Monica Dyson: When smoking on screen looked glamorous

John Wayne is reported to have smoked six packs a day.
John Wayne is reported to have smoked six packs a day.
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Who remembers towards the end of the 1950s, the evocative advert images of the lonely looking Frank Sinatra lookalike on a dark wet evening in London reflectively puffing on a cigarette?

The theme music, The Lonely Man theme by Cliff Adams, was hauntingly beautiful and did well in the music charts. However the cigarettes, became associated with loneliness and losers and were withdrawn after a few years.

Doing better were the advertisements for Camel during the 1980s, being endorsed by celebrities like John Wayne who smoked six packs a day. Their slogan informed us that it was a ‘psychological fact that pleasure helps your disposition’ but didn’t do much for the stars in question, many of whom died from lung cancer, including Big John. After a while they were dropped from the adverts in favour of Camel Man, a fictitious character who ‘did more than survive, he lives’. Adding that ‘Camel time is pleasure time.’

Cinema-going was big at the time. Our favourite stars made smoking look so glamorous and sexy that we wanted to emulate them, especially when the man lit two cigarettes at once and put one into the lips of his female companion. People really thought they looked cool when they were smoking.

You only have to watch old movies to realise the extent of smoking.

Smoking was everywhere. In the cinema there would be a cloud of smoke rising in front of the screen. Likewise in the theatre and on aircraft, until the inclusion of a smoking section at the back of the plane for those who couldn’t go a few hours without a drag.

Thank goodness now for smoke- free cinemas, aircraft, buses, pubs and restaurants, and soon smoking-free cars when carrying children.

By the time health warnings had started to appear, many people had become completely addicted to them and so found it extremely difficult to stop.

I remember starting work in the late 1950s. One of my colleagues expressed surprise that I didn’t smoke. ‘Oh, it’s great,’ she said, and proceeded to take me to the ladies cloakroom to let me have a go so I wouldn’t appear a complete novice if I was offered one in the office.

Luckily, things have changed.

Perhaps people have realised that at nearly £10 a packet it really is an insane way to get through hard-earned money, even if they don’t seem bothered about dying prematurely. Or at best having themselves, their house and their clothes smelling unpleasant.

But I’m wondering what effect these electronic cigarettes are having on the cessation of smoking? It seems that there is a shop selling them practically on every corner. Do people not get addicted to the e-cigarette?

There’s a lot to be said for chewing gum, isn’t there?