I don’t like to “overblog” myself, but I have been thinking about this post all morning and don’t really have much lab work to do this morning.
So today is the last day to smoke in bars and restaurants in Maryland. My oh my, how times have changed.
When I was at Greece Athena High school from Sept. 1975 until June 1980, our student “Smoking Lounge” was the hallway between the girls locker room and the swimming pool. During nicer weather, the “heads” could also smoke outside, but generally the doors were closed. This prevented most kids from smoking in the bathrooms and stairways. Most. It also faintly masked the odor of the non-tobacco smoking that was a regular activity. Faintly masked. No one was really fooled. I didn’t smoke then, but every single day I was in High School, someone smoked on the bus.
I started smoking in 1980, at 18, while a freshman in college at Wittenberg University. Just about everybody in my dorm were smokers. There were no restrictions for smoking of any sort in the dorms. You weren’t allowed to smoke in class rooms during class. I remember Dr. Curry walking into Organic Chemistry every day with a lit cigarette in his mouth, snuffing it out as he reached the lectern (not a podium, one of the more valuable lesson I learned at Wittenberg). He would turn to the blackboard and commence class by reciting the page number from Morrison & Boyd he was starting on, scrawl out equations on the board for 45 minutes, then light a new cigarette and walk out.
My daughter’s at Towson now. They have a vote out to band smoking on the entire campus! That’s nuts.
Everything started to change in the mid-80′s with revelations of Betty Fords problems and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say NO” campaign. After college and a couple years in sales at Home Show USA and Xerox, a crap job as a QC Tech and Chemical Mixer at KleenBrite, I got a job at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry as a Lab Tech. Dr Young didn’t want smoking in the lab, so we smoked liberally in the adjoining Lunchroom and rest rooms. Some of the other Grad students and PI’s were smokers, too, as was the Department Head. Lab coats and safety glasses were available, but rarely used. I remember doing one experiment where I was infecting fresh human foreskin with P32, 90 mCi of P32. In a Laminar flow hood (since BSC’s were not readily used). Blowing in my face. I wore a ring badge for that one, but there was no indication of a dose when we sent it out for development.
One time I was walking down the hallway and heard a Geiger counter squealing, saturated. When I stuck my head in the lab, there was Dr. X (I don’t remember his name, but he was a Md/PhD and PI), with a cup of coffee on one side, lit cigarette in an ash tray on the other side and in the middle was his reaction. He was labeling thyroid tissue with 3 Ci of I 125. Yes, 3 curries. He was matter-of-factly like, “Yeah, it’s short 1/2 life, low energy. You get a bigger dose doing a thyroid scan”.
So I moved to Maryland in 1988. We smoked in the lab, drank in the lab, ate in the lab. Lab coats were optional. Then around 1990, smoking in the labs was prohibited, so we moved our ash trays out into the hallway. The a couple years later, smoking in the hallways was banned, so we had to smoke in the lunchroom. Then a year or so later, smoking in “common” areas was banned. Fortunately, you were still allowed to smoke in private offices. I remember around ’92 being lectured by the Director of EHS because I protested to getting rabies immunizations after being bitten by a squirrel that had made it into the lab through a exterior vent pipe. As he drew on his pipe, he made it clear that getting the series of rabies shots would be a condition of my continued employment. Ouch. At the time, our Department Head was also a smoker and she declared that anyone, at any time, was invited to her office to smoke.
That said, I haven’t smoked inside my own house since 1989 when our first daughter was born. I guess from tomorrow on, I’ll be blowing smoke into the throngs of anxious patrons as they make their way into their favorite drinking establishment.