It’s funny these days to watch movies and TV shows set in the 1960s and earlier and notice how many people are smoking. Smoking was portrayed as a normal habit wherever people gathered, and business offices would provide ashtrays at employees’ desk, because not too many people were inclined to break their habit.

Smoking has never been considered healthy — for generations, cigarettes carried the nickname of “cancer sticks” — but it wasn’t until January 1964, when Luther L. Terry, Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, issued a report on the dangers of smoking, that societal attitudes really began to evolve.

The evolution was slow. In the Ron Howard movie “Apollo 13,” set in 1970, six years after the Surgeon General’s report, most of the technicians at Mission Control puffed on cigarettes at their consoles while working to save the three astronauts whose spacecraft suffered a serious explosion on the journey to the moon.

By the early 1990s, employers adopted a stricter attitude toward employees who weren’t yet broken of their habit. Smokers either had to take their cigarettes outside — they would gather in small groups right outside the building — or in designated “smoking rooms” inside. (The cigarette smell would drift into the corridor, even with the door closed.) The smokers were getting the unmistakable message that they weren’t fit to be around decent people as long as they practiced their filthy habit. Hillary Clinton might have called them “deplorables.”

Well, here we are in summer 2019, and the Fairfield Parks and Recreation Commission voted this month to ban smoking smoking and vaping on all town beaches, including concession areas, and on all town parks and school fields. There will be “designated smoking areas” in parking lots, however.

One commissioner raised the issue of vaping.

“I can’t support (this measure) if it includes vaping,” Commissioner Alexa Mullady said in reference to the proposed ban. “As a former vaper…(vaping) doesn’t produce secondhand smoke, there’s no odor to it.”

Members discussed what exactly entailed smoking and if vaping was harmful to others.

“My concern comes through the Board of Education lens, where we’re constantly being told that [vaping] is a huge problem in middle school and high school,” Jessica Gerber, the BOE liaison in the commission, said.

Members debated the essence of vaping and potential side effects but ultimately proposed it be included in the smoking ban, an amendment that passed with Mullady in opposition.

“I will be voting against it, because I'm not agreeing with the vaping part of it, I do agree with the smoking part of (the ban),” Mullady said.

Director of Parks and Recreation Anthony Calabrese said that signs would be placed eventually to deter beachgoers from smoking and that self-enforcement would be encouraged.

“Self-enforcement”? That sounds like wishful thinking to us.

While Parks and Recreation staff can help inform about rules and regulations, they are not responsible for enforcing said rules and as such would refer anyone not complying with regulation to police.

“Our job is just to establish policy,” Scott Walker, commission chairman, said.

Fairfield Police Chief Chris Lyddy told the Citizen, “If a violation is observed, an officer may issue an infraction, the fine amount is $136.00.”

We’ve come a long way from the days when anyone could smoke anywhere. Sometimes smokers would get dirty looks in the old days if they indulged their habit in a crowded office, restaurant, bus, and so on, but that was the extent of it.

We’re not sure “self-enforcement” is a realistic way to prevent smoking on beaches or in parks, and we also don’t think Fairfield police will make a priority of giving out infractions to smokers on the beach, particularly if no one complains.

The question then arises whether the Parks and Recreation Commission’s new regulation is just a poltically correct solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

Tom Henry is Editor of the Fairfield Citizen.