My, How Times Have Changed: When Cigarettes Were Cool

Legendary Bette Davis and her signature cigarette.
Legendary Bette Davis and her signature cigarette. | Source

Disclaimer: In no way am I advocating cigarette smoking. In fact I am an ex-smoker and do not approve of cigarettes whatsoever. In this hub I am simply reflecting to a time when our culture was very different.

Joe Camel, the old mascot of Camel Cigarettes.  The cigarette company claimed that Joe Camel ads weren't targeting kids.  Funny, I remember all the cool boys smoking Camel when I was a kid.
Joe Camel, the old mascot of Camel Cigarettes. The cigarette company claimed that Joe Camel ads weren't targeting kids. Funny, I remember all the cool boys smoking Camel when I was a kid. | Source

I'm a fan of classic cinema. In fact my favorite actress of all time is Bette Davis. Bette Davis was known for her unusual yet beautiful big blue eyes. She was also known for something else. Whether on the silver screen, an interview or a TV special, that woman always had a damn cigarette in her hand.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, I wouldn't have given that much thought. My dad smoked, most of my uncles smoked, heck even Danny Zucko and the entire cast of Grease smoked. Sure the grown-ups said it was bad for you, as they puffed away and bought us kids candy cigarettes.

There were still smoking sections in hospitals and in airplanes. How dangerous is that?!? I mean looking back, that was pretty messed up. Not to mention in the 80s everyone knew it was bad for you!

Before the 1990s doctors did not warn expecting mothers about smoking. If a woman was concerened the doctor may say something like 'it's not that dangerous.' At one time there were smoking rooms in maternity wards. When the nurses were ready to bring the baby in to see mommy, the nurse would ask that the new moms put their cigarette out first. As if that made much a difference.

Don't even get me started on the kids in movies. Tatum O'Neil chain smoked in the classic '70s film Paper Moon. She was nine. All the pre-teens boys from the '80s coming to age flick, Stand By Me smoked. None of us batted an eyelash. Imagine re-making Paper Moon today. Imagine the outrage.

What about television? Remember I Love Lucy? You can actually make up a drinking game by how many times Lucy and Ricky light up a smoke. Cartoon characters even smoked! Check out this advertisement for Winston!


Lucy and Ricky Advertising Phillip Morris After the Show

The Cost of Smoking

Unless you are living under a rock, then you know all of the health hazzards of smoking. Smokers also burn their money away (pun intended). So how much did a pack cost twenty years ago anyway?

In reality, the cost of a pack of smokes haven't gone up much. It's the taxes. Lets take a sobering look at how the price of one pack of cigarettes have risen over the decades.

1950: $ 0.25

1960: $ 0.40

1970: $ 0.60

1980: $ 1.00

1990: $ 2.00 to $ 3.00

2000: $ 3.00 to $ 4.00

2010: Depending where you live, smokes can cost you anywhere from $5.00 to $ 10.00 a pack!!!

Thankfully, smoking is becoming less and less cool and is certainly not in vogue anymore. Less than twenty percent of the United States population smoke. There is no smoking in airplanes, movie theatres, hospitals, restaraunts, bars, offices and many apartments are smoke-free. Here in Illinois, you have to stand fifteen feet away from a public entrance to smoke. The majority of parents 'take it outside' and do not smoke in front of their kids. This all seems like common sense. I don't really know how asthmatics survived 'back in the day'.


Do you smoke and are trying to quit? Check out my hub on hints, tips and how I quit for good.

http://amymarie5.hubpages.com/hub/Trying-To-Quit-Smoking-How-I-Did-It-And-How-You-Can-Too

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Comments 10 comments

Maralexa profile image

Maralexa 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Really good hub, amymarie_5! I love the classic films too, even the 'classic' ads for smoking. They look so foolish now but back then smoking was so 'cool!' Thanks for a very interesting and nostalgic read - and for the VERY good message!


Majadez profile image

Majadez 5 years ago from Johannesburg, South Africa

Hi. I also enjoy classic cinema and always noticed how they would smoke a lot in the films, compared to modern cinema. I had no idea that people were so carefree and unaware of the dangers of smoking. Most people I know who smoke do it as a social habit. They're aware of the risks but do it to look "cool" and blend in. It also depends on how strict the environment or laws are.

An interesting comparision on cost... Some people smoke a pack a day. Maybe I'll try and save that money a day and see what happens...


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago

Very odd that one of the traditions on the birth of a child was to give everyone a cigar.

Very interesting hub on the changing patterns in smoking.

Still one of the biggest killers today.

