I was always one of those kids that wanted to act grown up for as long as I can remember. I wanted to be like my Mom, my mom's friends and my Aunts. I remember being as young as 5 and 6 playing with my Mom's makeup, drinking my milk or juice out of a coffee cup pretending that i was drinking coffee, and playing with those candy cigarettes pretending that i was smoking.
Back then candy cigarettes were sold all over and I always would get my mom to buy me the candy lucky strikes since that's the brand Mom smoked. I would walk around the house, candy cigarette between my fingers and waving my hands around as I talked...like I had seen my mom and everyone else do time and time again. Remember this was over 40 years ago when everyone smoked and smokers weren't social pariahs like they are today.
I would watch my mom and her friends sitting at the kitchen table, drinking their coffee with smoke pouring out of their noses and mouths and thinking how I wish I could be like them. Everyone thought i was so cute as I would mimic them with my "fake luckies." I even remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror with my candy cigarette in my mouth and pretend to be smoking, just like I had seen all the adults do.
It wasn't until the summer of my 8th birthday though that I ever got brave enough to sneak one of mom's cigarettes along with a pack of matches and hide out behind the garage and actually try to smoke. I had watched everyone else smoke so long that I thought I would know what to do. This first attempt was an all out failure when I took my first puff and started coughing uncontrollably...I thought I knew what to do but apparently I didn't. The taste was not what I had expected either and I don't think I really liked it. I decided then that I would just stick to my candy cigarettes and leave the real Lucky Strikes to my mom.
About six months later, at Christmas time, my aunt and my cousin came to spend a week with us at Christmas. My cousin Julie was 15 and and I soon discovered that her mom allowed her to smoke and she even would carry her own pack of Winstons in her purse with her. Julie was babysitting me one evening when the adults all went out and I got up the nerve to ask Julie if I could try smoking. Julie said I wouldn't like it and I told her how I tried it and coughed and really didn't like it the first time. But I told her I wanted to try it again. After some begging Julie handed me her cigarette and again I coughed but this time i didn't take as big of a drag off it as I did the first time. And I felt so growup as I was able to see myself blow smoke out of my mouth. I did take a few more puffs and although I still didnt' think I liked how it tasted I did like the idea of me smoking and it wasn't nearly as bad as the first time I tried. Julie promised not to tell anyone and it was hers and my little secret. During my aunt and Julie's time with us Julie would sneak me a cigarette off and on during the days and I really started liking it...or at least i really started liking the fact that i thought I was grown up.
Julie and my aunt eventually went back home and I lost my cigarette supplier. I wasn't addicted to cigarettes but I really did like the "act" of smoking and how good it made me feel. A few days later I got brave and snuck one of mom's cigarettes and again went back behind the garage and this continued a couple times a day. I eventually got braver and would take a puff off moms if she walked off leaving one burning in the ashtray. So far mom never caught me or said anything about her missing a couple cigarettes a day from her pack. By the time the next summer rolled around i was 9 and I had gradually increased my cigarette consumption and would look for any opportunity I could to sneak a cigarette from mom's pack or anybody that left a pack laying around. I continued to go back behind the garage and by then I thought I had perfected the act of smoking...just like the adults I knew. And I found out how smoking a cigarette was relaxing but I also was finding out how stressed I would get when I wanted a cigarette and wasn't able to sneak one. I was only smoking a few a day by that point but there were times that I really wanted a cigarette and I couldn't have one.
I never let any of my friends know that I was smoking and I hid it from everyone for the next year. I remember it was the day before school started and I was behind the garage enjoying my cigarette when all of a sudden Mom walks around the corner of the garage. There I was with a cigarette in my hand exhaling smoke as Mom just stared at me. And my Mom's stare was enough to make even a grown adult pee their pants. You didn't want to get that stare from my mom..ever! Mom stood there in silence for what seemed to be an hour but was probably only seconds. Her first words were Louise get in the house now! Scared to death I followed my mom into the house where she alternately yelled and lectured about how i was too young to smoke and it wasn't something any 10 yr old should be doing! Long story short..I was grounded for the next week..no friends, no phone calls, and was not allowed out of the house. And all I could think of is how was I going to be able to get cigarettes.
