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Viewpoint: Holy smokes!


Friday, August 11, 2017

While waiting in the checkout line at my supermarket the other day I couldn’t help noticing what the man in front of me was purchasing, and what it cost. He bought just one pack of cigarettes and his bill was $9.62. I suppose there was nothing earthshaking about that but then I did the math and realized that a carton of those things could cost him over $90! Holy smoke! No wonder we don’t see so many smokers around these days.

I got thinking about all the changes that have occurred in the world of smoking over the last few years. The number of smokers in this country has gone down dramatically over the last few years and mostly due to the lung cancer statistics. Some of us however remember the years when almost every family had a smoker or two in it and mine was no exception.

I grew up with a father who was a triple threat smoker. If he wasn’t smoking a cigarette, he was puffing on a cigar or filling the house with smoke from his pipe. There was almost no escape from it. We didn’t know about such things as second-hand smoke in those days and even if we did, there would be precious little we could do to change his or any smokers’ habits anyway.

Riding in the car with my father was not pleasant either. Since I was prone to carsickness, I was always assigned to the front seat, right next to you-know-who, the smoker. There was no escaping it.

Then there was the day I discovered my fifteen year old sister smoking out on our porch. As only as a pesky seven year old sister would do, I threatened to tell on her. The next thing I knew, she handed the lighted cigarette to me, made me put it between my lips and take one puff . “There!” she exclaimed. “If you tell mother on me, what will she think when I tell her that YOU were smoking a cigarette at your age??” She was bigger than I was, so of course I never told on her.

As a teenaged girl, I was fascinated with how smoking was dealt with in Hollywood films. There was hardly ever a scene without a cigarette in it. I especially liked the way a sophisticated leading lady looked in those elbow length gloves, as she held that long cigarette holder to her lips while waiting for the handsome leading man to light it for her.

I thought surely that I would begin to smoke when I went away to college. I even began researching to find where I could buy one of those long cigarette holders, but to no avail. In the end it didn’t matter because after rooming with two heavy smokers for a year, I lost all my interest in smoking. I could not wait until my clothes stopped smelling of tobacco smoke. The result was that I never took up the habit of smoking, and I probably have them to thank for it. When smoking reached its peak in this country and we non smokers were beginning to gasp for air, some restaurants finally began establishing small non-smoking areas for us. Then, the smoking tide began to turn. Smokers started to heed warnings about lung cancer and things began to change. Little by little, we non-smokers overtook the smokers, until finally, most restaurants gave up allowing any smoking inside.

But do not worry, smokers of America, because cigarettes haven’t disappeared completely. Electronic cigarettes are now becoming the rage but I doubt that I’ll be tempted to try them. I figure that if I managed to abstain throughout the entire Lucky Strike, Pall Mall and Philip Morris eras, I can hold on a bit longer.

This reminds me of a recent checkup at my doctor’s when she noted a slight bit of congestion in my lungs. She asked whether I ever smoked cigarettes and I answered proudly, “Only one!” Then she went on to talk about the dangers of second-hand smoke and said perhaps I was exposed to a little of that while growing up.

A little?

Someday I’ll have to tell her about my father.

Joann Duncanson, a former Peterborough resident now living in Greenland, is the author of “Who Gets the Yellow Bananas?”, co-author of “Breakfast in the Bathtub” and author of her latest book, “Eight Crayons — Poems and Stories by an Almost Sane Woman.” She can be reached at joannduncanson@gmail.com.