Saturday, January 8, 2011

Etiquette of Smoking

Rules for Lovers of the Weed.
Smoking - that is to say, the smoking of men - hardly comes under the rules of etiquette, most men will declare. It is second nature, so incessant and inevitable a companion to man that few would bear an argument on the subject of its hygienic properties, or its propriety.
But aside from health and propriety (says a writer on etiquette). It must be admitted that there are times and places when and where men should not smoke. The modification of old-fashioned rules in this regard has made the lines faint, it is true, and there is no book on etiquette that does not reprehend as "unbecoming a gentleman" smoking in drawing-rooms, boudoirs, dining-rooms, restaurants, where now men not only are allowed, and invited to smoke, but where highly respectable women have been known to join them.

When in Ladies' Society.
Gentlemen in this country do smoke, when at home, in the drawing-room and dining-room, there is no doubt about that; that is, when the women of the family do not object. Most women have a decided objection to bedroom smoking; and it is not a wise practice on any account to use up the freshness of bedroom air. But putting aside old-fashioned prejudices, and out-of-date "notions" as many sensible dislikes of women are called, a man should never smoke anywhere without first assuring himself that it is not disagreeable to the ladies in the room and in the house. A gentleman paying an afternoon visit should not smoke unless others begin, and even then it should be someone in authority, and not a younger brother, for instance, or a "cheeky" caller who leads him on. He should never smoke before the ladies have left the dining-room except in unusual instances; he should not smoke when anyone - with a real voice - is singing, for tobacco smoke is death to vocal success, and causes great discomfort to singers, whose throats, being highly trained, are proverbially sensitive.

Smoking in the Streets.
Smoking in the streets is allowed, and cannot be checked, since rules do not reach the masses, unless enforced by police regulations. An English gentleman does not smoke when he is walking with a lady, or where he is likely to meet a lady. No one but a sensitive woman knows how unpleasant it is in a crowded thoroughfare to walk exactly behind a man whose cigar is not of a high order; and men are sometimes cognisant of this fact, but rarely.

No Spitting!
No man on earth should smoke - anywhere on earth - who cannot do so without spitting. This is an infallible cast-iron rule! it being interpreted means that no one should ever spit. If moments occur when there is necessity for ejecting anything from the mouth, the process should be performed, as washing the hands is performed, in private. The spitton in a bar-room is abomination enough; the decorated "cuspidor," as an affected and misguided custom once named the thing in a house, is anathema maranatha. No words are harsh enough with which to condemn it. A man who cannot live without spitting should take to the woods, and reside there alone - for ever. And then he is not good enough for the beasts that roam there.

Smoking Among Women.
The smoking of women it comes hard to be forced to admit into a regular treatise on customs; but reluctantly as we may admit it, women, and women in England - in certain sets - do smoke. As a question of taste it admits of no discussion. It is a sad mistake, from beginning to end. As a question of fact, it unfortunately also admits of none.
At first - a few years ago - smoking among women was treated as a sort of lark or joke among girls who "didn't mean anything." Statistics of an informal collecting then showed that the habit was settling, and on the increase. In certain cities and towns it is now regarded as the regular thing; and almost everywhere the sense of shock has been replaced by one of toleration. The etiquette of smoking among women has not reached the stage when it permits the habit to be publicly indulged. Women are obliged to smoke in corners, when they are at clubs or races. How long this state of things will continue it is impossible to say. At the present rate of progress women and young girls will be smoking in the streets with men. It is a horror and a crying shame, for the debasing character of the custom will inevitably destroy the delicacy of women.

Source: Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle Etc, Saturday February 11 1899, Issue 6125.


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