Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Book Review: “Smoke ’em” Shows Military’s Role in Masculine Rite

 

Anyone serving in the U.S. military before 1980 remembers the cry opening every break: “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” Almost everyone, from the lowest private to the most senior officer present, would light up a cigarette.

Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em: The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration by Joel R. Bius examines the link between the military and cigarette smoking. He shows how cigarette consumption and the military were connected.

In 1900 cigarettes were a surprisingly small fraction of tobacco consumption. Around 7 percent of all tobacco products were retailed in the form of cigarettes. Cigarette smoking was viewed as unmanly and un-American.

World War I changed that. Nicotine proved the American Expeditionary Force’s battlefield drug of choice. Tobacco simultaneously calmed the nerves while increasing alertness. Smoking masked the battlefield’s stench. Although tobacco was known to be bad, its adverse effects were long-term. Meantime, there was a war to win. Organizations like the YMCA freely distributed cigarettes, the most convenient form of smoking tobacco to our boys in the trenches.

The link stuck when the boys returned home. Cigarettes gained the cachet as a man’s vice, linked with battlefield bravery. Bius follows the arc cigarette consumption followed through the century’s middle years. Battlefield use of cigarettes in World War II sealed the image of cigarettes as a masculine activity. By then, the Army issued a cigarette ration and subsidized smokes at the PX. Use hit a peak after World War II years when 80 percent of men smoked cigarettes.

Despite the 1964 Surgeon General’s warning and government efforts to cut tobacco use thereafter, cigarettes remained popular, even after the military eliminated the cigarette ration in 1972. It took the All-Volunteer Army to break the link between smoking and the military. Containing health care costs led the military to discourage tobacco use. That in turn broke smoking’s image as a masculine activity. Cigarette use plunged; until today, cigarette use is almost back to 1900 levels.

Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em is a fascinating story about the rise and fall of a masculine rite of passage.

“Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em: The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration,” by Joel R. Bius, Naval Institute Press, 2018, 328 pages, $39.95

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  1. Mister Dog Coolidge

    On my first ship in the early ‘80s we could buy what were called “sea stores”, cigarettes with no tax stamp, when we were outside the 3 mile limit. A quarter a pack. Smoking was pretty much allowed anywhere on the ship with exception of in your rack, and the mess decks during meals. 

    “The smoking lamp is now lighted” (lighted, not lit) is a carryover from the days of sail, when sailors were not allowed to carry their own matches and used a common flame to light their pipes or cigars.

    • #1
    • December 2, 2018, at 12:02 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  2. Al French, PIT Geezer Moderator

    Mister Dog (View Comment):

    On my first ship in the early ‘80s we could buy what were called “sea stores”, cigarettes with no tax stamp, when we were outside the 3 mile limit. A quarter a pack. Smoking was pretty much allowed anywhere on the ship with exception of in your rack, and the mess decks during meals.

    “The smoking lamp is now lighted” (lighted, not lit) is a carryover from the days of sail, when sailors were not allowed to carry their own matches and used a common flame to light their pipes or cigars.

    During the Vietnam war, they were a dime a pack outside CONUS, a dollar a carton. As soon as a ship passed the three mile limit, it was announced that “the ship’s store is now open”, and a long line would form. IIRC there was a two carton limit. On a destroyer the store was a tiny space, maybe six by eight feet.

    The smoking lamp announcement immediately followed reveille. I don’t suppose it does anymore. 

    • #2
    • December 2, 2018, at 12:21 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  3. Mister Dog Coolidge

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Mister Dog (View Comment):

    On my first ship in the early ‘80s we could buy what were called “sea stores”, cigarettes with no tax stamp, when we were outside the 3 mile limit. A quarter a pack. Smoking was pretty much allowed anywhere on the ship with exception of in your rack, and the mess decks during meals.

    “The smoking lamp is now lighted” (lighted, not lit) is a carryover from the days of sail, when sailors were not allowed to carry their own matches and used a common flame to light their pipes or cigars.

    During the Vietnam war, they were a dime a pack outside CONUS, a dollar a carton. As soon as a ship passed the three mile limit, it was announced that “the ship’s store is now open”, and a long line would form. IIRC there was a two carton limit. On a destroyer the store was a tiny space, maybe six by eight feet.

    The smoking lamp announcement immediately followed reveille. I don’t suppose it does anymore.

    I’m trying to remember now on my last ship (2004-06.) I think it was still part of reveille, but the only place to smoke was now a small area of the weather deck, or the well deck (I was on an LSD.)

    • #3
    • December 2, 2018, at 12:36 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Boss Mongo Member

    Mister Dog (View Comment):
    I was on an LSD.

    Boy, did I read that wrong first time. Wait…wha??

