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.

15 thoughts on “Smoke ’em if You Got ‘Em

  1. There are a few people it’s ok to discriminate against these days..smokers..fat people..if you’re a fat smoker look out. First it was cigarettes, then seatbelts, trans fats….not to get all “Glen Beck” but it does seem to be that the gov’t knows better than us, what’s good for us. We are the ignorant masses. I’m not saying smoking and eating all kinds of crap is GOOD, but last I checked ,this was a free country, oh wait, I just checked again….apparently not. Where’s my saop box again?

  2. I’m convinced someday soon us smokers will be forced to pay for the purchase/installation of a vacuum chamber in our basement that we will have to pay to enter (using our “Smoker ID card, or maybe a numbered tatoo)2-3 times a day to smoke our gov’mt issued cigs (still not free). If we try to use it more than that, we’ll be forced to watch a reeducation video to inform us what stupid, bad people we are. I wonder what state the State would be in if all the cig tax money suddenly dried up?

  3. But unlike Frank Sinatra, your father wouldn’t follow it up by yelling “you’re dead in this town, you f***in’ putz.” Poor Bobby Darin wasn’t so fortunate, and never again matched the success of “Mack the Knife.”


  4. I remember my mother pulling up in front of Pathmark, handing me a $10 bill and sending me in to get a carton of Salem Light 100’s and the hell I would have to pay (nicotine withdrawal) for coming out with the wrong stuff.

    Ah the memories of the Hebrew School carpool in the Buick, windows up and cigarette smoke filling up the car. Even the awesome experience of college bars was ruined by smoke.

    Sorry Rob, I don’t miss any of that.

  5. I remember my mother sending me to the store (West End Pharmacy on the corner of Ontario & 2nd St.) to get her cigs.

    I had enough one day though and before I brought them back upstairs to her I opened the pack, broke each cigarette into 2 pieces and stuck them into icecream from a cone that had been dropped by our stoop.

    And like Sinatra, she did smack me upside the head.

    Mom don’t play that.

  6. Sure, smoke ’em. But where? And for how much?

    I am a pipe smoker and I’d simply come to terms with all that goes along with it. I quit years ago, but started up again just last year to alleviate the stress that builds up over the course of these long days. I accept that I won’t even bring my pipe and tobacco with me unless I know for a fact that wherever I am going it will be OK to smoke. I won’t bring it to work. Or to restaurants. Or to friends’ places. I smoke only at home. Thinking that limiting my habit to the confines of my own home would be sufficient to satisfy the “I know better than you, so keep your smoke away from me” crowd, I found out recently that the House of Reps is considering a bill that would raise taxes on pipe tobacco from $2.83/lb to $24.78/lb. That would be a 775% tax increase on pipe tobacco. I guess just trying to seclude you way from everyone else is not enough. They want to tax you out of your own habit. Social engineering, baby.

    I thought cigarette smokers have been slowly getting screwed year in and year out with more and more NYS and Fed taxes. After they taxed cigarettes to the hilt, Obama’s minions went after so-called “roll your own” cigarette tobacco and raised taxes on loose tobacco by 2,159% (from $1.0696 per pound to $24.78 per pound) because many cigarette smokers went to RYO to save money. Joke was on them when Obama signed SCHIP into law.

    And I picked up my pipe after all these years to find peace and refuge. Joke’s now on me.

  7. Jeez, I tried to buy a lighter at my father’s behest down at our local corner store. The guy at the counter actually looked my name up in the phone book and called my father to confirm. Then he berated my dad for sending a 1st grader in to buy a lighter. It was 1981 and the times they were a changing.

  8. Ever watch Mad Men? They smoke everywhere, all the time, doing anything.

    Confession: I don’t know why this is, but seeing pictures of men “back in the day” smoking, is sexy. Men today…notsomuch.

  9. There are pictures of me as a baby sitting in a baby carrier perched on a bar in a Marine Corps Officers Club somewhere, while Marines and their wives (including my parents) cavort around me with martinis and Marlboros, not letting any little inconvenience like the birth of a child interrupt their chosen Friday night festivities. (This was “Mad Men” era in the early ’60s, Amanda). Today, the child services people would be hauling me away into foster care. Back then, that was normal, as was rolling around unrestrained in the backseat of my dad’s Pontiac GTO. While I certainly wouldn’t advocate that approach to child-rearing today, I do note that most of us born in that era did manage to grow up just fine, so I think sometimes we go too far in the other direction, trying (unreasonably) to protect our children from all harm, making them soft and unable to fend for themselves in the process. I’m not sure that my daughter would know what she was looking at if I had an ashtray in the house, although every table in my house growing up had one . . .

  10. I should also note that when I was in the Navy in the ’80s, they still honored the concept of “The Smoking Lamp is Lit” after formal dinners, when everybody would light up while drinking their ceremonial port. Everyone on ships still smoked then, too, even submarines. Hard to imagine, these days . . . .

  11. Paul: Ha! I’ll save that story for Father’s Day…

    I can’t say I miss smoking, but the cultural shift is interesting And who could have imagined that the cost would go up so far that the premium brands are like a luxury item.

    The Mad Men sensibility was very real, with its cocktails and cigarettes — and in the suburbs, sitting in the back of the station wagon.

    And LB, there’s something to that. If I had something interesting to do with my hands and mouth I wouldn’t be eating all the time…

  12. Alex SO looks like your dad!

    I remember the Sunday afternoon drives in the station wagon, a bunch of us in the back seats, dad driving, and mom (who doesn’t smoke) lighting a cigarette and handing it to him so he could keep his hands on the wheel.

    Unfiltered Camels.

  13. I am a non-smoker and am not a huge fan of all of the gov’t oversight. While I don’t care how much they tax cigs, tobacco, etc., I also do not want those same taxes on beer and wine, which I do enjoy consuming. But I also enjoy no longer smoking 2 packs of cigs thru second-hand smoke while eating in a restaurant.

    Maybe if people were more considerate of others (and not just smoking, but idiots who can’t drive, incessent cell-phone talking in line at a store, having a “roadie” bottle of beer while driving, etc.) we wouldn’t need someone else telling us when and where to enjoy our vices…

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