S is for Smoking

I am of an age when I could, and did, go to the corner store, O’Leary’s, when I was five years old and buy for my father a pack, or even a carton, of Winston cigarettes. Of course, I’m also old enough to have seen cigarette advertising on U.S. television, even featuring popular TV cartoon characters.

They were insidious, those cigarette ad. Nearly 40 years after they were banned from the radio and TV airways, I can still tell you that LSMFT translates to Lucky Strike means fine tobacco! I recall that “You can take Salem out of the country, but…you can’t take the country out of Salem.” Whenever I hear the theme for the movie The Magnificent Seven by Elmer Bernstein, I feel that I’m in Marlboro Country.

Country – a recurring theme. Cigarettes, in addition to being “cool” – there was, or maybe is, a brand called “Kool” – were also supposed to be refreshing, relaxing, rather like the great outdoors. But a study from last year suggests otherwise. Pew Social & Demographic Trends notes Smokers Can’t Blow Off Stress

Ask cigarette smokers why they light up and one answer you’re likely to hear is that it relieves stress.

But if that’s the goal, it’s not at all clear that cigarettes deliver the goods. Half (50%) of all smokers say they “frequently” experience stress in their daily lives, compared with just 35% of those who once smoked and have now quit and 31% of those who never smoked, according to a Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey conducted June 16-July 16, 2008 among a nationally representative sample of 2,250 adults.

The finding raises as many questions as answers. Does it mean that the kinds of people who smoke are predisposed to stress? Does it mean that the stress relief smokers get while smoking doesn’t last once they don’t have a cigarette in hand? Or might it mean that the whole idea that smoking relieves stress is illusory?

And more recent reports confirm what I’ve instinctively known since I was a child: second-hand smoke causes harm As I got older, I started to refuse to buy my father cigarettes, and he got to be all right with that. But then I would steal his cigarettes, not for my own consumption, but in the vain attempt to make cigarette smoking so expensive -they were about 35 cents (U.S.) a pack at the time – that he would cut back or even quit. No, he eventually would say,”Roger, give me back my damn cigarettes.” I was a lousy thief.

But I have a far too sensitive nose. I will wait in the rain rather than share a bus kiosk with someone who is smoking. In my building, there are about a half dozen women who all take their cigarette break together; it’s tolerable to take the elevator down with them, but after they’ve sat outside puffing away – let’s just say, I’d rather take the stairs back than share an elevator with them.

Kissing smokers is not my favorite thing.

My father stopped smoking briefly when he developed emphysema in his 40s, but when he became asymptomatic, he returned to his habit, which frankly really ticked me off.

He finally stopped a few years later by saying that he wasn’t quitting, but that he hadn’t had a cigarette today. then another day. And another until it reached the last 27 years or so of his life.

Thursday, November 19 is the date of the Great American Smokeout. But you don’t have to choose that date, or even be an American, to set to… quit smoking…for at least one day. And maybe, the day after that.

Pictures once again from Life.com


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