Friday, March 9, 2018

When You Could "Light Up" the Sky

vintage cigarette ad
One of the put-downs posited by deniers of a Golden Age of Air Travel is the fact that smoking on board aircraft was permitted. That's true, TWA didn't even allocate no-smoking sections on its planes until 1970.

As a matter of fact, during much of the Golden Age--up to the late sixties--smoking was actually encouraged by the major air carriers. I'm not advocating smoking, but I have to admit passengers were much more friendly and pleasant on flights back then as opposed to now.

Complimentary small packs of cigarettes and matches
Before and during that era, lighting up was an acceptable--if not glorified--form of adult behavior. Like many millions who were adults prior to the 1970s, I was born and raised in a second-hand smoke environment--if not at home, at almost every public place. Whether we smoked or not, over time, our respiratory systems just seemed to become acclimated to secondary cigarette smoke all around us. During that time, non-smokers on board planes usually turned on the overhead air vents and let it go at that. Some non-smokers even offered their complimentary meal-tray packs to the smokers sitting beside them.

The point I'm making here is that, back then, generally speaking, cigarette smoke just didn't seem nearly as offensive to non-smokers as it is has increasingly become since the early seventies.

There were however, still the occasional problems. Cigar smoking, which by the way, was never tolerated on board planes. There's the story about a cigar smoker in first class of a TWA 707 who refused repeated pleas from the hostess to stop. Upon hearing about this, the captain, with the cockpit fire extinguisher in hand, approached the flagrant smoker saying. "If you don't put it out, I will." The cigar was immediately snuffed. As was eventually all smoking on flights.

A personal note here: At the age of 47, after more than 30 years smoking several packs a day of Camel regulars, I suffered a mild heart attack. I credit my smoking habit as the main cause. Upon my subsequent smoking cessation, I experienced a withdrawal evolution taking me more than five years to progress, from loving the aroma of cigarette smoke, to despising it. Now it sickens me to smell the faintest hint of cigarette smoke. When I see today's smokers puffing away inside glass cages in airports, or outside in sub-freezing temps, I'm thankful I'm no longer a slave to that strong addiction.

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