At the risk of opening up an entire catering pack of worms, not just the one solitary can, I want to talk about the smoking ban. OK, OK, OK – don’t throw things at me, please - I know that over one month into it you’re probably sick and tired of the subject and so am I, but the heated debate seems to be smouldering on and on. The smoking population still think they’re being persecuted and anti-smokers are continuing to wave two non-nicotine stained fingers as if they were the victors at Agincourt. Both sides think they have rights, and neither can understand the other’s point of view, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that there has been the occasional punch-up between the two factions. As a person who can resort to violence if someone pinches my last Rolo, I know all about addiction and how difficult it is to live without something that gives you pleasure. However, I have noticed a lighter side to all of this.
Firstly, it makes me smile every time I go past a “Thank-you For Not Smoking” sign because it’s usually surrounded by a sea of fag-ends in an “up yours” kind of way. I’ve also noticed that there’s often far more frivolity going on inside those “designated smoking shelters” than there is inside the pub. Does this say something about smokers? Are they more fun? Or are they living fast and loose because they fear that their nicotine habit might eventually do for them, so time is short and they’d better make the most of it? There’s a kind of camaraderie developing among the shunned partakers of what non-smokers sanctimoniously call “the filthy weed” and a bit of bravado is definitely creeping in. Whereas at one time rebels without a cause needed a black leather jacket, white t-shirt and moody look to establish their chosen identity, now all you have to do is put a Silk Cut in your mouth and, hey presto, YOU ARE A DOWNRIGHT FILTHY RENEGADE. Job done. And you don’t even have to light it.
I know the very serious side-effects of smoking aren't a joking matter and cannot be ignored. You only have to look at the sad crowds of smokers cowering in the rain outside hospital entrances to realise how strong their dependence must be if it can force people to hang around outdoors in their nightwear, attached to drips or in wheelchairs. But whilst some of us are rejoicing because we can now spend an evening in the pub without our clothes, hair and skin stinking of fags and are victoriously going on about how thrilled we are that we’re not being forced to passively smoke other people’s cigarettes any more, I think it needs to be acknowledged that this has been achieved by denying the pleasure of another group of people, and I for one appreciate that.
For us non-smokers, there is just one unexpected downside though. Has anyone noticed that now smoking is banned, all the pubs and clubs smell of stale beer, drains and BO?
Maybe I’ll take my drink outside.