A Dodged Bullet

Last night, as things started to quiet down... #1 of 5 was at a friends house, #2 of 5 was reading from his Calvin and Hobbes Complete Collection (* more on this later), #4 of 5 and Mother of Five were out picking up the Girl Scout Cookies she sold, #5 of 5 was playing in the tub. When all of a sudden #3 of 5 remembered that he had some "homework" from his new D.A.R.E. class.

Having been through #2 of 5's D.A.R.E. class last year (and working at a "Local Police Department"), I pretty much knew what to expect as far as D.A.R.E. homework goes. Most "homework" involves (or in some families CREATES) an opportunity to sit down and talk to your kids about age appropriate Alcohol / Tobacco / Drug topics.

Well, #3 of 5 and I started rappin' about the topics his "homework" covered.

#2 of 5 set down the Calvin and Hobbes, and joined in - which was good, but in
some ways, he has such a stronger personality that #3 of 5, that he tends to
overpower the conversation. I was glad to see him join in, but had to "remind"
him that it was #3 of 5's assignment, and perhaps he should answer first...
Through the assignment, one of the questions asked was "What type of message do advertisements for tobacco products send, and how can that be viewed as a mixed message" (Not an exact quote of the question, but that's the "jist" of it.)

And, of course we talked about the Marlboro Man, Joe Camel, and all the "Beautiful People" that adorn the pool side cabanas, beaches, and "cool kids" clubs in all the adds. We talked about why advertisers don't put hospital beds, chemo patients, or tumors in their pictures. This led us slightly off topic, and we started talking about how other advertisers get you to "want" or feel like you "need" their product too (iPod). We also came up with our own marketing / advertisement character named "Ciggy Butthead" (that's the great thing about having both a sense of humor that matches that of your "tween" or teen-aged boys!) Oh, we had quite a few laughs over "Ciggy Butthead"!

Marketing... Oh yeah, that's what I was going to talk about here - Marketing...

So, anyway, while discussing the "Marketing" of cigarettes with my boys, I remembered something from my youth. Something you don't just "find" at any old store. Candy Cigarettes. Sure, you can find them in some "retro" shops, and on-line, but I have not seen these things sitting on the shelves of any local gas, convenience, or drug stores in many - many years. Also, when was the last time you actually SAW a kid eating candy cigarettes??? Can you think of a bigger ploy to try and get kids smoking (other than giving them free cigarettes)?? It's amazing that anyone over the age of 30 grew up as a non-smoker!

Which got me thinking... I wonder how I dodged the smoking bullet.

Yeah, I enjoy the occasional cigar, and around hunting season, enjoy them a little bit more often (blushing), and I own a couple of pipes, that I'll "pack" and fire up once and a while. (Packed with "legal" tobacco!) Yet, I find the thought of smoking cigarettes most repugnant (not to mention too costly for my budget!)

My Mother smokes. She has for as long as I can remember.
She has tried to quit a number of times, and has had (off and on) mild successes
with it - but in the end, she is still a smoker. She makes it a point to "not be
seen smoking" around the kids - which I guess is O.K. - but as a believer in the
"teach kids through real life lessons" & "don't shelter kids from
everything" philosophy of child raising, I am not "afraid" to let the kids know
that their Grandmother smokes. In fact, Grandma's smoking can open a dialog
between them someday on reasons not to start smoking! They see me smoke a cigar
(or pipe) from time to time.
My Grandparents smoked (for many years). They even had all the fancy "smoking accessories" like tabletop lighters, chrome and fabric cigarette holders, and fancy cigarette pack/match book holders (with clasps like the old coin purses). As (very young) kids, my sister and I used to try to find old receipts on the ground, and we folded them to look like a match book, and used to play "lighting ciggys"...

Growing up, my parents friends smoked. In fact, we used to go to Christmas parties at a particular home of one of their friends. By the end of the evening, the air inside the house was (no exaggeration) BLUE. Breathing was difficult, and it even felt like the air was "thick". As a youngster, I took it upon myself to step outside every few minutes (in December or January) just to get some fresh air. It would (literally) make me ill. (I never told my parents this until many years later - so don't go bashing on them... Also, it was the early 70's. People smoked... pretty much everywhere, and anytime. No one gave it a second thought...)

