Thank You for Not Smoking
by John Delach
I recently stayed three nights at a Westin Hotel in Kansas City which, as you would expect, was 100% smoke free except for the odd-guest guiltily puffing away outside the lobby, but at a discreet distance from the entrance. Even the most hard core smoker has been chastised into submission by rules, regulations, custom and the moral code of our non-smoking society. Thank goodness for that, but it caused me to reflect on the bad old days when smoking was considered a right on a par with eating red meat, drinking excessively and driving “big ass” cars and trucks. Back in those days, woe be the non-smoker who asserted themselves to ask, “Would you mind putting that out?”
And less we forget that long, hard struggle; let us recall some of the stops along the journey. Take flying in commercial airplanes. It wasn’t that long ago that once the airplane was airborne, the no smoking light went off with a commanding “BLINK” and we were free to light up our choice of tobacco product be it a cigar, pipe or cigarette. Back then you knew if the captain was a full fledged smoker he would turn off the sign the instant that the wheels left the runway. Addicted smokers who were veteran flyers sat poised, a pack in one hand, lighter in the other prepared to light up on the sound of that “blink.”
Eventually, the transition began. First to go were pipes and cigars. That helped a bit but the next step was the dumbest; creating smoking and non-smoking sections on the same airplane. Separate sections but we all breathed the same re-circulated air! Then smoking was banned on all flights under two hours. This made some sense but created dilemmas for flights between cities like New York and Chicago. Nominally, this is a two-hour flight but, depending on traffic and weather conditions, it can be as short as an hour and a half or well over two hours. Never officially confirmed but many of us believed health conscious airlines scheduled their flights to O’Hare for less than two hours while those who remained safe havens for smokers added time to theirs.
Finally, banned on all domestic flights, the right to smoke ended internationally first on domestic carriers, then on all flights to and from the United States and finally on most flights everywhere. Likewise, limitations spread as to where one could light up in airport terminals as it did in all public places. In its last vestige, special rooms were created with their own exhaust system. I recall one in Los Angeles that was a small, square, glass-enclosed affair. The smokers put on display looked, felt and played the part of degenerate outcasts.
I can tell you the exact moment when I realized that the war was lost and I had to give up my prized cigars and quit smoking. I was going to London on a TWA night flight from JFK on a winter evening. When the car service arrived at the airport, I saw this business man standing outside Terminal 7, his suit collar turned up in a vain attempt to fight the cold. He looked miserable, but endured this discomfort so he could smoke his stogie. By then I no longer puffed on a cigar while flying, but I could still easily devour twenty Marlboros between New York and London. But the thought of that other guy told me it was over; game, set and match.
Today, we rarely encounter other peoples’ smoke, but when those odd times occur and we unwittingly are hit full-force by a puff of exhaled cigarette smoke the jolt to the system is an unwelcome reminder of just how bad those bad old days were.
Hey Papa J, that might have been one of your best short essays ever. Loved the witting style. Keep up the great work!
Hey Papa J, that might have been one of your best short essays ever. Loved the writing style of this one. Keep up the great work!
I enjoyed your comments John and they brought back a lot of memories. I started smoking cigarettes in 1958 on my 16th birthday and didn’t stop for 28 years. Occasionally I would smoke a pipe for a few weeks or have a cigar but invariably return gratefully to my unfiltered Camels. I enjoyed the “taste” of tobacco and though I tried filtered cigarettes they just didn’t cut it for me. When people complain about the government attempting to socially engineer us I always think of two things: smoking and growing up under apartheid in Texas. Until reading your piece I never fully appreciated the affect internationally of the US progressive ban on smoking. It is a ripple effect and makes you wonder how many lives have been saved as a result.
I have been coming to Spain every year or so since 2002 and have seen how smoking has changed here. Like the US, in the beginning you could smoke anywhere but in the last five years the laws have changed so you can no longer smoke inside restaurants and office buildings. Unfortunately, you can still smoke outside at sidewalk cafes which does diminish their charm.
John, In spite of all that’s happened I still fire up a cigar from time to time on the deck at camp and almost always when grilling with Jill’s husband in NC. I seek out the shorter models to try to limit the time to about what the lighting, preheating and actual cooking will take. Lately though it seems the prices have really escalated and it’s hard to find anything appealing for a touch under $10. I see a note at the end of what you sent saying “Comments” which suggests I can see what others have said making me think that any reply is therefore available to everyone. Guess I’d better be careful about my language. Geoff
Geoff Jones email@example.com
A pithy and accurate chronicle of the surprisingly rapid onset of common sense in our culture. Nicely written observations John. A lot of us, me included, have these remembrances in common.
Nice piece which brought back some memories of the early part of my career.
In the bad old days when I started at Mother Marsh in 1967, John Quigley would light up a stogie each day after lunch and pollute the entire office. I wonder how John would survive in the current non smoking climate.
I smoked a few cigarettes in high school and a pipe briefly to be cool. It didn’t work.
Go Giants! Where exactly are they going?.