Bogart through a fug of smoke

I SUPPOSE it all started when our televisions stopped telling us that "you're never alone with a Strand".

For those of us with longer memories, this catchline was in just one of the many TV commercials for cigarettes, which eventually were banned from our screens way back in 1965.

Fast forward to 2007, and we are again reminded that a "No Smoking Day" is just round the corner '” this time next Wednesday, March 14.

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Stand by for the usual avalanche of health advice and masses of tips on how to give up the dreaded weed.

I grew up at a time when most people accepted that EVERY day was a smoking day.

Even if you were a non-smoker yourself, one had to condition oneself to other people's tobacco habits.

Of course, when commercial television hit our aerials in the mid-'50s, cigarette advertisers thought they had fallen into a goldmine by acquiring such a captive audience.

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Some of the slogans and jingles still buzz in my memory; "Take a tip, take a Bristol", "For your throat's sake, smoke Craven A" (today's advertising standards authority would have a field day with that one), and "I'd walk a mile for a camel" (I'm not sure that would get past anyone, these days).

Smoke, if not love, was all around in those halcyon days for the likes of Imperial Tobacco and Gallaghers.

Cinema and theatre seat armrests, or seat backs, had obligatory little chrome ashtrays, and the further away you sat from the cinema screen, the thicker the fug through which you watched Humphrey Bogart or Jane Russell.

Odds were that if you drove to the pictures, you were a smoker and always had a prominent ashtray to hand.

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If you were motor-less, don't worry; buses had plenty of the same in which to stub out fag-ends.

Going shopping? No problem! An in-store drag was needed to concentrate on what to buy... and there was always the floor for the discarded butts.

Offices and other working places were a free house for smokers, and I was one of them in the early '60s and early '70s.

I cringe when remembering the time I shared a small cubicle office with a non-smoker '” yet he never complained. Sorry, Arthur.

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And as for pubs and clubs, they were THE place to light up in like company.

Those bar-room puffers might have been prompted to choke to death a lot earlier if they had a crystal ball revealing the dreaded date of July 1 this year, when smoking will be banned in England's pubs, bars, restaurants, membership clubs and all other enclosed public places.

Poor smokers. Even now, they are not officially allowed to drag away outside the entrances of their workplaces, let alone in them.

The thought arises, will there be any need for a No Smoking Day after July 1?

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