Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Vintage 1950's Etiquette Advice for Smokers and Nonsmokers Alike

In all fairness, it must be admitted that smokers annoy nonsmokers.

On the Genial Vice of Smoking

Now, most etiquette books seem to contain more gravy than meatballs. They tend to shut their eyes to life as it is lived. But not every boat you get into is the good ship Lollipop. Not every story has a jolly ending, or every situation a perfect solution. Bearing these things in mind, then, let us consider the existing cold war between the smoker and the nonsmoker.

Smokers and nonsmokers will never see eye to eye. The nonsmoker can't comprehend that good raw clutch at the bronchials and the resultant feeling of dim placidity which the smoker feels with his first drag on a fresh cigarette. The smoker can't understand what the nonsmoker does with his time. The best the two can hope for is an armed truce.
A place setting from a Lyndon Johnson White House State Dinner, with cigarettes and ashtrays for the guests at the table.  It wasn't until the Clinton administration that smoking was banned in the White House at the dining tables.
In all fairness it must be admitted that smokers annoy nonsmokers. I know of no smokers who ever got sick from watching a nonsmoker not smoking. But I do know some people who turn pea green at one sniff of the smoke from a cigarette or a pipe or cigar.

Furthermore, the smoker's sins against etiquette outnumber the nonsmokers, five to one. Still, the nonsmoker can usually comfort himself, as he digs the butts out of the dirt around his philodendron, by reflecting on the latest lung-disease statistics. And the smoker can always assuage his hurt feelings--caused by that lady's icy stare on the bus--by lighting another cigarette.

Let's remember, too, that smokers annoy other smokers. One complicating factor is the international butting order: The pipe smoker looks down on the cigarette smoker, and they both look down upon the cigar smoker.

So let us consider the basic rules each group should abide by, in order to live in moderate comfort together.
"Excuse me, but I believe your nose is lit."

Good Manners for the Nonsmoker

He really ought to provide some decent ash trays* in his quarters, at least one ash tray per room.  This will cut down on the number of butts in the potted plants.  And if you will keep some sand-filled flower pots outdoors, on the patio or the lawn, smokers won't be so apt to grind out their cigarettes on the tile or flip them onto the grass to ugly themselves away.

He shouldn't expect to be asked, by a cigarette smoker, if he objects to smoking, unless he is over 90 or unless this ill-matched pair should find itself in a small closed compartment, like a telephone booth.  Asking permission is expected today only of pipe and cigar smokers.

He mustn't whisk an ash tray away the minute it holds an ash, for the smoker doesn't really notice these things until this ash tray runneth over.  The big danger here is that the nonsmoker will whisk away an ash tray holding the true shank of the smoke: A cigarette which has burned down to its -- for the smoker -- precisely perfect length and feeling of lived-with comfort. (With some smokers this is 1 5/8 inches, with others, 1 1/2 inches.)

And the nonsmoker must use a pleasant Approach Direct, instead of a pained look, when the wind wafts smoke in his face.  He must ask the smoker to please move his cigarette or the ash tray. (Smokers are often absent-minded and unperceptive, although they don't mean to annoy people. But pained looks annoy them, and they tend answer with a good puff.)
"Some people say I was hard on smoking in my new book on etiquette. Actually, I was hard on smokers--some smokers.  I do not like ash droppers. I dislike cigarette butts on my hearth, in my potted plants and ground out on my best china. I do not like to see people smoking throughout their meals. I like considerate smokers. I like to see a man light his woman companion's cigarette. I like to know my escort is thoughtful enough to carry my brand, which, not so incidentally, is Lucky Strike." Amy Vanderbilt, on "The Etiquette of Smoking" in 1950's magazine advertisement for cigarettes

Good Manners for the Smoker

He mustn't smoke in elevators. Cigarette smokers are especially prone to palm their cigarettes for the short ride down to 5, which is against most building regulations and burns holes in people's clothes.

