OPINION: Before we ban smoking, spare a thought for those addicted to lighting up


Despite giving up smoking 30 years ago, Helen says she has sympathy with those who long to quit but are too addicted to do so - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It must be 30 years or so since I gave up smoking.

What made me finally stop was one Christmas Day when I ran out of my preferred smokes.

I used to smoke Gitanes, a habit I started when I was living abroad for a while, and there were also Sobranie Cocktail cigarettes which looked and sounded very sophisticated or so I thought on account of the different coloured paper of each ciggie in the pack.

When they started putting health warnings on cigarette packets I switched to cigars and smoked those Cafe Crème ones that came in a little tin. They didn’t have a warning on perhaps because they assumed that the smoker didn’t actually inhale the things.

Not true in my case of course, but with no warning on the Cafe Crème tin it must have stood to reason that they weren’t harmful, right?

That Christmas when I gave up the weed was because I’d run out of my Cafe Crèmes and those were the days when Christmas Day was a closing day.

I was pretty desperate for a smoke and I searched every drawer and cupboard in the house hoping that there might have been an overlooked cigar or even a ciggie somewhere. And then, oh joy, there it was. Hiding at the back of the bureau, a bit of an old cigar butt.

Most Read

The difficulty and determination to get a mere puff out of this smelly old relic made me realise then and there how stupid and sad I was.

I can’t deny that it was tough giving up the habit but I took up running as one way to prevent myself thinking about it, and anyway I found it was difficult to run and smoke at the same time.

So, 30 years on I’m still a non-smoker though strangely I do dream about smoking sometimes. For a while I really did miss smoking after a meal and even avoided going out.

That after dinner smoke rounded off the evening somehow. At that time you could still smoke in restaurants and a few of our friends did carry on smoking, but I knew I mustn’t be lured back into the habit.

I must say I’m glad they’ve banned smoking inside offices and restaurants, cafes and pubs, and so on but even as a non-smoker I’m not so sure I agree with a proposal by the Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy (such a charming name) to reduce lighting up not only inside but also everywhere outside by 2025. The hope is that by then they will reduce smoking anywhere in or out to below five percent,

That means that smoking will be banned in cars, homes, play parks and any outdoor areas at restaurants, cafes and pubs.

I must admit that since the ban on smoking inside a cafe or restaurant and smokers were forced outdoors it can be pretty unpleasant sitting outside on a lovely day with smoke blowing over your food and drink from smokers nearby.

Most smokers I’ve encountered outside have been pretty thoughtful and try to diminish the clouds that are heading our way but some creatures don’t give a damn.

I can see why Oxfordshire might be hoping to go down the route of a complete ban but should the methods be so draconian?

Years ago if you wanted to light up in a pub there was a smoke room; offices had places where smokers could retreat; and in theatres there would be a green room for smoking thesps (and there were plenty of them) in a theatre.

At the pub near us they’ve a designated smoking area outdoors away from any outdoor diners, and this seems to me to be a civilised compromise.

There’s no question that smoking is a bad thing and every one should pack it in, but there’s no denying that for the long-term smoker it’s no easy matter. I know that the more people nagged me to give up the more I actually wanted to light up. They seemed so righteous and superior.

They constantly told us that tobacco is a killer but we’d constantly recall the exceptions, like my auntie Doreen who decided at the age of 80 she ought to pack it in. She was generally pretty fit and would never go to the doctor as they would always tell her off for smoking.

But then she decided to give it up anyway. The family pointed out that as she’d done so well, smoking into her eighties, she might as well carry on.

This annoyed her. “Do you think I’m too old to give up, then?” They took the point.