The Slow Death Of Smoking

It’s not easy these days being a smoker.

You can’t smoke in restaurants. Or bars.

You can’t smoke on school property — not even outside.

And starting in October, you won’t even be able to buy cigarettes at CVS.

CVSThe nation’s largest drugstore chain will stop selling them (and other tobacco products), in part because its 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners are tired of treating problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease — all linked to smoking.

CVS will lose about $2 billion in sales — less than 1% of its $123 billion total last year.

Years ago, cigarette sales no doubt accounted for much more. I remember those days well.

Cigarettes 1There were cigarette machines in nearly every store. Westport Pizzeria had one, as a longtime customer noted on Facebook. (When she was underage and tried to buy a pack, owner Mel Mioli warned her of the dangers of smoking.)

Across the street, a popular store selling food and featuring pinball games was called “Bill’s Smoke Shop.”

When I was in 8th grade, some Long Lots Junior High friends and I were “hired” to help construct the carnival that set up every May in the vacant lot that is now the Barnes & Noble shopping center. Our pay? Cigarettes.

(The wisdom of using 14-year-olds to build Ferris wheels and tilt-a-whirls is the subject of another story.)

cigarettes 2And for well over a decade at Staples, there was a designated “smoking area.” The blacktop just outside the cafeteria — next to a basketball hoop, and where principal George Cohan once grilled hamburgers — was called (by some) “Cancer Plaza.” Many other students called it “home.”

Things are different now. According to a 2011 survey, 11% of Staples juniors — and just 3% of sophomores — said they smoked cigarettes. That was a 10-fold drop from a similar survey 11 years earlier.

I spend a lot of time around Staples students. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone mention cigarettes. I’m not at their parties, true — but smoking among Westport teenagers seems to be dying a slow death.

Now CVS is doing its part to hasten its demise.

If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.

7 responses to “The Slow Death Of Smoking

  1. Ed Hall, a former teacher in Westport, and a native Floridian, was the original Marlboro Man. It was “cool” to smoke at one time. I remember the smokers in the 1950s would roll up their white T-shirt sleeve to carry a pack of cigarettees. TV personalities would smoke on the air too. I smoked for over 40 years and quit eight years ago. It seemed back then if you didn’t smoke, you weren’t “cool.”

  2. Jack Backiel neglected to mention that Ed Hall died of lung cancer.

    Here’s something that cannot be said about any other drug: Cigarettes, when used as directed, are lethal. Their legality is an accident of history.

    Imagine going before the FDA today and saying you have discovered a product that will give its users a fleeting sense of pleasure but will quickly become addictive and will kill 500,000 of them every year. It’s fun, but it will be the leading cause of cancer, pulmonary diseases, heart diseases and circulatory diseases. I’m going to hazard a guess here that it would not be approved, let alone given the green light for over-the-counter sale.

    The fact that tobacco use has diminished dramatically among the young shows that “big government” does, in fact, work. Raise taxes on the product, use the money to support education and cessation programs, and people will actually listen.

    Americans are quitting smoking, and that’s a very, very good thing.


  4. David J. Loffredo

    Jay Leno put it best in his farewell monologue:

    Jay Leno has hosted The Tonight Show for a loooooong time. So tell us, Jay, how long was it?

    “Here’s how long,” he said Thursday. “When I started hosting, marijuana was illegal and you could smoke cigarettes anywhere you wanted.”

  5. Judi Simonetti

    I used to buy my cigarettes at Dorain’s Drugs! They also sold Clove cigarettes … loved those too. I remember smoking at Staples and it was just perfectly accepted by all. Then, my junior year it was banned, so we just became more “creative” on campus. I also used to go to the Fairfield U library to do homework, because they had a smoking section there too. I haven’t had a cigarette in over four years, but I used to LOVE to smoke. I do remember hanging out downtown with friends and a lot of us smoked. I never really saw any peer pressure to smoke, you either did or you didn’t. Either way, nobody really cared. Good for CVS, though!

  6. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    As the only one in my household who didn’t smoke, I was angered by the second-hand smoke. Then again, I adored the smell of my father’s pipe tobacco (and still have his pipe).

  7. Cheapest place in Westport to buy cigarettes 24/7 was the police station.