Are Cell Phone Users the New Smokers?

If the newest etiquette surveys are any indication, mobile phones may be going the way of the cigarette.

Just to prove how good smokers used to have it, a recent Seattle Times article cited the 1941 treatise on manners, “New American Etiquette.” The book, with all the compassion that a high-school football coach bestows upon his third-stringers, admonishes nonsmokers not merely to accept but to accommodate their smoking peers. If unwilling, the author suggests, non-smokers would do best to “retire from social activities” altogether. With bludgeoning certitude, the book proclaims “Smokers far outnumber nonsmokers in every type of community, in every class of society and in both sexes… The young man or young woman who does not smoke is a rarity… If (a hostess) will not let her guest smoke in whatever part of the house they happen to be in, she will not have many guests…”

Now, six decades later, smokers have become the social pariahs: excluded, if not frowned upon, by contemporary behavioral codes and even municipal law. You almost have to admire them at this point for their pure strength of determination.

Yet, while smoking may have hit its sunset years, another handheld is most definitely on the up and up. According to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, there are now roughly 160 million cellular phone subscribers in the United States alone. A November Gallup poll confirmed this finding, telling us that roughly two-thirds of all American adults now own cell phones, compared with just half in 2000. Clearly, non-users have earned a minority status. But are they, like the nonsmokers of 1941, simply to surrender themselves to the tyranny of ubiquitous din? To the insufferable “cell yell” of their mobile-equipped brethren?

…more atThe Feature