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Remember When Smoking Was Sexy?

Culture | January 4, 2018

'Hit Parade' Cigarettes Billboard (Photo by Robert Landau/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)


For years and years, smoking cigarettes was overly sensationalized. Smoking was considered to be a sexy and attractive addition to any social scene. Have you ever heard the old saying, “If you’ve got ‘em, smoke 'em?".

Much like having a cup of coffee, grabbing a smoke was always socially acceptable. Smokers were able to smoke anywhere and everywhere including restaurants, movie theaters, public transportation and the list just goes on and on. At one point, you would be hard pressed to go to a public place and not find ashtrays. Smoking cigarettes was considered the norm and was portrayed on both television shows and the big screen. If it is good enough for the stars we idolized, it must be good enough!

As if that weren’t enough, smoking was something that was hard to avoid. Tobacco has always been one of those cash crops that was known for being very profitable. Marketing and advertising ran rampant as manufacturers attempted to lure consumers into buying their brand of cigarettes. Billboards sprang up along roadways to make sure we were getting the proper amount of exposure, so we could make the right decision. It wasn’t a matter of if you should smoke, but of what you should smoke.

The competition was so prevalent that cigarette ads saturated our everyday lives. You could depend on seeing the sensational ads in magazines, television commercials and plastered on the side of busses as they drove up and down the road.

Although in later years, warning labels were included on cigarette packaging. They weren't always very informative, but they met the requirements. The truth is though, that way back when people started smoking cigarettes, it was nothing more than a guilty pleasure or a vice, if you will. Little was known about the long-term effects of smoking on the human body. By the time information started becoming available, the damage had been done.  

Soon a struggle ensued between the tobacco companies who were are just trying to make a living and the government who had the health and well being of its people in mind. Compromises were made regarding some regulation including not selling cigarettes to people under a certain age and better warning labels.

Eventually, in 1971, Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act. This act banned cigarette ads on television and radio stations. The very last cigarette commercial on public network television was an ad for Virginia Slims. It aired on December 31, 1970, at 11:59 p.m. It was literally the last possible minute it was legal.

Years ago, non-smokers were somewhat of a minority. Restaurant patrons had to ask to be seated in a no-smoking section. Even then, there was only an imaginary barrier separating the smokers from the non-smokers, so it was very ineffective. Now, smokers seem to be the minority. You can frequently see dedicated smokers standing outside in small, confined areas of public places in all kinds of weather just to get a few drags.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way hating on smokers. I used to be one. I understand the addiction associated with the habit. I also find it interesting that my younger kids couldn’t readily identify an ashtray in an antiques/collectibles store.  Times sure have changed!

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.