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UP IN SMOKE

17-01-2008

Fags

‘They say there’s nothing more self righteous than an ex-smoker’ muses Laurence Inman – before concluding that ‘they’ are right. As a former addict himself, he now reckons it’s time to ban the evil weed altogether.

I consider myself to be the most self-effacing of men. Not for me the empty boast, the improved reminiscence, the thinly-disguised name-drop. In fact, people often point me out in the street and say, ‘Look, there goes Laurence Inman. He wears his humility like a saintly garb.’

So this time of year makes a lovely change for me, as I can savour all my suppressed smugness as it bubbles to the surface.

I think I may have mentioned this last year. I don’t have to struggle with impossible New Year Resolutions because there’s nothing left for me to give up.

Especially smoking.

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t give thanks for the fact that I can just live, minute by breathing minute, without that particular monkey on my back. (And he wasn’t just there, crouching on my back; he was fidgeting about, slapping my head and biting my ears.)

I am the ex-smoker that all smokers (or suckers, as I prefer to call them) invoke when they whine: ‘There’s nobody more self-righteous than an ex-smoker!’

I never know what point they’re trying to make when they say that, but it’s true anyway; I am the most sanctimonious anti-smoker you could ever wish to meet.

But at least I have the excuse that I was just as fiercely an anti-smoker before I managed to free myself from the weed’s grip. I regularly voted for smoking bans at the various places I’ve worked while still being an orange-stained 200-a-day man. So of course I was all in favour of the ban last July.

I think we should now go further and outlaw fags altogether. I think we should round up any miserable huddled groups of addicts you see in the street these days and intern them until they’re nicotine-free or dead.

I think….you don’t want to know what else I think.

It’s still a surprise to me that the ban has been obeyed so completely. It’s obviously an idea whose time has come.

It certainly wouldn’t have worked years ago.

In Manchester in the late 60’s the council banned smoking on the buses, upstairs as well as down. It was a story that made the nationals. It was applauded by health professionals all over the country.

It was also completely ignored, from the very beginning, by everyone who fancied a fag on top of a Manchester bus. Nobody was surprised in the least that it was ignored. Everyone expected it.

Looking back, it amazes me how completely the fug of fag-smoke permeated every area of life. Just about the only place you never saw anyone smoking was in church. People would light up in your house, without so much as a by-your-leave, and you’d scurry off to get them an ash-tray.

It was, even in the early nineties, permissible to smoke in the supermarket. I smoked in lectures. Schools stank of the staff-room. I even collected coupons from fag packets. When you had ten million you could go to these shops in town centres and exchange them for ‘gifts’, like a new ash-tray.

Leathery women would hover about offering you fags as you sat there waiting for it. You literally couldn’t see to the other side of the room, the smoke was so thick.

In my early childhood everybody I knew, family, teachers, the doctor, smoked like there was no tomorrow. It was regarded as natural; you got to thirteen, you started to smoke. To be a non-smoker marked you out as some sort of exotic health-freak, the type of weirdo who only eats tantric vegetables (or whatever.)

Let’s hope that we’re now on the road to burying the habit once and for all. Then we can start on the next project: booze.

How smoky did life used to be? And could we realy outlaw smokng altogether? Post your smoking nostalgia and comments on the Forum.

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