SMOKERS have become an endangered species.
At one time this ubiquitous race was a common sight in public places. Its members populated bars, streets, cinemas, restaurants, buses, planes and trains, department stores and even petrol stations, leaving behind their tell-tale blue haze.
Having been one myself for almost two decades in my formative years, I look back nostalgically on those carefree evenings spent relaxing , cigarette in one hand, drink in the other, chewing the fat and putting the world to rights. Countless contented hours of doing a very good impression of a goldfish as I fine-tuned the art of blowing the perfect smoke ring.
We happily puffed away with an air of superiority, polluting the surrounding air and ignoring the disapproving looks from po-faced abstainers. After all, nobody was forcing them to stay.
The boot is on the other foot now and smokers are looked down on from a lofty height. They have become social pariahs, barely a notch above crazed drug addicts who steal from their mothers’ purses or despotic war criminals.
Ostracised by the “right thinking members of society” and often to be spotted huddled in draughty doorways or street corners, those halcyon days of a fag and a pint in the local pub are a thing of the past for imbibers of the weed.
I’m filled with a mixture of admiration and pity for those diehards who have persevered in the face of such adversity. This is Britain, not some totalitarian state (yet). We welcome independence of thought here and if someone chooses to burn their hard-earned cash, it’s up to them. Admittedly, I might think differently if I worked in the medical profession and saw the effects of smoking as a long-term hobby.
Anyone who is prepared to shell out £7 for a packet of fags and then suffer the ignominy of having to ask the shop assistant for them, like an illicit porn magazine or a condom, is to be applauded for their tenacity. It would be far easier to give up.
In fact, rather surprisingly, that is exactly what two friends of mine, who shall be referred to here as M and J, have just done. No cold turkey for them, no counting the hours and days since they last had one, no desperate cravings first thing in the morning or after a few drinks. They both gave up in an instant and are happy as Larry.