‘Mrs. Claus is a right fine Woman’ aka ‘Booze or Fags’ Part ii

She knows I feel weary from lugging my sack,
So, bless her – she fetches that famous blue pack,
An’ says to me: “Santa – just fill up your briar,
An’ set yourself down in this chair by the fire!”

...reads an old Edgeworth tobacco advertisement from the bygone era.

Believe it or not, tobacco was promoted as the ideal Christmas Gift, their spokesperson being none other than the man in the red suit, himself. Some of the cigarettes, like Old Golds claimed that they were “less irritating, or easier on the throat, or contains less nicotine...” and that “conclusion was established on evidence by the United States Government.”

“Quickest way to a Man’s heart” reads the headline in a 1940’s White Owl Cigar ad that shows a pretty bimbo on Santa’s lap. “He’ll purr like a kitten when he tastes their rich Havana flavour... watch him beam with joy at their mellow mildness...” reads the body copy.

In addition to advertising, smoking was promoted by the medical community in the beginning – often recommended to pregnant women as well as patients with hypertension, to calm their nerves. From health, to fashion, to bonding, to taste – tobacco ads promoted smoking as THE thing to do in the good old days, and these claims were sometimes backed by ‘scientific evidence.’

A few decades later, most of those who ran such ads lost millions in law suits – and the tables turned.

Smoking is harmful to your health. And we know it. And yes, there is scientific evidence – more credible than the US Govt data above.

Going back to the question where this rambling began, is smoking socially acceptable?

My answer, Nope. Smoking is not socially acceptable, heavy or not. But, that’s doesn’t mean I’m against smoking.

A cigarette is your best friend. Specially when you are blue. I have watched cigarettes burn away – one millimeter by millimeter in the longest, darkest nights of my life. Trust me when I say this: A cigarette IS your best friend, no one could’ve taken its place.

A cigarette is all you need. In the crazy, demanding world of advertising, sometimes all you need is a smoke to stimulate your gray cells and find that illusive ‘idea’ that’s been hovering around you. Viola! A Breakthrough.

A cigarette is an ice breaker. How many times have I, and of course many thousands of others all over the world, piggy-backed on a cigarette to approach a pretty lass and break in to a conversation? Tough life for non-smokers – a chewing gum doesn’t work the same.

A cigarette is the ultimate. There’s this story about a Russian chick who drank for the first time, ended up in some bloke’s bed and lost her virginity. She wakes up in the morning and comes to her senses, quite shocked at herself, reaches for the bloke’s cigarettes in disbelief, and lights one up. Realising what she has done, she suddenly screams: “Oh my God, oh my God, if my mother only knows that I’m smoking a cigarette..!”

A cigarette demands respect. Yours truly – a father of two – still doesn’t light up a cigarette in front of his mother.

A cigarette keeps you warm inside. Have you ever been stuck in the middle of nowhere, freezing? A coffee is a good substitute, but you cannot have a coffee in your pocket; plus you can’t have them one after the other.

A cigarette is fashionable. Just ask anyone who smokes. Or look at the brands that sell “slims” or “100’s” – or the “tips” and accessories that go in to any woman’s or man’s wardrobe. Or look at the success of “Zippo” – it says it all.

A cigarette is a great leveller. I have turned many a volatile situation in my favour by simply offering a cigarette.

A cigarette is worth a lot more than its value in rupees. Ask the guys who get parking spots in my building.

A cigarette is for everyone. It knows no gender, race, age, disability or anything of that sort that divides and discriminates the human race.

A cigarette is for every where. You could take a cigarette for a walk, to the park, or to the beach, have it in the car, out of the car – just about anywhere. You can’t take your tea, or the booze along the same way, could you?

A cigarette takes away the tension. No wonder it was recommended to pregnant women.

A cigar or a pipe makes you look intelligent. There is an aura of intelligence that emanates from the smoke – especially if it is a black and white family portrait.

A cigar makes you look very sexy. I’m thinking female, blonde, blue eyes, Martini, black stilettos. Get the picture?

Cigarette is the best invention of the mankind. Totally useless, completely hazardous to one’s health but sells in millions everyday all over the world, even without a word of advertising – amidst various bans and counter-promotive measures. Now, top that, Einstein.

Smoking, is an art. Just like the Wines, Whiskeys, Coffees, Cheese and the lot, the art of smoking is to be mastered. The islanders only know the taste of local virginia flavour, but there’s a fine tobacco for every mood, taste, and the occasion. From cigarettes to cigars to pipe-blends and rolio’s; the art of smoking can only be mastered by trying out the various blends and origins – not by reading in the books. There’s hardly any tobacconists in our town, what a pity.

Tobacco is part of our heritage. Rothman’s, one of the oldest British brands ventured in to the international arena starting from Ceylon at the beginning of the century. They opened a factory in Ceylon in 1935; which was unfortunately shut in two years due to shortage of staff. Today, we export “Thanshers” cigars to few select countries – that’s the only remaining legacy of the tobacco industry.

From the distant tribes of Africa, to the Arabs who smoke “shiisha” or the hubbley-bubbley, smoking is a communal affair. We love company, and the company is brought to life by the booze and the smokes, largely. As long as the company enjoys a smoke, I do not see anything wrong with someone smoking – heavily or otherwise. Only rule, remember the smoke travels and affects people around you, unlike alcohol.

Having said that, here’s my epilogue: Smoke, if you must, at your own will and at your own risk. Try not to be an addict, because smoking kills – 27,000 in my island and a staggering 5.4 million throughout the world, every year.

Images from“Not a Cough in a Carload” online exhibit curated by Dr. Robert Jackler, Stanford University. Permission Pending.


  1. oh man...captivating!...need a smoke now!! damn!! lol

  2. A cigarette is a definite turn off!! (at least for me ;o)