    When I got out of Airborne school, I spent a couple days at home talking with my Da about the vagaries of jumping out of planes. When discussing following the Jumpmasters’ verbal instructions and hand signals,

    My Da showed me one that was long gone: The very first command is the Jumpmaster pounds a fist into a palm, grinding the fist, while sounding off with: Extinguish. Your. Smokes.

    • #4
    • December 2, 2018, at 12:59 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  5. Mister Dog Coolidge

    @bossmongo Yes, the article is extremely important in that phrase 😀

    • #5
    • December 2, 2018, at 1:04 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    My Da showed me one that was long gone: The very first command is the Jumpmaster pounds a fist into a palm, grinding the fist, while sounding off with: Extinguish. Your. Smokes.

    I was in Army ROTC in the mid 1970s. At advanced camp at Ft. Riley there were a few times we were issued C-rations. Some, but not all, had packs of four cigarettes. I showed one to the platoon sergeant and asked what that was about. He told me prior to 1970 the C-rats included cigarettes, and I must have been issued one made before they got rid of the cigarettes. (That would have made it at least 7 years old, but not surprising to me.)

    He was a smoker. I was not. I offered him the cigarettes. He told me it would be improper for him to accept a gift from a cadet, but if I wanted to trade C-ration cartons (he had received a newer one) that would be okay. We did.

    • #6
    • December 2, 2018, at 1:33 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  7. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Speaking of European military smokers, it’s most likely where George VI developed his heavy smoking habit, which led to Buergers disease…basically an autoimmune disorder where the person’s peripheral circulation is destroyed because they are allergic to tobacco.

    • #7
    • December 2, 2018, at 3:55 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. danok1 Member

    Seawriter: Anyone serving in the U.S. military before 1980 remembers the cry opening every break: “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” Almost everyone, from the lowest private to the most senior officer present, would light up a cigarette.

    And for at least 4-5 years after. My DI (Basic in 1983) and pretty much all NCOs at duty stations announced a break that way.

    • #8
    • December 3, 2018, at 5:26 AM PST
    • 1 like
  9. Steve C. Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    My Da showed me one that was long gone: The very first command is the Jumpmaster pounds a fist into a palm, grinding the fist, while sounding off with: Extinguish. Your. Smokes.

    I was in Army ROTC in the mid 1970s. At advanced camp at Ft. Riley there were a few times we were issued C-rations. Some, but not all, had packs of four cigarettes. I showed one to the platoon sergeant and asked what that was about. He told me prior to 1970 the C-rats included cigarettes, and I must have been issued one made before they got rid of the cigarettes. (That would have made it at least 7 years old, but not surprising to me.)

    He was a smoker. I was not. I offered him the cigarettes. He told me it would be improper for him to accept a gift from a cadet, but if I wanted to trade C-ration cartons (he had received a newer one) that would be okay. We did.

    What year were you at Riley for advanced camp? I was there in 1977.

    The last time I had C Ration smokes was on a school FTX in 1976.

     

    • #9
    • December 3, 2018, at 5:52 AM PST
    • 1 like
  10. Boss Mongo Member

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Seawriter: Anyone serving in the U.S. military before 1980 remembers the cry opening every break: “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” Almost everyone, from the lowest private to the most senior officer present, would light up a cigarette.

    And for at least 4-5 years after. My DI (Basic in 1983) and pretty much all NCOs at duty stations announced a break that way.

    And to this day, NCOs will re-focus their troops by announcing, “All right you (insert appropriate profane NCO epithet here), quit smokin’ and jokin’ and get back to work.”

    • #10
    • December 3, 2018, at 5:53 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    What year were you at Riley for advanced camp? I was there in 1977.

    The last time I had C Ration smokes was on a school FTX in 1976.

    1976.

    • #11
    • December 3, 2018, at 6:24 AM PST
    • 1 like
  12. Joshua Bissey Coolidge

    Seawriter: That in turn broke smoking’s image as a masculine activity.

    That I find hard to believe. I suspect Mad Men fans still found it manly when Don Draper lit up. And has the author ever seen the Dollars trilogy?

    • #12
    • December 3, 2018, at 6:34 AM PST
    • Like
  13. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):

    Seawriter: That in turn broke smoking’s image as a masculine activity.

    That I find hard to believe. I suspect Mad Men fans still found it manly when Don Draper lit up. And has the author ever seen the Dollars trilogy?

    Read the book. I came away concluding military endorsement of tobacco use was more important to societal acceptance than any other factor. I do not think it coincidental cigarette use peaked in the 1950s, immediately after WWII, but it is hard for me to be convincing in 350 words.

    • #13
    • December 3, 2018, at 6:42 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. Skyler Coolidge

    They scare the bejeezus out of kids in school now. My daughter used to cringe and hide if she saw someone in a crowd smoking. “That’s a bad man, daddy.”

