News Columns & Blogs

Smoking is going the way of the spittoon

I have known people who love to smoke. Some claim they couldn’t think without a drag of lighted tobacco. Others like the taste. Or they think it makes them look cool.

Some use it as a diet tool to stay slim. I have five sisters, and I think four of them smoked to keep their figures. Maybe it was all five.

And me? I tried it when I went into the Army, when cigarettes were 21 cents a packet and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” was playing on the radio.

I didn’t get through half a pack before quitting. I didn’t enjoy the taste or the sensation and I had a hard time understanding why anyone would smoke.

In a sign of the times, smoking is being banned at State College of Florida, starting at the Lakewood Ranch campus Jan. 3, and then at the Bradenton and Venice campuses May 9.

No smoking will be allowed in buildings, on the grounds, in the parking lots, at SCF-sponsored events off campus, or in SCF-owned vehicles.

USF Sarasota-Manatee and New College of Florida still have limited smoking areas on their grounds, but none in buildings.

Although there are still plenty of smokers out there -- amazingly enough given all the scientific evidence that smoking kills -- the habit has fallen out of favor.

Nonsmokers don’t want anyone smoking around their babies and children, or in their homes. It smells bad, and once we become accustomed to a smoke-free environment, the lingering odor of cigarette smokes is foul indeed.

It’s a revelation to look at old movies and see everyone smoking in them.

My own family probably helped some of them get addicted, I’m sad to say.

Tobacco was the No. 1 cash crop on my grandfather’s small farm in South Boston, Va.

I never forgot how unpleasant those fat, green leaves were to the touch, or how the plants oozed when “suckers” were pruned. Suckers were the auxiliary buds that would sprout when the plant was topped.

Topping of the tobacco plant -- snapping off the top bud -- would improve the quality of the leaf by sending more nutrients to the leaves.

I remember the barns where tobacco would be hung from wooden stakes and cured. Even as a child, I thought smoking was bad for the health, but seeing those large leafs turning golden brown in a tobacco barn, I never suspected what a deadly crop it was.

Much later as a brand-new working journalist in the late 1970s, I remember being in a small newsroom in Clewiston with three writers who were heavy smokers. The smoke in that room could be overwhelming.

Later at another newspaper in New Smyrna Beach in the late 1980s, I remember breaking the news to the newsroom that we would be smoke-free. No argument from anyone, but lots of funny looks. The smoking moved outside by the back door.

Now at SCF, the smoking is moving off campus. I have sympathy for those who have a smoking addiction, but I think SCF is approaching it correctly by providing a support system for them.

Times and trends change. I’m not sure that smoking will ever go away, but it is being put in its place.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.