A relic from 1981 BeC

08 January 2014: My sister has decided to give up smoking as her New Year’s Resolution. Not quite. She’s got one of them eCig thingies. The choice of e-liquids are enough to put a school dinner menu to shame. When my mother tried to give up smoking, she appreciated how clean the house was without the fug of Silk Cut or Superkings. Then she returned to the ciggies, so we had a compromise. A trip to Woolworths in Stretford Arndale solved that.

We return to the wonders of Ron Popeil for this gadget.

The Smokeless Ashtray

Imagine yourself in one of British Leyland’s finest vehicles (and I don’t mean the Northern Counties or Park Royal bodied GMT-standard Leyland Atlantean). Your chauffeur’s partial to a cigarette in his Austin Allegro, and has a quick fag at the traffic lights. It’s 1981, he’s on Ashton Old Road and stuck behind a 220 on Grey Mare Lane junction. Being December, it is too cold to open the window. He turns to something which looks like a badly designed soap dish.

His portable smokeless ashtray, he claims, is superior to the one attached to his car door. Placed on top of his dashboard, he rests a Silk Cut middle tar dimp on the tray. No smoke is seen: result.

Along with the Record Vacuum and Bonny Boy drinks dispenser, it was battery operated. The smoker would rest their cigar, cigarette or roll-up on the ashtray itself and presses a button. This would filter out the smoke, disappearing like magic. According to the blurb, it made for a cleaner car, living room or shed.

Ingenious they thought their invention was, the real elephant in the room was passive smoking. Our chauffeur’s fellow passengers would have still caught the fug of Silk Cut with or without Ronco’s invention. Now where’s the passive smoking issues with an eCig…? Thankfully, it doesn’t seen the done thing to regard a smokeless ashtray – or indeed, any pack of cigarettes or cigars – as a suitable Christmas gift.

Even so, smokeless ashtrays are still available today. Nowadays, they look like bog standard ashtrays, buckets, UFOs and Austin Minis.

*                                *                                *

1981 price: $16.88 (Ronco’s version).

2013 price: £4.49 (cylindrical beige and brown version, new from eBay.com, checked on the 04 December 2013).

S.V., 16 December 2013.

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