Doing anything in the late 1970’s involved cigarette smoke. It was everywhere – restaurants, pubs, gigs, people’s homes, school staff rooms, the lot. The default was to be a smoker – in the same way that ‘everyone’ is on Facebook these days. If you weren’t a smoker, then your views and comfort didn’t count.
Pub ceilings had tiny stalagtites of nicotine stains; if you went out to a pub or a concert, you would have to wash all your clothes and your hair afterwards because they would stink – well unless you couldn’t smell it because ….
Edgy and rebellious children started smoking very young; usually by the age of 8. I tried it whilst still at primary school but it didn’t appeal, and with non-smoking parents I was better placed to refuse. In fact my non-smoking parents had been given many ashtrays as wedding presents, which they scattered around the house in case any smokers came round to visit. Punk rock gets linked with drugs, glue-sniffing and getting pissed on cheap alcohol. But cigarette smoking was also right in the heart of it. Teenagers believed that ‘fags’ made them look cool and would keep them slim. There were many ways to look hard or mysterious whilst smoking.
But what to do with your fag-ends when there was no ash tray in sight?
The truth was that any recepticle – mug, beercan, auntie’s best vase, dinner plate etc would serve as a punk ash tray. I’m sure that parties these days where anything is being smoked are still just as bad, but at that time it seemed the height of rudeness and punk attitude not to ask for or seek out the ubiquitous ash trays.