Smoke ’em if You Got ‘Em

Once upon a time in America, a guy could smoke a cigarette without anybody busting his chops.

Cigarettes were so normal that it was nothing to have one in your hand, even when being photographed for a newspaper ad. Like my father. This is a contact sheet from a long-ago shoot done for a Long Island Lighting Company ad:

In the actual ad, which I have hanging in my house, the cigarette is cropped out. That was surely a composition decision and not about the smoking. Men smoked in those days. Men like Frank Sinatra.

Check out this famous picture of Sinatra in 1965¬†cloaked¬†in a haze of smoke. Imagine someone saying, “Excuse me, Mr. Sinatra. There’s no smoking in here. Could you take it outside?”

That said, smoking probably contributed to my father’s death at 62, which is way too young. On the day of his funeral, I recalled as a kid being sent down to the drugstore to pick up cartons of Parliament. What did I know?

Today smokers are treated like criminals. I don’t really want to be closed up in a room full of smoke, but when I catch a brief whiff it reminds me of my father. I would never have asked him to smoke outside, because like Frank Sinatra, he probably would have smacked me in the head.

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