“Ladies and Gentlemen, the no-smoking sign has been turned off. If you want to smoke, you may do so now.”

This is a scene from the 1986 Hindi film Naam, directed by Mahesh Bhatt. It stars Sanjay Dutt, Kumar Gaurav and Nutan, among others.

If you cringed while and after watching this brief scene, I know exactly why. If you did not cringe, this post is perhaps not for you.

See: What Flying Was Like Before the Smoke Cleared

It alarms me that in 1986 (or 1985 when this film was perhaps filmed), Air India allowed smoking inside planes! Not just Air India – if you have seen the TV series Mad Men, the amount of smoking depicted in the series, and the kind of places where people used to smoke… would make your head spin now, in hindsight.

Now, in 2019, we have come to a reasonable stage in the evolution of most countries where smoking in public places (particularly closed spaces) is illegal, shunned and is seen as a social evil. When I look at the smoking chamber in airports, filled with a lot of people that I can only see hazily because of the smoke, I can only pity them. For the fact that they are smoking their lives and lungs away and for their sheer human inability to control the habit.

The history of anti-smoking campaigns dates back to early 1940s when tobacco companies were ruling the roost with their money power. But slowly and steadily, the anti-smoking campaigns have targetted smokers, Governments, tobacco brands, countries, politicians among others and made a significant dent. It is perhaps one of the most impressive, successful and diverse PR campaigns in history… that has led to us looking at this scene with derision and shock. Many agencies and individuals have taken part in this campaign voluntarily and have led to the change that we see today, in terms of the perception towards smoking and cigarettes.

The change is so evident that the flag-bearer of the smoking movement, Philip Morris International (PMI) has launched an anti-smoking campaign to promote their smoke-free products!!

I wonder which other present-day normalized scene would be seen with derision and shock some 50 years from now.

Would it be fossil-fuel vehicles, in a world filled with electric vehicles? The recent news about Maruti Suzuki announcing that they would stop producing diesel cars is one tiny step in that direction, though their announcement was for reasons beyond just pollution caused by diesel vehicles. Imagine – in 2050 or so, the world only has electric/solar powered vehicles. And someone drives in a vintage 2018 model of an SUV. Would we discuss it the way we see Sanjay Dutt in the 1986 film?

Any other present-day technology or happening that may be shunned in the next 50 years?

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