Remembering those hazy, crazy, smokey days

Sep 02, 2023
I can still recall the look on my doctor's face when he asked me the question: “How many cigarettes do you smoke each day?” Source: Getty Images.

I can still recall the look on my doctor’s face when he asked me the question: “How many cigarettes do you smoke each day?”

“Less than you” I replied defiantly, eyeing the growing pyramid of cigarette butts in his ashtray.

“Oh” he replied in a guilty tone. It did not look good, a great stack of used cigarette butts piled up in an ashtray of the doctor’s desk in his consulting rooms. A fond memory of the 1970s.

Today of course smokers are regarded as the reason for most of the world’s current crises, the escalating cost of living, poor mobile phone connections, and whatever else we can blame them for.

Tobacco companies are evil personified and people smoking in movies are usually the villain who will come to a messy end. Yet despite all of this, the government does not ban smoking because the sales tax revenue from tobacco sales is phenomenal.

We have come a long way in how we deal with smoking today and I do not for one minute support the practise now. But there was a time when I was a walking chimney. It was the early 1970s, an earlier time in another country when a younger me faced the ongoing dilemma of how to lose weight. The dietitian at the local hospital had a brilliant idea.

“Take up smoking” they said. “Really?” I said.” Yes” they insisted. “If you smoke it will reduce your appetite.”

They were right, it also lightened my wallet. So began a lifelong addiction which I was only able to finally shake off in the early 2000s. Looking back, I shudder to think of the sums of money that have gone up in smoke over the years. Then there are the health risks which are well known but most smokers deny or are convinced will only affect someone else, not them.

Now in the waning years of our lives, we confront the reality that smoking not only kills but its tentacles reach out to play merry hell with our lives even some decades after we quit. It seems hard to believe that we were influenced by those TV advertisements asking if we had said “yes” while promoting specific brands of tobacco as fashionable and an absolute must-have for anyone on the social scene. We smoked at home and in the office and remember cruising about in cars with no seat belts. It’s amazing our generation survived.

We can’t turn back time but I think if we could most of us who got addicted to smoking would now reject it if we had our time over again. I shudder to think how much money was spent on cigarettes. But I look at smokers today and want to urge them to quit for their health and financial welfare.

It’s interesting that in the 70s a huge majority of us smoked. Looking around today I see very few over 60s puffing away on a cigarette which means we either finally came to our senses or lung cancer made the decision for us. There’s also the economic reality that these days you have to have almost a six-figure income to afford a pack of smokes. In this, the government takes an enormous slice of tobacco prices in tax revenue which justifies their reason for not banning smoking outright.

During my current stay in hospital, I developed a respiratory condition. The doctors asked if I smoked.

“Not for the last 15 years” I replied smugly. “Ah” they said. In that tone that doctors use, “then this current condition is a lingering aftermath of the smoking.”

It’s a pointed reminder from smoking that its evils are never far away. I’s like that line in the Godfather 3 movie “Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in again”.

Quitting smoking was one of the best things I ever did but I rue the day that I ever began puffing
away on these little tobacco sticks that still haunt me decades later.

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