In The Olden Days
46 years is a long time, but it's really not when it comes to reshaping an entire way of thinking.
Smokers are now relegated to patios, loading docks and the great outdoors as Wisconsin's new law kicked in this month, one that makes it illegal to burn a heater indoors (unless you're at home). It is the latest in a series of changes that I've seen growing up in a haze-filled home patrolled by a pair of dart-burning parents.
We ALWAYS had cigarettes around--breakfast for Mom and Dad was a cup of black coffee and a tasty Herbert Tarreyton. A steady stream of smokes would follow, right up until bed time.
Relatives smoked. Visiting friends did, too. Virtually every patron at my dad's favorite corner bars lit up.
Television was rife with ads (some pretty damn memorable ones, too) and some of the most popular stars of the day would stay in character as they peddled you a Winston.
Even aspiring jouranlists weren't above shilling for smokes...
The Surgeon General's report marked the beginning of the end. The ads would go away, on TV and radio. They'd eventually vanish from talk show panels and from the desks of evening news anchors.
Did it help? I don't know, but if nothing else, the disappearance of the cigarette ad made more room on the air for Viagra commercials.
It's hard for young people to understand just how big a part of the cultrue cigarettes were at one time in theis country. It seemed every adult I knew smoked. A pack of butts was welcomed, not cursed. You were truly the exception if you didn't have the habit. You were a nag if you complained.
Four decades later, we enter a new phase. We're a couple of weeks into the statewide ban, and the sun still rises in the east. The bars I frequent seem to be doing fine. They certainly smell better.
We won't know the ramifications for a while. The mom-and-dad joints up north are the ones most pro-smoking advocates mention as they carnaries in the coal mine--the worry is that they'll be the first to fold now that indoor public smoking is verboten. We'll see.
I'll be able to tell my grandkids one day about a time when cigarettes were EVERYWHERE--in the home, in the restaurants, and even on the tube.
Then, I'll have to probably explain to them what television was...