When Did You Quit Smoking?

TV screen Athens 02-09-1069I have no idea why I took several photos of a TV screen, but this image caused me to pause because you won’t see it today. Cigarette ads were as ubiquitous in the 1960s as car ads are today. (To be honest, I don’t know what ads are running these days. One of the advantage of TiVo is that I bleep right past the ads like they were names in a Russian novel.

The last national cigarette ad

Want to take a guess what the last cigarette ad was and when it ran? I’ve already looked it up for you.

On New Year’s night, 1971, millions of Americans were tuned in to NBC to watch the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. At 11: 59 Johnny went to a commercial break, something he had done thousands of times since he took over the Tonight Show in 1962. But there was something special about this break, a 1 minute commercial for Virginia Slims cigarettes. Cigarette commercials had been a mainstay of advertising in the first 25 years of television. But this commercial was different. It was the last cigarette commercial broadcast nationally in the United States. One minute later at midnight on January 2, 1971, The “Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act” went into effect. This law banned the advertising of cigarettes and tobacco product on television and radio.

Dad quit cold turkey

LV Steinhoff smokes at kitchen table March 1961It was rare to see a photo of Dad without a cigarette in his hand or nearby when I was growing up.

One New Year’s Day I found him crankier than usual. I had stayed out a little later than I was supposed to and he jumped all over me. That usually didn’t happen.

A couple of weeks later, he let us in on his secret: he had decided to give up smoking at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. He threw all his cigarettes in the fireplace without telling any of us until he was sure he could do it.

He never smoked again, although he chewed a lot of gum and ate a lot of hard candy for quite awhile.

I was lucky. I never took up the habit. Maybe that’s why I’m still around. Dad and his brothers died at or before 60.