I never smoked when younger; consequently I am over seven-feet tall. Well, I smoked for about a fortnight when was 14, and because my growth was dramatically stunted, I now stand at six-foot (when not slouching and sporting Cuban heels).
My mother smoked about forty JPS a day, my father 50% more in Senior Service, my maternal grandmother smoked Weights and her sister was seemingly sponsored by Embassy (for interesting facts about collecting Embassy coupons, please see https://wordpress.com/post/mikerichards.blog/54 – new readers start here!).
Temptation was all around. Cigarettes were sold at the porter’s lodge within Du Cane Court where I lived; if you didn’t want either smoking-like-a-trooper parent catching you, there was a newsagent in Glenburnie Road in Tooting which would sell them individually (you’d have to go in the newsagents a great deal if you were collecting the coupons for sheets – or a new lung).
In the early 70s no one realised the inherent dangers of smoking – cigarette sponsorship was everywhere: I’m surprised my Auntie Vera wasn’t as good a snooker player as Alex Higgins although I did have another Aunt who had a similar physique to Jocky Wilson. Cigarette ads were always on the back covers of men’s magazines. Whenever I went to the barbers these magazines were always evident although before I was put on the bench and my mother explained to the barber in broken Greek (from whence the barbers had come) I’d never noticed the ads – I was too busy reading the thought-provoking articles which graced the likes of Penthouse and Men Only.
Luckily for me I never really ventured past sweet cigarettes (arguably worse for your teeth than actual fags were for your lungs) – I would pretend I was smoking, but never had the street cred for this to look realistic as I’d be constructing the Thunderbirds puzzle with the cards I’d collected.
Smoking saw off most of my aforementioned relatives; although my mum always maintained there was nothing more satisfying than sucking on an old Churchwarden!
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