An Idea Whose Time Has Went

Thanks to Al Jaffee, MAD magazine, 1967, for the classic illustrations

In a past Roundel, Bill Howard revealed that BMW will offer in the then-upcoming 3-series in non-smoking versions. A storage compartment and 12v socket will replace the heretofore ubiquitous ashtray and lighter that came standard on every damn car ever mass-produced. BMW recognized that the vast majority of its target market group is made of non-smokers. Until the non-smoking version becomes standard, and ashtrays made optional, this revolution has merely begun.

I have been complaining that the downsizing of the average car has resulted in a severe reduction in glove compartment size, so much so that owners manuals have had to be made smaller as well. Many makers allowed a delete option for the factory radio, recognizing that many buyers wanted an aftermarket sound system. I bet many people would like some more storage space. The ashtray and lighter, illuminated yet, is still standard on all models, with the above exception. I challenge the Tobacco industry to deny that political pressure has kept us all paying for this bad habit accessory, whether we wanted it or not.

Smoking Illustration 1

A large number of accidents involving one car I believe have to do with smoking. This vice provides a continuous distraction to the driver who must drive one-handed while locating, handling and lighting the damn thing, without setting fire to eyebrows, nose, or moustache. Many smokers, trying to not soil their ashtrays, or possibly because the ashtray is already full, favor the right-over-left lateral pass out the window. Many times, the lit butt lands in the driver's lap, and panic ensues. The airborne incendiary may wind up in the back seat. How many people have hit trees and bridge abutments trying to drive and beat out the flames at the same time? It is technically illegal to use a car phone while driving. The hazard posed by driving one-handed and carrying on a conversation could pose a danger to others. Smoking, however, is ignored by the law. Then there is always sun glare on a smoke-filmed window to impair vision.

Smoking Illustration 2

Before you think that I would advocate eliminating smoking in vehicles as a safety hazard (heaven forbid), I offer a device that will make it safer; Introducing the dashboard Hookah. Cigarettes are contained in a magazine that automatically feeds a combination holder-lighter. Push in and the cigarette is lit automatically. The smoke is conveyed to the mouth through a tube, and the lit cigarette, ashes and all, remain in the ashtray. When not in use, the tube retracts. No more fumbling for the next cigarette. No more upholstery fires. Also, less chance of forest fires from the carelessly discarded butt.

This device should be mandated as required safety equipment, for our own good, of course.

This same device could make smoking in bed safer by holding the cigarette away from flammable material.

My younger son pointed out that this idea was published in 1974 by MAD Magazine! The hazards of smoking while driving were similar to those mentioned above. With use of the Hookah, it was pointed out, the car should be checked regularly for signs of cancer.

The point that BMW is making with the non-smoker's dash is that smoking is not the "normal", socially accepted activity that it once was, and it is high time that automobile manufacturers acknowledged the fact. Furthermore, in an age when government regulations cause us to be harassed by automatic restraints, rather than leave us with perfectly adequate manual belts, purportedly to save us from ourselves, and when we must pay for anti-pollution devices to save us from the toxic by-products of a fuel we should have outgrown by now, we are left to accept and pay for the presence of smoking accessories in our vehicles!

This is not normal, nor was it ever normal.

NORMALCY IS A TYRANNY PERPETRATED BY THE MANY UPON THE FEW. This was true when there were more smokers among car buyers and builders. These days, smoking is an idea whose time has went, and the smoker is now the minority. I would encourage all automobile manufacturers to consider that deleting the ashtray and lighter is an excellent way to save a few bucks a unit. If smokers want this stuff, let them pay for it.

Please send questions or comments to: drautox@comcast.net

Last Modified May 7, 2000