Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rant #653: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Today is a momentous anniversary for those who can't stand cigarette smoke, or any smoking whatsoever.

On this date in 1964, U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry issued the first government report stating that smoking may be hazardous to one's health.

This seems so trite today. After nearly 50 years of warnings, we know so much more about how the use of tobacco not only can kill the user, but also harm those in the puff's way through second-hand smoke.

But back then, this was a revelation.

You have to put yourself back in time 48 years ago to understand what an incredible development this was.

Tobacco use, and, in particular, cigarette use, was simply thought of as one of those things that you did when you got older.

Many people tried cigarettes, some stayed with it, others either stayed with cigarettes or moved onto cigars or pipes and that is how they got their tobacco fix.

Cigarette advertising was everywhere. Even doctors were used in ads proclaiming that certain cigarettes were better than others.

Stars of TV shows openly smoked on these shows, like Fred MacMurray on "My Three Sons," who was never without his pipe dangling out of his mouth. And in the movies, smoking was as commonplace as eating.

Then, slowly, we started to wake up to the fact that the use of tobacco could actually kill you.

So this proclamation was simply a "small step for man, a giant leap for mankind" way before Neil Armstrong stated those words as he jumped onto the surface of the moon.

Smoking was just so commonplace in 1964. You could smoke anywhere, and not be told not to.

My grandfather on my mom's side was an extremely heavy smoker. He smoked cigarettes, cigars and pipes in one fell swoop.

I used to ask him why he couldn't stop, and he said that he just couldn't. I know that it helped relax him of all the stress he had, but I hated to see what he was doing to himself.

I swear, looking at him bathed in smoke probably told me that this wasn't for me, and I never smoked--anything.

He died at age 74. He probably shaved at least a good 10 years off his life by smoking.

But even in the 1970s, smoking was still so commonplace. But as the 1970s moved into the 1980s, smoking started to be banned in certain places, like movie theaters. Soon, smoking was banned in many other places, like sports arenas.

Warnings on cigarette packages became more graphic, and into the 1990s and to the current time, not only is smoking unhealthy, not only does it harm both the smoker and those near them when they are puffing away, but it is also not a cost-effective way to spend your money.

We know so much more about smoking today, but still, so many people smoke.

I guess it is an act of defiance, but these people are killing themselves while they are being defiant.

It is their right to smoke if they want to. It is a legal behavior.

But I wish that my grandfather would have stopped sooner, not at the end of his life.

He missed 10 years. How many more years will people waste puffing away?

I don't know, but I am so glad that I never got into this behavior.

I guess, in sort of a bizarre way, I have to thank my grandfather.

I just wish he had been around a bit longer so I could shake his hand.

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