He mustn't smoke where there are No Smoking signs, for these usually mean business. It is bad form to explode a plane load of people or blow a hospital sky high. He must use whatever self-control he can scrape together on long bus rides, especially in bad weather when the windows are closed.
Pipe smokers have long been considered the nobility of the smoking fraternity, for reasons that are not immediately clear... 
He mustn't go smoking to the table when he is a dinner guest in someone's house. Perhaps it holds no ash trays; the hostess may have planned to set them forth later. If she does not, by the end of the meal, the smoker may correctly ask for one. Using his saucer or plate is Pigsville. (So is dropping a cigarette butt into the toilet without flushing it promptly.)

Pipe smokers have long been considered the nobility of the smoking fraternity, for reasons that are not immediately clear, and the longer you think about them, the fuzzier they become. The pipe smoker's ash tray, full of decayed yellow pipe cleaners garnished with dottle, is actually pretty disgusting, no matter how virile the pipe smoker may look biting his briar. Pipe smokers should clean up after themselves and quickly.

Also, remembering some people dislike pipes just on general principles, from the pipe smoke itself to the sucking noises pipe smokers so often make while playing with their pipes, the pipe smokers should, in most indoor situations, ask permission. Then, when he gets it, he should pay particular attention to the audience reaction. The all-pervasive aroma of some of the sweet rum-fudge-and-butterscotch mixtures would gag a goat.
The cigar smoker must be careful, too, about invading feminine quarters with stogie in hand.
Cigar smokers must always ask permission anywhere. And they must leave those big, fat, chewed, soggy cigar butts in ash trays. They can bury them or flush them or swallow them -- no matter, but they must do something.

The cigar smoker must be careful, too, about invading feminine quarters with stogie in hand. A cigar smoking man, picking up his wife at the hairdresser's, can quickly have the shop smelling like the City Hall. This is unkind to go to the ladies and to Mr. Tony.

Women Who Smoke

Etiquette rules for the woman smoker are the same as those for men, except for the fact that she can't smoke on the street and look ladylike. Even today, this gives her a Sadie Thompson or beatnik or washerwoman effect, depending on her age and build.
When should a man light a woman's cigarette?  According to 1953's The New Esquire Etiquette: A Guide to Business, Sports & Social Conduct, on secretaries who smoke, "If she's sitting within reach of a lighter and if she's not crippled, nobody expects you to walk a mile with a match." but  "Light her cigarettes, be you ever so far across the room whenever she is apparently lightless." 
Two errors in etiquette are still committed occasionally by the woman smoker. One is never having cigarettes or matches, only the habit. Most men consider this fairly charmless. (And these lassies learn quickly, of course, that they can't get away with it at all, with other women.)  The second error is expecting her cigarettes to be lit for her even though matches are on the table beside her. I know a camellia blossom who will sit endlessly with cigarette poised, waiting for some man to quit whatever he's doing and light it. This is bad manners, for it makes other people uncomfortable, and it is not the action of a lady, but of a blob of glup.

Which brings up the question: When should a man light a woman's cigarette? Most women would answer, not when he must cross the room to do so.**  If a man lunges with a lighter from 15 feet away every time she fumbles, a woman will presently get the uneasy feeling that she's smoking too much.  And he shouldn't butt in if she has her own cigarette lighter already to flick.  After all, she didn't bring that cute little gadget along for a paperweight.  She likes to use it and show off its pretty monogram.  Also, lighting her own cigarette gives her a small feeling of accomplishment, which, in this push-button age, isn't to be sneezed at.

One more tobacco crumb: Formerly, when two smokers were lighting up, it was de rigueur to light one's own cigarette first. But that was in the days of sulfur matches, when the first cigarette lit was apt to taste of the fumes of hell. Today, courtesy dictates that the lighter light his own last.

*Smaller than a breadbox, bigger than a tangerine, and grooved for the specific purpose of keeping cigarettes from a) burning themselves out and b) slipping off on the table top.  No porcelain pin trays; no lalique shells.

**Although if she is using and unobtrusive matchbook imprinted HYMIE'S GAS STATION, he might as well.

Main text from "I Try to Behave Myself, Peg Bracken's Etiquette Book" 1959

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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