The use of tobacco is somewhat losing its appeal and grandeur these days. Health reasons alone have made people think twice before lighting up, not to mention being banned from most indoor facilities and losing close family members due to lung cancer and other diseases associated with smoking. There is also the cost. Smoking and the use of other tobacco products, like snuff and chewing and pipe tobacco, are not what they used to be.
Years ago, smoking produced the toug- guy image as we watched Bogart or John Wayne or Bette Davis light up and blow smoke in the eyes of friends and enemies alike in the movies. That was cool then, but not quite as glamorous now. You still see it in the movies, but not as much.
Most everyone smoked from the turn of the 20th century. That meant men and women and even kids of all ages. If you didn't smoke you were labeled as a sissy. "How can they not smoke?" "Look at me, how tough I am with an extra cig on top of my ear or a pack of Lucky Strikes rolled up in the sleeve of my T shirt. Gee, I'm the utmost!" "Wow, ain't I great! The girls all adore me because I smoke and use a fancy cigarette lighter with Zippo engraved on it. I really don't cough that much. Just in the mornings and evenings. That ain't bad!"
Doctors, athletes and many professional people began doing commercials on radio and TV praising how smooth their brand of cigarette was. Arthur Godfrey was one who sold Chesterfields as if they were gold or diamonds. Didn't he die of lung cancer?
As an old geezer, I can recall in the late '40s of singer Phil Harris singing his famous song. "Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette. Puff, puff, puff! And if you smoke yourself to death, tell Saint Peter at the golden gate that you hate to make him wait, but you got to have another cigarette!"
Tobacco probably got started in the American colonies during the 17th century as there was a huge demand for tobacco in Europe. Tobacco grew quite well in our southern colonies. Slavery certainly helped expand the production of tobacco and, of course, kept the farmers' costs down low.
Cigarettes took hold finally, and what a success they were. Cigarettes back then in the 1800s were made by hand and were of a high price. In 1881, along came James Bonsack, a craftsman who created a machine that revolutionized cigarette production. This machine did it all, as it chopped the tobacco, dropped it into a long tube of paper, and the machine would roll and slice individual cigarettes. This machine operated 13 times the speed of a human cigarette roller. Naturally, with this machine, prices of cigarettes were reduced drastically.
Most everyone was smoking up a storm. Kids were being hooked at a very early age. My father told me once that he started smoking at 7 years of age! He, of course, developed lung cancer. It took a long, long time, but finally, in 1964, the surgeon general of the United States proclaimed that cigarette smoking does, in fact, cause lung cancer and many other grave illnesses. "No way! C'mon, I don't believe that! I use filters!" were some of the responses.
Then came the fact that secondhand smoke can also cause lung cancer and again many other illnesses. My father was a chain smoker and neither I nor my mother or brother ever smoked but got his secondhand smoke. In the Navy aboard ship, the non-smoker had no rights as most other sailors smoked. The living compartments aboard ship were small, and guess what, I absorbed it all. Restricting smoking in public areas really didn't happen until probably in the late 1980s and early '90s.
Now here comes the electronic cigarette, or smokeless cigarette, which is an alternative method of consuming nicotine, that grand old addictive drug. They don't require a match and don't contain any tobacco or even a flame or ash. This is a battery-powered device that converts nicotine into a vapor that the user inhales. They say that it is a much healthier alternative to tobacco. Or is it a more dangerous risk? Stay tuned!
I do respect those who enjoy their habit of using tobacco products legally. This is certainly their personal business.