    Back in the 80’s in the Marines smoking was very common. Now the drug of choice is chewing tobacco. Smart Marines keep a log stashed to stay in good with their buddies.

    • #14
    • December 3, 2018, at 7:39 AM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Skyler Coolidge

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    My Da showed me one that was long gone: The very first command is the Jumpmaster pounds a fist into a palm, grinding the fist, while sounding off with: Extinguish. Your. Smokes.

    I was in Army ROTC in the mid 1970s. At advanced camp at Ft. Riley there were a few times we were issued C-rations. Some, but not all, had packs of four cigarettes. I showed one to the platoon sergeant and asked what that was about. He told me prior to 1970 the C-rats included cigarettes, and I must have been issued one made before they got rid of the cigarettes. (That would have made it at least 7 years old, but not surprising to me.)

    He was a smoker. I was not. I offered him the cigarettes. He told me it would be improper for him to accept a gift from a cadet, but if I wanted to trade C-ration cartons (he had received a newer one) that would be okay. We did.

    What year were you at Riley for advanced camp? I was there in 1977.

    The last time I had C Ration smokes was on a school FTX in 1976.

     

    As an NROTC midshipman in 1983 at CORTRAMID, we were issued rations; we got an MRE and a C-RAT. The instructors told us to enjoy the CRAt because we would probably never get another one. They were right. MRE’s were pretty bad back then, but still slightly better than c-rats. 

    • #15
    • December 3, 2018, at 7:45 AM PST
    • 1 like
  16. Steve C. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    My Da showed me one that was long gone: The very first command is the Jumpmaster pounds a fist into a palm, grinding the fist, while sounding off with: Extinguish. Your. Smokes.

    I was in Army ROTC in the mid 1970s. At advanced camp at Ft. Riley there were a few times we were issued C-rations. Some, but not all, had packs of four cigarettes. I showed one to the platoon sergeant and asked what that was about. He told me prior to 1970 the C-rats included cigarettes, and I must have been issued one made before they got rid of the cigarettes. (That would have made it at least 7 years old, but not surprising to me.)

    He was a smoker. I was not. I offered him the cigarettes. He told me it would be improper for him to accept a gift from a cadet, but if I wanted to trade C-ration cartons (he had received a newer one) that would be okay. We did.

    What year were you at Riley for advanced camp? I was there in 1977.

    The last time I had C Ration smokes was on a school FTX in 1976.

     

    As an NROTC midshipman in 1983 at CORTRAMID, we were issued rations; we got an MRE and a C-RAT. The instructors told us to enjoy the CRAt because we would probably never get another one. They were right. MRE’s were pretty bad back then, but still slightly better than c-rats.

    When you consider the requirements, it’s pretty amazing what they accomplish. I don’t have a preference between them, but I do miss being able to trade my peaches. Which I despised.

    One nice feature of being stationed in Europe was foraging. Stopping your column in small town Germany and buying fresh meat, bread and cheese for a handful of marks was a bonus.

    During one Reforger, the officers pooled their cash and we bought pork cutlets. Everyone in the brigade Headquarters Company enjoyed a weekend schnitzelfest.

    • #16
    • December 3, 2018, at 8:29 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  17. Skyler Coolidge

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    One nice feature of being stationed in Europe was foraging. Stopping your column in small town Germany and buying fresh meat, bread and cheese for a handful of marks was a bonus.

    During one Reforger, the officers pooled their cash and we bought pork cutlets. Everyone in the brigade Headquarters Company enjoyed a weekend schnitzelfest.

    Europe must have been really good duty. As a Marine, I was always jealous of you guys!

    • #17
    • December 3, 2018, at 9:28 AM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Quietpi Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    My Da

    Decode please.

    • #18
    • December 3, 2018, at 9:41 AM PST
    • Like
  19. Boss Mongo Member

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    My Da

    Decode please.

    Da = Dad

    • #19
    • December 3, 2018, at 10:05 AM PST
    • 1 like
  20. danok1 Member

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    My Da

    Decode please.

    Probably “Dad.” The Irish, for one, commonly shorten it to “Da.”

    • #20
    • December 3, 2018, at 10:07 AM PST
    • Like
  21. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter

    I still have a P-38 (at least that is what they called the can-openers that came with C-rats) from one of my sets of C-rats. Hung it on my key ring, It is still there. Have used it a time or two to open cans. (Generally at scout overnights when those responsible for food forgot to bring a real can opener.

    Anyone know why they were called P-38s?

    • #21
    • December 3, 2018, at 10:07 AM PST
    • Like
  22. Joshua Bissey Coolidge

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):

    Seawriter: That in turn broke smoking’s image as a masculine activity.

    That I find hard to believe. I suspect Mad Men fans still found it manly when Don Draper lit up. And has the author ever seen the Dollars trilogy?

