Those my age and older probably remember that catchy tune heard on radio often in the late 1940s and 1950s. It was an upbeat song which seemed to recognize the addictive quality of smoking and the health danger, as well. I do not think it caused anyone to stop smoking. I smoked for thirty-five years after hearing the song many years and singing it with glee many times.
I'm not sure when I smoked my first real cigarette, but by age fifteen I was sneaking them regularly. Anyone could buy cigarettes back then, so getting them was no problem. Not getting caught smoking them, or with them, or even smelling like them was the mandate when it came to interacting with our parents. Even parents who smoked didn't want their teens smoking. That "do as I say, not as I do" thing did not work.
By the time I was 16, I was smoking openly and my parents knew it. They did not like it, but since I was working so much and paying my own way, they gave me wide berth on such matters.
We had a smoking circle at the high school, out behind the Shop Building. Smokers - all boys - could go out there after lunch and smoke. There would be ten to thirty boys out there smoking at lunch.
When I joined the military in 1968, I found out that cigarettes were incredibly cheap on base. I used to say "I can't afford not to smoke!" In the military, smoking was a bonding ritual and a break among fellow service members. "Smoke 'em if you got 'em" was the order we got as the break began. There was also a phrase added which cannot be written here, but can be summarized as squeezing the last burning part of the cigarette out onto the ground, stepping on it to put it out, rolling up the filter and paper which remained, and putting it into one's pocket. Once we were near a trash can, we would place the rolled up filter into it.
I was a pack-a-day guy. I never smoked when I first woke up. I did not like to smoke right after eating. I smoked filtered cigarettes. I didn't smoke them down to the filter. I could tell they were hurting me, and as I crossed the fifty year line, I decided I needed to stop smoking. So, I did. For good. The first couple of years, I would still get the urge now and then. That first drag on a cigarette was the reason I smoked. Then one day I quit having the urge at all. In fact, I started hating the smell of cigarettes. Now I'm one of those obnoxious reformed smokers.
Health is the reason I stopped smoking. I could feel its negative effects on my body - my nose, my ears, my throat, my lungs, my vascular system, my head. It does all the bad things they have warned us about for decades.
I remember those early warnings about cigarettes. I remember they were largely ignored. Most cigarette smokers had an attitude which can be summarized as "yeah, so what?" Time has proven the warnings well placed.
By my estimation, I smoked over 250,000 cigarettes. Now I hate walking past smokers standing outside a building. Now I don't allow smoking in my home or car. I won't eat anywhere there is smoking. I understand smoking, but I understand choosing not to smoke, too. My lungs sure do feel good.