Sunday, September 13, 2009
She lit her first cigarette as the lights were going out over Europe at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
Since then she has reached for her trusty Player’s Navy Blue (or, latterly, Embassy) through the ups and downs of all the following decades.
Until now. At the astonishing age of 102, Winne Langley has kicked the habit after 95 years because she ‘didn’t fancy it any more’.
Mrs Langley, who would share cigarettes with her friends at infant school, reckons she hasn’t contracted cancer because she does not inhale.
The former laundrette worker, who lives in Croydon, South London, said: ‘Everyone used to smoke in those days, you did it to cope. We didn’t know about the health problems. I just don’t fancy it any more.
‘My eyesight is failing so in a few years’ time I might not be able to see the pack.’
Since her first puff in 1914, Mrs Langley averaged five cigarettes a day, giving a total of more than 170,000 in her lifetime.
Her cigarettes were always to hand during the Depression and the Second World War.
‘I lived close to Biggin Hill and you could hear the German rocket bombs’ engines cut out,’ she said.
‘Some bombs used to land pretty close to me. You needed a smoke after that. ‘We didn’t know if we were going to be alive from one day to the next, so we thought you might as well enjoy yourself while you’re alive.’
Mrs Langley has outlived her husband Robert, who died in 1968, and
her son, who died four years ago aged 72.
She said: ‘I’ve cut down in recent years and only had one every few days after dinner or in my bedroom. I can just about afford it but the price of cigarettes is disgusting, and the smoking ban is disgusting. You should be able to smoke where you want.’
Mrs Langley’s step-grandson Clive, 53, said: ‘Her doctors have told her there’s not much point stopping now. If she’s got to 102 without getting cancer I don’t
think she ever will.’