In the 1960s, cigarettes were 35 cents a pack. The Marlboro Man was an almost certain accompaniment to an evening’s tv watching, as were advertising jingles like “The secret’s in the structure… Of Tempo’s all new filter…”. (You probably never heard of Tempo, a cigarette brand long gone but heavily advertised in the 60s.)

I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan in the 1960s. Smoking by both professors and students was common practice in classrooms. In the library, the long study tables were furnished with ash trays spaced at regular intervals so as to be within easy reach of anyone seated there. Above the tables hung a perpetual haze of smoke that insinuated itself into the stacks, coating the books and journals with its residue.

Indeed, smoke haze was everywhere: restaurants, buses, airplanes, public buildings of all descriptions. The smell of tobacco smoke permeated clothing, carpets, upholstery.

A different era, those Days of Smoke. The health risks of smoking were known but had not yet penetrated the public consciousness or influenced public policy to any significant degree. The tobacco lobby reigned supreme. Smoking was a socially and legally accepted practice in most places where people gathered to work or play. Restaurants didn’t have non-smoking sections. Passenger airplanes had large smoking sections. Some people even smoked with impunity in places where “no smoking” signs were prominently displayed, such as elevators and hospitals. Nor did I find this bothersome, for in those days, I myself was a regular smoker of cigarettes, and even cigars on occasion. Several packs a day of Camels or Pall Malls, no filters. Smoking was a way of life to me.

It was the darkest of times, the smokiest of times.

Copyright © by John Remmers.