When Ashtrays Were Everywhere

If you had to name just one thing that stands as the biggest difference between the 60's and 70's and our modern day, you might as well say "smoking".  It's hard to imagine, unless you were there, how omnipresent cigarettes were back in the day. You were never more than a stones throw away from an ashtray.

Game show hosts took long hard drags while they did their shtick, people smoked on airplanes, doctors smoked right in front of you, even Barney Rubble enjoyed a fag once and a while...

I think everyone is familiar with the fact that pretty much every celeb was a tobacco pusher at one time or another; the retro-blogs are littered with cigarette ads featuring the likes of Ronald Reagan, John Wayne and Lucille Ball.  Not only that, but supposed medical doctors also peddled the cancer sticks in magazine ads.

So, picture yourself as a kid in a car with the windows rolled up and both parents are chain smoking - this was not at all uncommon in the 70's.  Pregnant moms and juveniles often had no problem purchasing some coffin nails either.  Ashtrays were everywhere: in the movie theater, in the church, at the library, in Sears, at the pool, in television commercials, etc. etc.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not waxing nostalgic. Eradicating cigarettes has been a positive change, to be sure. It wasn't a pretty sight - possibly the worst thing was the cigarette butts EVERYWHERE.  Time travel back to the 1970's, and take a look at any sidewalk in the country, and I guarantee you can't take two steps without seeing either a pop top or cigarette butt.  Good riddance.


  1. I instantly age myself when I tell people about smoking sections at my high school.

    I age myself when I tell of smoking in restaurants, businesses, HOSPITALS.

    Yeah, the good old days. I can't tell you how many times I've frozen my ass outside. I really should quit, but it's my only vice. Too old to drink anymore, too cheap to buy drugs.

    Is this about the time I check myself into the home?

    1. I remember the smoking section in my high school days . I THINK that it was by one of the parking lots but , since I never smoked , I cannot be 100 % accurate . But , yes , I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s ,so I well remember smoking being omnipresent .

  2. Another thought provoking post that I completely agree with. One question: is the first ad something like "A silly millimeter longer-101" or something like that. I remember Benson and Hedges had the 100s, but who had the 101s?

  3. I remember those days, ashtrays like phone booths have vanished with the times.

  4. I smoke everywhere - and I've been everywhere. The 60s continue to live on at my blog...



  5. Cigarette butts are still everywhere. My former employee had adopted a stretch of road near the plant where I worked. 3-4 times a year we would go out an pick up litter along the mile or so long stretch. There were countless butts along the road each time we went out. We did our best but it was impossible to pick up them all.

  6. Smoking in the grocery store, smoking in department store dressing rooms, ash trays in every ladies room stall - that's nostalgia. (Now everyone over 50, fess up that the real job of stinking with tobacco smoke was to mask the smell of a certain potent potable.)

  7. Both my parents smoked in the 50s and 60s. One of my chores around the house was to clean the dirty ashtrays. I hated it. It is perhaps the main reason I never smoked. Aversion therapy, I guess.

  8. Amazingly, my parents did not smoke, but we nevertheless had ashtrays all over the house, for company and for the bridge players -- I hated coming home from school on bridge day, the house stank.

  9. When I was 4 or 5 (this would've been 1978 or '79) we visited my Aunt Vicky in the hospital. I had taken one of those little Dixie cups full of water, left it on a high (to me at the time) table and gone away.

    When I came back, I reached up to get it, took a sip without looking and discovered that Aunt Jean had used it as an ashtray in my absence. The immediate result was a spit take of such epic intensity that I would be hard-pressed to replicate it as a grown man today. The enduring result has been a lifelong revulsion to all forms of tobacco.

  10. Dack ThrombosisFebruary 27, 2010

    Heh. Those were the good old days. I remember as a kid walking around in the mall and seeing those stand alone ashtrays just overflowing with cigarette butts. You'd go to the grocery store and there was always one guy whose job consisted of nothing more than moving a big broom around all the aisles in order to pick up all the butts. Yep, people smoked in the grocery store and then put their butts out on the floor. And why wouldn't you? You think I'm gonna walk and find an ashtray?