Dude, where’s my ashtray?

A casual remark on Twitter regarding the absence of an in-car charging socket for sat nav got me thinking…

I have a charging socket. It’s what used to be the socket for a cigarette lighter or a ‘cigar lighter’ as it came to be known, once smoking started to be demonised. The thinking behind this subtle shift in name hardly bears thinking about…could it be that cigar smoking was viewed as somehow less squalid than cigarette smoking?

Now, however, the car lighter – whether for a cigarette, cigar or anything else remotely smokeable – is long gone.

Only the socket remains.

That started me reminiscing about having an ashtray in the car. There isn’t one in our current car or the cars we had before that one, but what we do is have a small glass tealight holder (inside the fitted cupholder) that we bought from Pikea to use as an ashtray.

But why aren’t there ashtrays and lighters in cars anymore?

As far as I can ascertain, the purge started in the US in the mid-1990s when it was decided that there was a decreased demand for such things. Now, it’s pretty unusual to see a new or newish car with an ashtray and a lighter (maybe there simply aren’t any, although I couldn’t say for sure) and although I know that some US manufacturers were offering them fitted in new vehicles as late as last year, it’s far more usual for a smoking kit option to be offered. At a price, of course.

So, it looks as though quite arbitrarily, car manufacturers have decided that as a majority of people don’t smoke, then people who wish to smoke in their own car will find no ashtray or lighter if it’s a newish model.

That’s amazing when you think about it.

It’s the smoker’s car – his or her own private space – but with no facilities for smoking within it should the owner choose to do so.

I can’t think of any significant minority group that gets treated in such a way and, as with many other examples of the gradual removal of personal choice by stealth, it’s tolerated and then accepted as the norm by the affected group itself.

How are we ever going to regain freedom of choice?

Or is it just simply too late?

Like me, you may find some inspiration here.

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8 Responses

  1. I have a Focus – there’s an ashtray in the back, but not in the front; so it seems that there’s an unspoken determination to stop the DRIVER smoking. Still, their attempt at bullying me just means that there are more cig ends in the road ;)

  2. I remember when the BSE thing broke. Sainsburys cleared their shleves of beef. I wasn’t allowed to exercise my right to ignore the threat, the decision was made for me.

    This is the same thing, except that car manufacturers were threatened by the anti-smoking nut-jobs, just like the hospitality industry were before July 2007.

    It’s more fake charity shenanigans, I’m afraid. Oh yeah, and denormalisation.

  3. “…could it be that cigar smoking was viewed as somehow less squalid than cigarette smoking?”

    Well, I can’t say I much like the smell of cigarette smoke, but cigar smoke is quite pleasant…

    “That’s amazing when you think about it.”

    Not really. Look at how easily big corporations give in to blackmail by pressure groups.

  4. The hell with smoking (which I’m not objecting to so long as the residue is not dumped on me), the risks involved in d-i-y distillation are being way overstated.
    Yet another of those “facts” that are left to go unchallenged, and serve to discourage the undermining of government revenue streams.

  5. When I fitted a lighter socket to my motorcyle people took much the same attitude as if I’d claimed to have seen a fairy.

  6. Good question Steve

    i remember asking myself this last time I took the company motor out for a drive. When I queried a colleague about it, apparently new cars don’t have them anymore, and the organisation I work for wouldn’t get a car with a cig lighter in anyway …. ‘elf and safety and cigs in the car are banned!

    I am perturbed and unhappy about this development. The consumer’s demands are clearly being sidelined here, and it all smacks a bit of arrogant nannying.

  7. hey when did you sneak in take a photo of my car ashtray?

  8. my mum’s yaris is only about 3 years old, but it has an ashtray and a lighter, as standard so it must be quite a recent thing?

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