By Arthur H. Gunther III
Northvale, N.J. -- Once, the smoking lamp was lit throughout most of the world. Now, how about a 5-foot by 10-foot cubicle? In what may be the biggest come-down since a millionaire lost his pants in the ’29 Crash, smokers in or about the local supermarket here are herded into a small corral, an outdoor, glass-walled bus-type shelter. There they may smoke, and presumably get 10 re-puffs to the puff since all the occupants re-breathe each other’s smoke.
It seems cruel to sentence these smokers to solitary confinement, or at least confinement of 10 people. A decade back, you could smoke in the supermarket, or two decades back in the doctor’s office. John Wayne took his on-screen last puffs as a wounded soldier. Physicians endorsed cigarette brands. So did athletes. So did cowboys. So did the movies. What would “Now, Voyager” be without that shipboard cigarette scene between Bette Davis and Paul Heinreid?
Two years ago, you could have smoked in the supermarket lot, and now it is frowned upon -- someone downwind, frozen in space obviously, might take in a puff. Today, you head for the smoking “shelter.”
Now, I am not a smoker. Tried in in my wayward youth, as most of us did, but it hurt my teeth in the fourth grade. I never got hooked (of course, no one told me that I had to inhale the smoke -- I just took it into my mouth and let it go, along with a coughing fit). I come from a family of smokers, and my brother Craig remains a major financial supporter of the Camels manufacturer. I worked as a newspaperman and could hardly see the copy for the smoke in the city room. Just after high school, I dated a girl who dragged on Parliament, and she let the ashes defy gravity on a long kiss. Then it was back to the cigarette. The addictive effect obviously was not my doing.
So, I respect smokers, in the past and today, though I’d rather they had never lit up and never will. Smoking is demonstrably bad for your health, others too, costly, smelly and not cool.
But up in smoke should go overreactive regulation that sends outdoor smokers to a small corral. Maybe the Big Kahuna also wants that they should wear placards with the letter “S” in 72-point type.
Hey, I can move away if I’m in the wind.