Cloudy Plumes Of The Past And The Evolution Of The Ciggy-Butt

Kids smoking

Smoking – A habit that is now as old as the hills. From Rollies to E-Cigs the habit clings on! However, there once was a time when smoking was a noble duty, acceptable in bars and shops and supermarkets!
So then, let’s draw in a deep breath of smoke and travel back to the rare auld’ times…

“Would you like seats smoking or non-smoking?” The mere thought of somebody asking you such a question as you’re about to board an airplane is nowadays simply unfathomable. Smoking your lungs out on an airplane, in a restaurant or at the shopping centre? You must be nuts! They wouldn’t even think of putting that in a film! In reality however, it’s not so far back since the local pub stank like a Carolls Number 1 incubator.

Ash Tray
Ashtrays sat on every pub table before the smoking ban kicked in back in 04′

Thankfully our attitude towards smoking has changed (much for the better) over the last 15 years or so. The ubiquity of the ’40 a day’ smoker has dissipated as much as fresh air once did from the pits of his lungs. The hazy days of the smokey shops and the cloudy cafes are but a thing of the past, a paramnesiac glitch in the memory of many adolescents and young adults. From the vantage point of a 2015 city slicker peering out into a landscape amassed with organic health foods, personal trainers and luminous running shoes, it’s difficult to imagine a world booming full of smokers, basking in their right to blaze-up in public houses. Imagine a busy office, animated with a highly strung team of telesales executives striving to sell their product to the world. Imagine that busy office as being so fogged up with cigarette smoke that the staff need to wear headlights and goggles so they can navigate their way through the workplace without going blind. Imagine this workplace is one that sells health insurance, the irony of such an image goes beyond ironical and falls nothing short of absurd madness, but ironically this was reality right up until 2004.

Chocolate Cigarettes
The aul’ chocolate smokes – reminiscent of “Poundworld” before it became “The €2 Shop”

My own memories of the pre smoking-ban era are mostly gelled together by the sticky smell of smokey clothes and toilets and a much more lax attitude to the habit in general. Due to my age (now 25), I’m not old enough to have been able to avail of the endemic privilege of smoking indoors. Of course I didn’t take up the grimy habit until about one year after the ban was implemented – how intelligent! Stretching the memories back as far as pre adolescence, I recall a time when smoking was just a bad habit practiced by grown ups, not necessarily an abomination, but a silly habit nonetheless. Little did I ever know that some of my favourite sticky treats were preparing me for the cylindrical feel of the real deal that would hang between my lips in later life. ‘Tom and Jerry’ candy sticks and the aul chocolate fags were amongst the prelims of the childhood years. The candy sticks were sold in something that resembled a ’10’ box whereas their chocolatey counterparts came stocked into a fat ’20’ pack. There were even times where I can remember lighting the tip of these snacks with matches and lighters, practicing for D-day well in advance, a star pupil in the making. Every pre-ban outing to a restaurant or bar and what not was always greeted with the rich aroma of the greyish-blue smoke whirling around in the air. That distinctive smell grips the clothes and the hair and explodes inside the cotton fibres leaving its almost indelible scent in the fabrics of every outfit. This is why non-smokers would arrive home from family outings reeking like an ashtray, an awful irritant especially if one truly despised such an odour. As I entered my teenage years, those that are naturally plagued with a curiosity to try stupid things like smoking, the final days of the pre-ban era were looming and my last memories of those days were formed. One of the striking differences between primary school and secondary school was the abundance of smokers that congregated in the toilets accompanied by the overwhelming stench that trails from a lit cigarette. Smokers were in no short supply. Cigarettes weren’t yet overwhelmingly expensive, not necessarily cheap but not what they are today.

Amber leaf
Amber Leaf – King of the Rollies

About a year or so after the ban came in I took up the habit and for a while became a recreational and conservative smoker, over the years graduating into a somewhat heavy smoker before reclining back into a much more conservative smoker again. The biggest changes in people’s attitudes to smoking naturally came in the decade that has followed the ban. Within a year following the ban, nobody really smoked in the toilets in schools. Penalties were implemented for smoking in public places, in bars and public transport and what not and the air around us started to freshen up. The price of 10 cigarettes was a little less than €3 when I first started buying them, however, it was impossible not to notice the price jumping by a mere few cents every so often until the infamous ’10’ box was outlawed in 2007. As the price of 20 smokes continued to climb, eventually hitting the €8 mark, I was forced onto the now illustrious Amber Leaf rollies. This marked the beginning of a new era in tobacco logistics. The prominence of the roll-up cigarette has now reached critical acclaim, and it’s avid supporters share mutual feelings of understanding amongst each other; the annoyance of running out of filters, the gritty last smoke at the end of every pouch, the yellow fingers that don’t go yellow anymore(?) and so on. The latest addition in the chain of evolution regarding the cigarette is the most ridiculous to date; it is of course the dreaded e-cig. The e-cig is perhaps the least effective ‘quitting smoking’ tool that has hit the market since chewing gum. If anything, the e-cig only worsens ones addiction to smoking, not only because it doesn’t actually help break the habitual cycle of smoking (the smoker just replaces a paper cigarette for a metal cigarette. It’s akin to swapping a roll-up cigarette for a cigar), but also because you can smoke them indoors, it’s just like going back to wallow in the pre-ban era with a different brand of ‘smoke.’

Thanks to the smoking-ban everybody can enjoy the salubrious benefits of good old fashioned fresh air everywhere they go. Knowing the detrimental health effects of heavy smoking, it beggars belief that there once was a time when an ashtray on every pub table and every bin at the mall was mandatory, but of course it was real. People still smoke but nowhere near as much as they once did. The death of the chain smoker has given rise to the eminence of the ‘social’ smoker. People are now more concerned about staying fit and looking after their health and rightfully so. From candy sticks to e-cigs the habit lives on, but if people are to know anything about smoking they should know that the greatest tool for breaking the habit is neither the chewing gum nor the electric alternative, but rather the mind itself, for it is in the mind that sits the power to make or break any habit!

The ever so ridiculous E-Cig