Films and Television Teach History from the Comfort of Home

In films and in real life, people smoked whenever and wherever they wished. Wikimedia

3. People smoked everywhere

Watching movies from the 1930s through the mid-1960s demonstrates people once smoked anywhere they wished. Doctors smoked in their offices while consulting with patients. People smoked in hospitals, in waiting rooms and in wards. Elevators had ashtrays. Trains had smoking cars and platforms. Men smoked pipes, cigars, and cigarettes while conducting business, while relaxing at home, and when sitting in theaters and ballparks. Women smoked mainly cigarettes, and coyly accepting a light from a stranger was an accepted way of meeting someone new. Cowboys smoked. Soldiers and sailors smoked. James Bond smoked. Bogie and Bacall smoked, and smoked, and smoked.

The images presented in films weren’t exaggerated, smoking was socially acceptable to the point that even non-smokers kept ashtrays in the home, for the convenience of visitors. Throughout most of the 20th century the rations distributed to troops in the field contained packets of cigarettes and matches. Airlines during the early years of the jet age included courtesy packs of four cigarettes with their food and beverage service. Bars distributed cigarettes to patrons. Cigarettes were consumed by characters on television, by newsmen delivering the news, and by late-night show hosts as they interviewed guests. Not until the late 1960s did cigarette smoking on film begin to wane, reflecting the concern of the public with the known hazards of tobacco.

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