Winstons ... Salems ... Marlboros ... Tareytons ... Camels ... Lucky Strikes ...
Those were among the brands smoked by a motley crew of aspiring junior-high delinquents near the scoreboard at the late, great St. Andrews High School’s home football games in the mid-1960s.
But as a member of that trouble-seeking bunch rooting for the Rocks, my cigarette choice was Kool.
We were trying — and failing in the eyes of all but the hopelessly undiscerning — to look Kool, er, cool.
Nearly half a century later, most Americans have long ago correctly concluded that smoking is decidedly un-cool.
And the proliferation of cigarette butts in Cannon Park is rightly sparking heated objections. As reported by Schuyler Kropf and Lauren Sausser on our front page Friday, “even smokers are appalled” by that toxic trash.
Yet as the story also reported: “Ten weeks have passed since smoking was banned around the Medical University and Roper Hospital campuses, and it’s apparent the smoking crowd has moved their habit a few blocks away.”
Maybe City of Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen can dispatch undercover officers to catch the culprits in the butt-dropping act. Maybe MUSC President Ray Greenberg, who said school officials plan to confer with city officials on how to counter this menace, can enlist underlings into posses that would bring those park despoilers to justice.
That would be a variation on this theme from Thursday’s front page: A proposed city ordinance, backed by Mullen and Mayor Joe Riley, “would require bar operators to provide security, police sidewalks in front of their business and make sure their parking lots are cleared out 30 minutes after closing time.”
But there’s no maybe about this: Tolerance for smoking — and smokers — has been virtually stomped out since our scruffy band of puffing punks dumped our butts behind the scoreboard.
Nobody hassled us about our smoking — or our littering.
Yet we knew smoking was bad for us. And cigarette packages have said so thanks to federally ordered warnings printed on them since 1966.
Still, when we attended St. Andrews High School from 1968-71, it had an on-campus smoking area outside — for students. During that same period, according to a reliable source, Ashley Hall had an on-campus smoking room — for students.
By the 10th grade, though, my pursuit of coolness no longer entailed tobacco use — though my reason for giving it up now eludes fading memory capacity.
Nevertheless, it’s fun, while urging smokers to quit, to hail my ability to do so “cold turkey” — after indulging regularly from ages 11 to 14.
These days, of course, you can’t legally buy cigarettes in most states, including this one, until you’re 18. But a federal judge has ruled that you can buy the morning-after pill at any age without a prescription. (The Obama administration wants to limit those purchases to customers who are 15 and over.)
Back to old times here not forgotten:
We could legally buy alcohol at age 18 — and illegally buy it without much trouble at many Charleston area taverns before age 18. Now you have to be 21.
You can, however, still legally fight and die for our country at age 18. You just can’t legally have a beer to unwind from the stress of combat.
And if you own a restaurant or bar, you can’t let patrons smoke there in many communities, including Charleston.
A mere decade ago, considerable resistance arose to that spreading modern prohibition.
But this capitalism fan is among previous free-marketeer holdouts who have switched sides in the fight. We were persuaded by this compelling argument:
While folks who want to eat and/or drink can choose which establishments they enter, the folks who work where smoking is allowed spend a major chunk of their waking lives breathing secondhand smoke. That cigarette stink isn’t just unpleasant. It’s unhealthy.
As for the reflexive rebelliousness stirred within when do-gooder troopers tell us what’s verboten, don’t let that resentment blind you to what cigarette packs have warned for the last 47 years:
Smoking is bad for you.
So if you’re among the dwindling ranks of exiled tobacco fiends still scratching that risky itch in ever-shrinking spaces, remember, you don’t have to live — or boost your chances of dying — that way.
You can quit smoking — and littering.
After all, I did.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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