The Smoking Sixties

When I was a kid I used to get a clean jam jar or a clean milk bottle and examine the bottom of the local stream through it. I could see all sorts of goings-on that one couldn’t see merely from looking at the surface, possibly because the stream was so polluted! I did feel a bit like a God peering down, unknown, on the swamp life below. I was reminded of this the other night when I caught the last 20 minutes of a program on the telly called Mad Men. I’ve had to google this but it’s a series about an advertising firm in the 60’s. The firm is in Madison Avenue hence the title Mad Men but as a glimpse into the past it’s fascinating..

The sets and fashions are terrific, things I’ve forgotten about, I really do feel like I am peering down a jam jar again but this time into the dim past. The sexism, the racism, the adultery, the constant drinking and most of all the smoking. Everyone seems to be smoking and I wonder how they managed that this day and age, did they advertise for actors that smoke, are the non-smoking actors going to sue the producers for passive smoking and is the series sponsored by ?Camel cigarettes. These days it’s very rare to see anyone actually smoke on telly, I’m sure there is some regulation against it and thus it’s all the more noticeable. I know quite a few A list actors are secret smokers but still it’s interesting, the change in attitudes since the sixties. Most of my family smoked ++ when I was growing up and it was almost de rigueur to smoke where-as these days if you smoke it’s something you do standing outside in the rain huddled up together for support. I’m sure it’s not going to be long before it’s a crime to smoke (or is it already in California?).

I don’t smoke and never have (merely once inhaled as Mr Clinton said), but experience has taught me that in two groups of people, smokers and non-smokers, the smokers are much more chatty and sociable. I realised this when during my nursing days the nurses in the smokers room would chat and engage with you where-as the non-smoking room nurses tended to switch off mentally. Of course I can only quote from personal experience and your mileage will differ but I wonder is there a certain camaraderie or sense of ‘Brothers in Arms’ between smokers that others don’t have.

I also wonder what the person looking down today from forty years in the future would say, smoking will be on the same level of offence as Class A drugs by then but I wonder, will he look down and be fascinated to see me put two two sugars in my tea ..salt on my chips, or eat meat ..or white bread ..or heat something up in a microwave… and nod wisely and think how much wiser and healthier folk are these days.

Leave a Reply