A significant event of 1965 was the banning of cigarette advertising on television on 1st August and after that Marlborough could not peddle its macho image and Consulate could not claim that a menthol cigarette was as ‘cool as a mountain stream’ . I am thankful for that because at eleven years old I was at my most impressionable and I am quite convinced that I might otherwise have been seduced by the images that cigarette advertisements used to lure teenagers into everlasting tobacco dependency.
It was about this time that I enjoyed, or perhaps more correctly endured, my first cigarette. My friend David Newman had slipped some woodbines from his dad’s half empty packet and we went into the fields behind his house for a smoke. David’s dad, Harry, wouldn’t have noticed a few fags going missing because he used to smoke about sixty a day and that certainly helped to bring his days on earth to a premature ending.
Woodbines were untipped and maximum strength and we lit up and I can clearly remember trying to adopt an adult demeanour and puffing away but without inhaling until an unfortunate combination of sucking in and speaking at the same time involuntarily drew the foul vapours into my lungs, filled my brain with noxious gasses and made me giddy and unsteady. I literally fell over as though someone had punched me in the head, turned an unpleasant shade of green and was violently sick, much to the amusement of my pals.
I tried smoking a few more times after that, as we all did, but I have never forgotten that thoroughly unpleasant experience and gladly never became a real cigarette smoker at any time ever after that.
Smoking is pretty horrible and it’s a good job that it it is more or less banned from all public places these days – aircraft for example. As an experience flying has mostly deteriorated in quality since the 1960s except in one important area where there has been massive improvement. In the 1960s passengers that smoked were still allowed to light up a cigarette on board which meant that because of the way airplanes recirculate air in the cabin everyone else had to share the experience with them. To be fair they did all have to sit at the back of the aircraft, a bit like Dante’s Inferno, and puff away together but after a couple of hours there was a horrible acrid odour of stale tobacco and the entire cabin smelt like an unemptied ash tray. Actually it wasn’t just cigarettes but pipes and cigars as well and this was so bad that even the cigarette smokers complained about this. Pipes and cigars were banned in 1979 but a ban on cigarettes had to wait for another ten years.