The grounding was bad, I had no freedom, couldn't see or talk to my friends, and worst of all I couldn't smoke and if I ever needed a cigarette it was then. I went two full days without a cigarette and I was absolutely miserable. And mom was not leaving any cigarettes laying around anymore. I got my break when Mom asked me to ride my bike to the store and get some milk. And she said to bring the exact change back! But I did take 50 cents from my piggy bank and rode to the store, bought the milk and nervously told the lady mom needed lucky strikes and matches, which the lady promptly gave me. I got outside the store and ripped open the first pack of cigarettes I had ever bought in my life and stood on the side of the building and was able to enjoy my first cigarette in over two days.
I then hurried home with my own very first pack of cigarettes in my pants pocket and gave mom the milk, the correct change and hid the cigarettes in my room. I was able to sneak a couple smokes a day over the next few days and finally the grounding was over. I lied to mom telling her I wouldn't smoke again and life went on. Although I had to find new smoking places since I knew Mom would probably be checking to see if I was going out behind the garage in the future.
My sneaking continued and I was smoking a little more since I had found out how easy it was for me to now buy cigarettes at the store and tell the owner they were for my mom. I'm sure there were times that I smelled of cigarette smoke but Mom just assumed that it was from all the smoking she did in the house. My sneaking continued until I was 11 when Mom and I were in the car and we stopped at the neighborhood store. Mom went in and bought a pack of cigarettes and I had ridden my bike up there about 2 hours earlier to get my own cigarettes. I sat in the car and Mom came out with a look that could kill. And then I knew I was busted!
The two minute car ride home was in silence and we got in the house and mom told me the lady at the store commented on me buying cigarettes for her a couple hours earlier. After some yelling and more lecturing and alot of crying on my part I admitted that I had continued to smoke for the past year. I told Mom I had been using my birthday and Christmas money to buy cigarettes. Mom sent me to my room and told me we'd talk about it later.
Later that night Mom came into my room and she said I was just too young to be smoking but she understood how addicting it is and that by now she had a feeling I was probably addicted..to which I mumbled that yes I probably was. She wanted me to quit but she also said that she couldn't expect me to quit when she herself couldn't. Without yelling or screaming she said that she would allow me 3 cigarettes a day and that I was only allowed to smoke at home and never in my bedroom, and only when she was home. She was worried about me starting a fire. I was totally shocked at how Mom's earlier yelling had turned into something of an acceptance on her part. She gave me a hug, told me she wasn't happy at all that I was smoking but she knew it was too late for her to get me to quit. We walked into the kitchen and she said I need a cigarette after this and she said you do too I'm sure. She lit one handed it to me and lit another one for herself. Nervously and shaking I sat there with her at the table as we both smoked. I think I was too nervous to realize that I was finally allowed to smoke at home but after that Mom would leave me 3 cigarettes on the counter every morning and it was up to me to decided when i wanted them.
I still snuck a few more throughout the day and I'm sure Mom suspected I did but I think her allowing me three was as far as she was prepared to go at the time. When I turned 13 is when Mom took away the restrictions and I was allowed to smoke whenever I wanted to.
Was my Mom a bad mom for allowing me to smoke so young? By today's standards it would be considered terrible parenting but back then smoking was treated differently than it is today. Sure mose people did not allow their 11 year olds to smoke even back then, but it was not like it is today. I would've smoked anyways back then and Mom just accepted that fact.
Now I'm 50 years old, and have tried quitting more times than I can remember. I still smoke, and I would love to quit, but you know...there are times that I still enjoy my cigarettes. And Mom is 75 years old and she still smokes to this day.