and always smoke outside. I can't stand the stink it creates when anyone smokes in the house. I believe it is appropriate to limit where smoking is acceptable.

I started as an idiot teenager who wanted to be with the "cool kids". It didn't work.



10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an asthmatic who has spent his adult life performing music in clubs which used to be dense with tobbacky smoke, I applaud the cessation of smoking in public, and your thoughts on same! Happy new year, Ginnie. :)

Josh, who doesn't feel like signing in.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

It's been banned in public buildings here and even outdoors in places with canopies etc.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Meezy said...

I'm so curious about how it feels to suck in the smoke into your lungs and blow it all out through your nose and mouth at the same time, that, at the age of 17, I bought a pack of Dunhill; 10 pcs cost below $1.50, went to my secret corner and experimented the techniques of smoking. I finished off all ten in 1 hour, felt so damn groggy, made worst by that horrible stink left behind by the smoke and decided not to smoke anymore after that day. But I picked up the habit 23 years later, finishing 40 sticks within 12 hours of work. I don't smoke at all when I'm at home during the weekends. Then stopped for 2 years and started again until present day surviving on 20 sticks to last a week. It's getting very costly to smoke, not to mention the hazardous effect on your health....but I'll be quitting totally soon. If I can overcome the urge to smoke during the weekends, then quitting totally shouldn't be a problem. I'm a working day smoker . Wish me luck.

11:53 AM  

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