I have cut down massively, since I began writing on hubpages.


amymarie_5 profile image

amymarie_5 4 years ago from Chicago IL Author

Hi Molometer,

I remember my dad passing out cigars when my brothers were born. It is ironic in a sense, celebrating a new baby by polluting your body. haha...

I used to be a smoker. It's been five years and I still have those dreams where I slip up and start smoking again.

It's great that you cut down so much. I'm not one to lecture about smoking, I've been down that road and know how tough it is. I admit that I do miss it sometimes but glad I was able to quit.

Thanks for commenting. Glad you enjoyed this hub. :)


annaglomesh profile image

annaglomesh 4 years ago from Australia

I am an ex smoker...luckily I was more a social smoker so it wasn't too difficult to give up. Someone said they bet I couldn't, so I did and I never went back to it. However I still thinks it looks amazingly cool in the old black and white movies for some reason, despite it looking awful in real life out on the street.


amymarie_5 profile image

amymarie_5 4 years ago from Chicago IL Author

Hi Annoglomesh,

I have to agree with you there. I don't know why but smoking looks so glamorous in the old black and white films. I guess it's similar with the heroin chic models on the fashion runways. Some looks are only glamorous in fantasy.

Thank you for commenting.


Scott Dorsey 19 months ago

I've noticed that a lot of the readers have been simply amazed at how stupid the people of the past must have been to be smokers when they knew all the dangers associated with smoking. Even our society had a very large part of it's population smoking. I'm not going to defend smoking by any means but I do want to level the playing field slightly. First of all, if it were not for tobacco, the United States of America would not be the country it is today. I know what you are all thinking, "Yeah, it would be even better," but that's not true. In the beginning of the country tobacco was the source of income that propelled the USA into a global economic power. Even today, the government has been taxing cigarettes so much that the federal and state governments make more of a profit from each pack of cigarettes then the companies that grow, harvest, treat, manufacture, package, ship and advertise their products do. So, who is really in the business of selling tobacco? Do you believe that all of those tax dollars are going to the aid of smokers or helping with medical issues? Think again. The US Government takes the money but it was never intended to help smokers quit or with any health issues of aging smokers. The US Government learned a valuable lesson when it made alcohol illegal years ago. Now they understand that the best way to eradicate something is to just increase the taxes slowly until the citizens quit on their own and it is too expensive for new people to start. Maybe alcohol will be next? But smoking is not good for us so it's a good thing that the government is doing this, right? It's been years since the United States of America has been a FREE country where individuals get to determine how they wish to live but we are on a very slippery slope. Just imagine if the government decided that free speech was to dangerous and caused to many deaths. They wouldn't just outlaw free speech instead they would tax it into oblivion while at the same time using propaganda targeted at the youth of the day to show why it is so dangerous. The youth grow up to be the adults believing that free speech is an abomination while internet access costs hundreds or thousands of dollars per connection mainly due to the taxes. Yes, smoking was part of our society but it did not mean that the citizens of this country back then were stupid or ignorant any more than the young adults are today for believing that smoking pot is a good thing since it is legal in some states now and in a lot of Hollywood films. If it is so good for you, since it is all natural and has medicinal purposes, then why don't they prescribe it to children? Maybe in 20 years people will be driving down the road with their kids safely in their car seats while the parents are smoking a joint trying to avoid the other drivers that are also smoking a joint and it's all legal. At least we won't be such a stupid backward country anymore, right?


amymarie_5 profile image

amymarie_5 19 months ago from Chicago IL Author

Hi Scott, I appreciate your comment & you raise some interesting points, however, my intent when I wrote was was not to be political or demean smokers. It's an observation of how society's attitudes have changed. Thanks again for dropping by.


Jerry D. 11 months ago

When I started smoking in April of 1962, cigarettes were 25¢ a pack in Illinois. I joined the Marine Corps a few months later and they were 20¢ a pack at the PX. On board ship or in the PX in a foreign country (Viet Nam & Okinawa) they were 10¢ a pack. Back in the states in 1966, they were still a quarter a pack. By the time I quit smoking in April of 1995 they were over $3.00 a pack in Illinois. I haven't touched a cigarette in almost 21 years and now I'm 70 pounds overweight and still want one now and then. Consequences.


Kassidi 9 months ago

There was no such thing as Asthema back in those days. Everyone smoked back then cause the smoking age was 16 years; which is now no smoking if you are under 21 years. Most of the east coast states still allow you to smoke inside and/or outside but do not have any form of "NO SMOKING" posted anywhere either.

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