    Read the book. I came away concluding military endorsement of tobacco use was more important to societal acceptance than any other factor. I do not think it coincidental cigarette use peaked in the 1950s, immediately after WWII, but it is hard for me to be convincing in 350 words.

    I was talking about the other end of things, when smoking was supposedly emasculated by the withdrawal of that military endorsement. That doesn’t seem likely to me, that it would just end like that. I’d be curious to see his evidence.

    • #22
    • December 3, 2018, at 10:11 AM PST
    • Like
  23. Al French, PIT Geezer Moderator

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    I still have a P-38 (at least that is what they called the can-openers that came with C-rats) from one of my sets of C-rats. Hung it on my key ring, It is still there. Have used it a time or two to open cans. (Generally at scout overnights when those responsible for food forgot to bring a real can opener.

    Anyone know why they were called P-38s?

    Wikipedia has some theories, but bottom line they don’t know. Like Jeep.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/P-38_can_opener

    I have a few lying around, but no longer carry them on my keychain.

    • #23
    • December 3, 2018, at 12:19 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Steve C. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    One nice feature of being stationed in Europe was foraging. Stopping your column in small town Germany and buying fresh meat, bread and cheese for a handful of marks was a bonus.

    During one Reforger, the officers pooled their cash and we bought pork cutlets. Everyone in the brigade Headquarters Company enjoyed a weekend schnitzelfest.

    Europe must have been really good duty. As a Marine, I was always jealous of you guys!

    It was good duty.

    • #24
    • December 3, 2018, at 5:20 PM PST
    • 1 like
  25. Quietpi Member

    Widespread smoking and heavy drinking were very common when I joined in 1970. I did neither, but saw plenty evidence among the E-1’s and E-2’s come stumbling back from the Bastogne Club, black eyes, bleeding lips and all. I also witnessed both decline in inverse proportion to the rise in PT tests.

    I still have a P-38 in my coin purse. I remember some poor soul cursing the P-38 because it took so long to open a can. Turns out he was punching – removing – punching, etc. going around the can counterclockwise. “Um, no, Private, that’s not how it works.”

    I think the consensus re: the name “Jeep” was that it started with the funny little animal that kept showing up in the Popeye Sunday comics.

    • #25
    • December 3, 2018, at 8:24 PM PST
    • 1 like
  26. Skyler Coolidge

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Widespread smoking and heavy drinking were very common when I joined in 1970. I did neither, but saw plenty evidence among the E-1’s and E-2’s come stumbling back from the Bastogne Club, black eyes, bleeding lips and all. I also witnessed both decline in inverse proportion to the rise in PT tests.

    I still have a P-38 in my coin purse. I remember some poor soul cursing the P-38 because it took so long to open a can. Turns out he was punching – removing – punching, etc. going around the can counterclockwise. “Um, no, Private, that’s not how it works.”

    I think the consensus re: the name “Jeep” was that it started with the funny little animal that kept showing up in the Popeye Sunday comics.

    Jeep comes from GP, general purpose.

    • #26
    • December 3, 2018, at 9:14 PM PST
    • 1 like
  27. Quietpi Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    Da = Dad

    Thank you.

    • #27
    • December 3, 2018, at 9:25 PM PST
    • Like
  28. Randy Webster Member

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    During one Reforger, the officers pooled their cash and we bought pork cutlets. Everyone in the brigade Headquarters Company enjoyed a weekend schnitzelfest.

    Do they still do Reforger? I saw a documentary about it maybe 30 years ago. The main thing I remember about the documentary is a complicated tale about chewing tobacco.

    • #28
    • December 4, 2018, at 2:47 AM PST
    • Like
  29. Steve C. Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    During one Reforger, the officers pooled their cash and we bought pork cutlets. Everyone in the brigade Headquarters Company enjoyed a weekend schnitzelfest.

    Do they still do Reforger? I saw a documentary about it maybe 30 years ago. The main thing I remember about the documentary is a complicated tale about chewing tobacco.

    Not since 1993.

    If you are curious, Tom Clancey’s “Red Storm Rising” has a pretty good layman’s description of the planned wartime deployment to Europe.

     

    • #29
    • December 4, 2018, at 4:52 AM PST
    • 1 like
  30. Randy Webster Member

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    During one Reforger, the officers pooled their cash and we bought pork cutlets. Everyone in the brigade Headquarters Company enjoyed a weekend schnitzelfest.

    Do they still do Reforger? I saw a documentary about it maybe 30 years ago. The main thing I remember about the documentary is a complicated tale about chewing tobacco.

    Not since 1993.

    If you are curious, Tom Clancey’s “Red Storm Rising” has a pretty good layman’s description of the planned wartime deployment to Europe.

     

    I’ve listened to it a couple of times.

    • #30
    • December 4, 2018, at 4:55 AM PST
    • Like

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