Our City Council recently considered a smoking ban in Laguna parks. After the events of this week many of us would go further "” a blanket ban on smoking in October, maybe, or no smoking in California, ever.
But the park-smoking ban was discussed prior to our latest fires, and although it hasn’t passed yet, it’s indicative of the way the tide has turned since we boomers were kids.
Smokers aren’t even close to cool anymore. They don’t have a power base, they don’t have a case, they don’t have an excuse, except addiction. The way things are going they’re all going to end up on a boat somewhere out beyond the 12-mile limit.
All for the best, no doubt, but I sympathize with the poor junkies, for I was a smoker. I too used to defile the air with more than just my conversation.
It was common knowledge that smoking was bad even when I did it, but back then we thought we were only killing ourselves.
When I was little, my mother, dad and grandmother all smoked, and the inside of our car got pretty foggy. The phrase “second-hand smoke" was unknown. The idea of banning smoking in a park would have seemed insane.
If you were in the Midwest when I was in my 20s you may have inhaled some of my True Blue smoke; by then cigarettes were my indispensable prop in social situations. I had started by emulating my favorite TV and movie actors, and honed my style until it was second nature.
I perfected a technique whereby I would inhale smoke, take a swallow of a beverage and then speak, with the smoke coming out in little puffs. It was cool, very effective with women. Or at least it should have been.
Cool as I no doubt was, as time went by I noticed my pulse was often up around 100, I got about 12 colds a year and my teeth were turning yellow. I also noticed that many of my favorite childhood TV and movie smokers had died prematurely.
Patti Jo met me out here when I’d been smoke-free for a few months. I lit up again one day and she responded as if I’d grown an unattractive extra head. As she did that, something finally dawned on me.
Some things only work in the movies.
By then the second-hand-smoke evidence was gaining ground, too. So I decided "” well, Patti Jo and I decided "” that I’d quit. And I did.
Nowadays I have no urge to smoke, barring the rare moment. It won’t hurt me if the city council bans it in local parks, and after this week I might back jail time for smoking when it’s windy. But I feel a speck of sympathy for my old fellow smokers. There aren’t many places left to pretend to be cool.
SHERWOOD KIRALY is a Laguna Beach resident. He has written four novels, three of which were critically acclaimed.