A Trend in the Right Direction

Remember when everybody smoked cigarettes? 

My retrospective about smoking is informed by growing up in a family of smokers. It seemed that the folks who were chewing tobacco and dipping snuff in the 1940s switched to cigarettes as their main nicotine source in the 1950s. Smoking cigarettes was certainly more convenient and cleaner than the type of tobacco consumption that required spittoons, spit cups, and brown paper bags with the tops rolled down.

The television and magazine ads for cigarettes depicted glamor and cool for both men and women. While men historically indulged in a chew, cigar, or pipe, women were less inclined to be spitting tobacco juice, blowing smoke from cigars, or teeth-clenching a pipe, thus making women a targeted and ready market for cigarettes.

I imagine that the concept of “cool” along with the suggestion of menthol was what fired the imagination of advertisers to brand a cigarette with the name “Kool.” Perhaps one of the coolest things about smoking was that society allowed men and women to be on equal footing as they indulged their habit.

I can recall family members and friends of the family smoking all brands of cigarettes. My father smoked Lucky Strikes. My grandparents were partial to Camels. Realizing that folks were addicted and loyal to their own brand of cigarettes, my mother opted to switch brands often in an effort to avoid having to share hers with others.

Damages to the health of generations of people have been devastating over time. While our current times seem dark and pessimistic on so many levels around the world, I found a bit of optimism when I read an article from 2015 about the rate of smoking in the United States.

Likely because of bans on indoor smoking and effective messaging about the health perils of smoking, data showed that smoking had decreased from 45 percent of the U.S. population in 1965 to 15 percent in 2015. (Dennis Thompson reported data from the CDC in Healthy Days according to Erin Blakemore in Smart News, September 4, 2015)

In 2018,* the rate of U.S. adults aged 18 years or older who were current cigarette smokers was down to 13.7 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is one trend in the right direction.

*most recent data available from the CDC

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