I bought cigarettes when I was 9 years old.
The brand was Pall Mall.
The East Avenue Market grocer sold them to me. Lincoln Pharmacy cashier too.
My mother approved of it.
This is the same parent who had no qualms about me walking almost two miles one way to school and then coming back in rain, fog or 100 degree heat.
And she had no problem with the fact that it involved crossing two state highways, one of which—Highway 65—had heavy truck traffic, no school crossing guards, and no traffic lights. The other state road, Route 193, often had logging trucks.
No, my mother was not Ma Barker. She was also not on Child Protective Services’ “ten most wanted list”.
It was in the mid 1960s.
People smoked in restaurants. They were smoking in the cars. They were smoking in the jury rooms.
Cable TV, the back of milk cartoons, and the Internet hadn’t made parents worry about their children being abducted by a stranger.
A little rain or a lot of heat weren’t treated like the plague.
Most parents weren’t worried about their kids not being careful crossing the street. It was mainly because they explained to them what they had to do.
The kids were kids on the loose before a six-figure child psychologist coined the phrase.
So how did I become?
Well, there are more than a few people who could answer such a question with the words “not too well”.
I have no smoking-related health issues despite having my lungs full of acid smoke during my early years in restaurants as well as in my early twenties during marathon Lincoln and Rocklin city council meetings that lasted five at six o’clock where visibility at 1 a.m. rivaled that of being mired in thick fog.
I attribute my lack of smoke-related health problems to the fact that I have never smoked.
Even though today you have to show ID that you’re 21 before an employee unlocks a cabinet to sell you cigarettes, all it took back then for a nine-year-old years buys them was a note from a relative.
It would simply say “my son Dennis ‘has permission to buy cigarettes from me'” with my mother’s signature.
Of course, they knew my mother. All trips to the store included the return of other items such as bread, milk, etc. It’s amazing how quickly you can get the groceries you need delivered to your doorstep that day without having to use your Amazon app while your kids are exercising.
Gone are the days of parents scribbling notes to buy things for them that are now kept locked up and requiring you to show valid California ID even if you look older than Mick Jagger to buy them since a long time.
So does the image of visiting your family doctor as a child after gravity interrupted a tree-climbing challenge and the doctor put out his cigarette in an ashtray upon entering. in the exam room.
Those days were back in the mid-1960s when no one outside of Rogers, Arkansas had ever heard of Sam Walton or Walmart. This is when Kmart was all the rage and kids chewed on candy cigarettes or bubblegum cigars with total abandon.
Candy and chewing gum marketed as cigarettes and cigars? What pagans, aren’t they?
Today, the politically correct mob is said to have consumed so many digital bytes raging on social media that an interested prosecutor would find a way to use laws aimed at combating organized crime to put the leaders of the clothing companies selling candy cigarettes in prison for 10 years for life for selling “poison” to children.
It’s ironic in a way that no one seems too concerned that candy per se is too accessible to kids unless, of course, they’re shaped like cigarettes.
Although I’ve had my share of candy cigarettes and chewed a number of bubblegum cigars, I’ve never smoked the real version of either.
That said, I’ve been known to make simple M&Ms like some junkies make pills.
I’m not saying to treat candy like cigarettes or even to advocate banning what is considered poison in the form of tobacco products or taxing sugary drinks and such like crumbs. We all have our vices and when you’re an adult it’s a personal choice. The only condition being that the use of such products should have no impact on the comfort and health of others and you accept responsibility for indulging too much, whether it is lung and heart problems related to tobacco products or sweets-related health and heart problems.
Walmart’s recent decision this week to remove cigarettes from some of its stores in California and several other states is not made under the hammer of woke submission or driven by a desire to create a certain corporate image.
Cigarettes are still available at more than 200,000 locations in the United States — primarily gas stations and convenience stores — across the country. Walmart’s decision does not reduce the ease with which cigarettes can be purchased for those who want to participate.
At the same time, Walmart is not giving in to the demands that since the cigarettes have been found to be hazardous to health, they must remove the cigarettes from their shelves. There are many things sold at Walmart – as well as hardware stores, supermarkets and even health food stores – that can be used to kill you if used incorrectly, indulged in a repetitive and consistent manner or weld like a weapon.
Walmart’s decision was driven by changing times.
We are moving from expanding stores to renovating to cope with the increase in business volumes.
The space occupied by enclosed cigarettes in some stores is being converted to more self-service checks.
It’s a business decision about the most efficient use of space and labor that now costs $20 an hour in some markets because cigarette purchases require verification of the identification and locking and unlocking of windows.
The world has changed a lot since the day a parent was able to send a child to the store with a note to buy him a pack of cigarettes.
Back then, you still needed a clerk to get you out of the store and take your money.
You can’t do that today if you’re selling cigarettes under lock and key.
This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Courier or 209 Multimedia.