Do you remember when all inclusive holidays had bowls of cigarettes on the table?

How many people remember towards the end of the 1950s the evocative advert images of the lonely looking Frank Sinatra look alike on a dark wet evening in London reflectively puffing on a cigarette? The theme music, ‘The Lonely Man’ theme by Cliff Adams, was hauntingly beautiful and did well in the music charts.Not a lot could be said for the cigarettes, becoming associated with loneliness and losers (not cancer in those days!) and were withdrawn after a few years. The actor Terence Brook, a non-smoker, was one of the stars of ‘The Colditz Story’

Thursday, 12th September 2019, 14:55 pm
A lorry driver having a smoke at a transport cafe in 1968

Doing better were the advertisements for Camel during the 1980s, which were endorsed by celebrities like John Wayne who smoked six packs a day. The slogan which informed us that it was a ‘psychological fact that pleasure helps your disposition’ didn’t do much for the stars in question, many who died from lung cancer to include Big John and Robert Mitchum. After a while they were dropped from the adverts in favour of Camel Man, a fictitious character who ‘did more than survive, he lives!’, adding that ‘Camel time is pleasure time!’

Prior to both those cigarette advertisements was one becoming the most instantly recognisable advertising icon in the world, Marlborough Man. Created in 1954 and around for over fifty years, he was the most masculine of men and the preferred smoke of cowboys although the advertising in the early days was aimed at women, who wanted their men to have a more macho image, and sales really took off. Cinema was big at the time and our favourite stars made smoking look so glamorous and sexy that we wanted to emulate them. It was considered very sexy when the man lit two cigarettes at once and leaned over to put one in the lips of his female companion! People tried to convince themselves that they looked so cool when they were smoking.

Even popular songs of the day endorsed cigarettes. ‘A cigarette that bears lipstick traces, an airline ticket to romantic places’ that is from one of the most beautiful songs of all time ‘These Foolish Things’. What an apt title if we use it to describe cigarettes.

Smoking was everywhere. In the cinema there would be a cloud of smoke rising in front of the screen. Likewise in the theatre and on aircraft, until they introduced a smoking section at the back of the plane for those who couldn’t go a few hours without a drag.

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Who remembers the first all-inclusive holidays when cigarettes were in a bowl on the dining tables?

Thank goodness now for smoke free cinemas, aircraft, buses, pubs and restaurants. The good news over the past few years is that it is now illegal for people to smoke in cars which are carrying children under eighteen, although it is not yet illegal to drive and smoke.

You only have to watch old movies to realise the enormity of smoking in those days. It seems that television stars today use herbal cigarettes to emulate the real thing when they star in period dramas set around the 50s and 60s.

By the time health warnings had started to appear, many people had become completely addicted to them and so found it extremely difficult to stop. I remember starting work in the late 1950s. One of my colleagues expressed surprise that I didn’t smoke. ‘Oh, it’s great’ she said, and proceeded to take me to the ladies cloakroom to let me have a go so I wouldn’t appear a complete novice.

From then on I did become an occasional smoker, difficult when it was the fashion for people to chain smoke when on a night out, but managed to give up completely when pregnant with my first child. ‘It won’t last’ I was told, ‘As soon as you’ve had the baby, you’ll ask for a cup of tea and a cigarette!’ Happily I accepted the tea, but not another cigarette.

And so, like many people who are former smokers, I became extremely self-righteous and paranoid about anyone smoking near me. Holidays abroad could sometimes be like a game of musical chairs when diners were allowed to smoke in restaurants, but happily that’s getting less acceptable, and there does seem to be fewer smokers about. Statistics show that more and more people are quitting.

Perhaps people have realised that at the price they are it really is an insane way to get through hard earned money, even if they don’t seem bothered about dying prematurely. Or at best having themselves, their house and clothes smelling unpleasant.

Much has been documented about the effects of smoking on the body but scientists at the University School of Medicine in Washington have identified links also to kidney disease, intestinal disorders caused by inadequate blood flow and heart and lung illnesses not previously attributed to tobacco. They have researched one million people over ten years and concluded they have seriously underestimated the risks of smoking. People who smoke have death rates three times higher.

But I’m just wondering what effect these electronic cigarettes actually are having on health? There seems to be a shop selling them on every corner here. Do people not get addicted to the e-cigarette? They have certainly caught on, with the word for e-cigarette smoking – vaping, even making it into the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. And there again, with recent publicity about their actual safety, should they be allowed in public places? The amount of fumes coming out is unbelievable. With smokers being guinea pigs for the vaping industry, it has already been said vaping can lead to negative side effects like memory loss.

There’s a lot to be said for chewing gum isn’t there?