May I Offer You A Cigarette?

This will come as a shock to many but it once was considered polite to offer your pack of cigarettes around when you took it out of your pocket. Now, people would think you were offering them a serpent but in those carefree days when you could smoke anywhere, and did, most everyone else smoked so it was rude to light a cigarette and not offer cigarettes to others. No one ever took you up on this, or rarely, since each person had their own pack of cigarettes and a smoker was loyal to his brand. Sort of like rooting for a sports team.

“No thank you, I only smoke Winston’s.”

If you were a guy and another guy offered his cigarettes and they were Parliaments or something wimpy like that, then one made an offensive remark. “No thanks. Only teenage girls smoke those.”

This was more fun than it sounds.

About six years ago when I was making a visit to see my old pals in New Orleans, I got into a cab at the airport — the New Orleans airport. There were signs in the cab: No Smoking Under Penalty of Law! Smoking Prohibited by Law!. As we got onto the interstate the driver pulled out his pack of cigarettes and before taking one for himself, held the pack over the seat towards me, “cigarette?” he inquired. You have to love New Orleans where laws are more a guideline than fixed rules — sort of like the way drivers in DC observe the huge signs which say: “Stop For Pedestrian In Walkway.”

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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