HABITS THEN

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In the absence of tobacco, some kids who thought it to be “big time” to smoke, but who did not have access to cigarettes, would take rabbit tobacco, cross vines, or other substances that they were told could be smoked. I tried smoking a cross vine and rabbit tobacco when everyone present (peer pressure) was trying it, but I soon saw no future in lighting sticks or weeds and puffing on them. I think of the advice I at one time received against smoking, “You are not really smoking. It is the cigarette that is doing the smoking, you are only the sucker.” I have known a lot of suckers in my lifetime. Sadly, too many of them died a premature death because they picked up a habit that they could not break. I have heard some say that the enjoyment they received from smoking outweighs the health risk which might be inherent in continuing the habit, and for this I would say, “To each their own”, and it is not up to me to dictate to others the way that they choose to live their lives.

I believe this to be a good example of the perils young people confront on their climb up Fool’s Hill. Temptations are abundant which, if not careful, will lead into future challenges. Smoking is not an inexpensive habit. Likewise, billions of dollars are spent each year by those who are trying to break the habit. Like most things, those who started the use of tobacco when I was young could afford to smoke multiple packs a day, paying only 20 cents a pack; it is now an expensive habit for the average person. There are many more obstacles, many with more severe consequences, that are encountered on the  

Some men preferred chewing tobacco as opposed to cigarettes. Many times I have been with those who would withdraw a plug of tobacco, and a knife from their pockets, cut off a chew, put it in their mouths, then chew and spit. Brand that I remember of plug tobacco were Levi Garrett and Beechnut. We always called smokeless tobacco, “spit tobacco.” The “spitters” would either find a good corner, a waste can, or carry a glass or bottle placed in order to provide a place to spit. At one time spittoons were made available for the smokeless tobacco user. It was easier and more sanitary to empty a spittoon than to mop the spit off the floors and out of the corners. 

Some men also preferred to smoke a pipe, and I can recall that some pipe tobacco had a rather pleasing aroma. Out in the country, corn cob pipes made their rounds, and were filled with Prince Albert or other loose tobacco was smoked. Some of the more affluent pipe smokers would have an aromatic blend of tobaccos smoked in a briar-root pipe. I must admit that the smoke wafting in my direction was quite pleasing to smell. 

There were others who preferred cigars, but I know too little about them to even make a comment about brands. A couple of brands of cigar such as Swisher Sweets, Phillies, Dutch Masters, and White Owls seem to fit into my memory, but as I never consumed them and remember nothing about them from the store, I plead ignorance here. I do know that when I was researching a previous book I was astonished to learn of the extent that cigars were smoked each year for a century before the approximate time of my birth. There were over one hundred million nailed wooden boxes manufactured each year in the United States to hold over one trillion cigars. A trillion cigars smoked each year for a century; now folks, that is a lot of cigars. I suppose it would be impossible to even imagine the number of cigarettes that were smoked during that time. Suffice it to say, the tobacco industry was a profitable enterprise.  

While growing up, I never saw a woman smoke a cigarette. At that time the smoking practice among women, in our neck of the woods, was unacceptable. As I recall, the introduction of Virginia Slims and other brands designed to appeal to females was the first time I saw women smoking. The tobacco companies were reaching out to collect a broader market for their products. I am sure that the practice was elsewhere among women, as movies portrayed both men and women with cigarettes. I state this as I do not recall having sold any cigarettes in the small store in which I worked when young to women for their personal use. Some, such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, were seen smoking while using a long white cigarette holder which kept the cigarette out of the mouth. There were no filter cigarettes until later.