Furtive glances at onlookers and passersby, foolishness thinly veiled as toughness. Packs of cigarettes going for as much as $14.50 each. Street dealers trading in "loosies" - cigarettes sold individually.
In New York City, smokers on breaks huddle in doorways and alcoves in the streets, almost like common criminals or social pariahs. The walls are closing in rapidly. Effective May 23, 2011, smoking will be banned in all parks, boardwalks, beaches, recreation centers, swimming pools and pedestrian plazas. On April 1, 2003, smoking was banned in New York State in all enclosed workplaces, including all bars and restaurants and construction sites. Even France, considered by many the last bastion of cigarette smoking, banned smoking in public places in 2007.
At one time, as opposition mounted and the negative effects of secondhand smoke were becoming known, there were debates about the freedom to smoke. There were even accolades for the joy of smoking. Empty words now. Many who have smoked (I did for a short time in college) will agree that joy neither lures people in nor keeps people habituated. The difficulty of quitting and withdrawal drives this more than anything else. Although I do not drink alcohol, and it remains a huge drug problem, a glass of wine with dinner is pleasurable and in moderation, alcohol may not be harmful.
When I was young, cigarette smoking was permitted and tolerated virtually everywhere. Even those who despised smoking and had no smokers in the household, kept ashtrays and begrudgingly allowed guests to smoke in their home or car. It was considered courteous to accommodate. There was smoking in planes, trains and doctor's offices.
Efforts to discourage youth from smoking were ineffective since this was one of the major rites of passage to adulthood and an act of defiance for the very young. Movies like He's Too Tough to Care, written comedically in an effort to be less preachy, were equally ineffectual. See She's Too Tough to Care here.
I enjoyed this New York Times headline from January 21, 1908 regarding the passage of the Sullivan Ordinance making it illegal for women to smoke outdoors:
NO PUBLIC SMOKING BY WOMEN NOW; The Sullivan Ordinance, to be Passed by the Aldermen Today, Makes It Illegal. WILL THE LADIES REBEL As the Ladies of New Amsterdam Did When Peter Stuyvesant Ordered Them to Wear Broad Flounces?
The ordinance was enforced - Katie Mulcahey was arrested on January 22 - however the law was vetoed by NYC Mayor George Brinton McClellan, Jr. two weeks after passage.
With the Sullivan Ordinance far behind us, here on Spring Street, it's another sequel to She's Too Tough to Care :)