I had friends growing up that smoked. They were respectful of my choice to not smoke. They never made me feel left out for not smoking, nor did they pressure me to smoke. I just never had a desire to start smoking.

My one and only cigarette came as a young adult (about 20 years old) when (while working overnight security for a local "Horse Racing facility") I found a pack of cigarettes laying on the floor. Boredom got the better of me, and I decided to light one up - just to give it a try. I only took one puff into my lungs, and I had enough. The cigarette was extinguished, and the remainder of the pack went into the trash. One-and-done.

It was not until many years later that I was introduced to the cigar, and although I enjoy the occasional cigar, I would hardly call myself "addicted". The last cigar I had would have been sometime in October - during duck hunting season. I have a stash of them, (and several mason jars of canned piped tobacco) squirreled away for that beautiful morning in the duck boat, or that delightful afternoon of tinkerin' in the garage, or that gorgeous spring evening on the deck..

So, until that time comes that (as an ADULT) my kids can sit down with their ol' man and enjoy a cigar on the porch, patio, or deck (or duck boat) - I hope that they too can dodge the "tobacco bullet" as I have. (Although I think it is easier now than it was before. We know a lot more about the adverse affects of smoking, and there is more help out there to quit, or to keep kids from starting in the first place.)

On a side note... Another thing about my wife, the amazing Mother of Five. She was a smoker. When she found out she was expecting #1 of 5, she quit - cold turkey, no questions asked, and has never looked back. She did so because she knew the risks involved with smoking and pregnancy... She tackled a very difficult task (quitting smoking) for the sake of her unborn child. Reason #578 that I love her so darn much!

(* If you are a fan of the 80's and 90's cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes, then the Calvin and Hobbes Complete Collection is a MUST HAVE! If you are not sure if it is "worth it", you have my word that it IS indeed worth it!)


  1. I remember those candy cigs. How about the gum cigs that used to puff out "smoke" once the puffing was done you could chew the gum for oh about 5 seconds before it was rock hard. Gotta love those old kid candies.

    Interesting about your smoking encounters. I too, have a parent that smoked. My father quit smoking about 10 years ago. One time I caught him lighting up on the deck when I was in my early 20's (he had assured my Mom and I that he quit). I remember how hurt I was. I was so upset - crying hysterically! I hated to see him smoke. Maybe that was the reason why it was easy for me to say "no" to drugs/cigs.
    In the 80's, my friends smoked but they never put pressure on me to smoke either.
    To this day, I can't stand the smell of smoke! We (Dad Stuff) and I, stress the dangers of smoking to our kids. I hope they will take our advice and never "light up".
    ** Have you seen the price of a pack of cigs? Wow - $$ spendy!
    Good Post!

  2. Candy cigarettes - now there's a rich vein of anecdotes !

    We of course had them all the time as kids but like you in the States you can't find them in the shops in the UK now - but they are not so strict in most European countries.


    When a crowd of us went to the south of France to watch our rugby team play there we "imported" boxes and boxes full of candy cigarettes and some very realistic ones that were actually chocolate sticks wrapped in edible paper with a red candy bit at the end.

    We took them to nearly every rugby ground in the UK last season and as smoking in sports stadiums is banned in here you can imagine the reaction we got when we'd all "light one up" - without fail at every ground stewards were called and we were informed, sometimes very rudely, to "put that out".

    The pleasure you get from showing a pompous steward that you're actually chewing on a candy stick is immense, very childish, but immense :)

  3. How strange - spooky even. Today I was out with the family in alocal town and went into a little newsagents shop for an icecream - as one does in the middle of February in England!

    As I was looking around the 'packed to the gunnells' shop I noticed a box of 'candy sticks' on a shelf. THEY were sweet cigarettes but without the pink end. I thought to myself "Wow, I haven't seen them in years"

    So maybe you need to look for candy sticks?

    Here in the UK we banned smoking in public places last year. What a difference to the quality of social life. (not that I have much of one these days. I can come home from an evening out and not stink of cigarettes. If I had to stand outside in the cold and rain just to puff on some nicotine I'd definitely give up!


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