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Smoke signals

Last Wednesday was National Non-Smoking Day, carte blanche for non-smokers to pester their cigarette-wielding friends into giving up their filthy habit.

I never thought the day would come when I actually started feeling sorry for smokers. And it hasn’t just yet, but I’m at least trying to get my head round what it must be like to be a smoker in the 21st century.

Since smoking first became popular in Central America in 885 AD (give or take a few years) the act of inhaling smoke then slowly exhaling it again had been loosely tolerated. That was until the smoking ban in 2006. I’m not sure what happened to change opinions, but it seems to have been a case of the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or should that be the Camel that broke the camel’s back?

Now, more than ever before, there is a clear distinction between smokers and non-smokers.

Smokers are the ones who have to stand outside bars and restaurants to enjoy their much-maligned habit while those sinking pints and ordering everything off the dessert menu don’t have to brave the elements while engaging in equally health-threatening pastimes.

The key difference is smokers, without a hint of generosity, are guilty of sharing their poison with those around them. For this reason they have to stick with their own kind and vacate any locations inhabited by ‘healthy’ members of the population in order to light up. In some ways, smokers are the modern lepers, victims of a mild version of apartheid.

I used to be one of those do-gooders who tried to get people to give up smoking, but that was purely for selfish reasons, ie wanting them to live longer and not kill me in the process. Plus the fact that the smell of smoke is top of my list when it comes to smells that make me want to stick sharpened pencils up my nostrils.

Nowadays, I’m of the opinion that it should be a smoker’s freedom of choice to smoke if they choose to, so long they don’t infringe on other people’s right to clean air.

Just because people smoke shouldn’t permit non-smokers to be automatically rude to them under the auspices of trying to help them quit.

Smokers are often cajoled with such comments as: “Oi stinky smokebreath, don’t suppose you could lend me a fiver? Wait, that’s right, you don’t have any money because you spend it all on cancer sticks. You do realise smoking makes you antisocial? Old stinky no mates, you’ll get no sympathy here. Away home to your mummy and cry!”

It’s usually at this point the smoker will leave his doctor’s surgery.

All the risks of smoking are well documented in the public domain so smokers are more than capable of making an informed choice without being bullied by people such as fictional GPs.

Smoking kills. That’s what it says on the packet, so it must be based on a small degree of research. Another way of looking at it is sharks kill as well, but that doesn’t stop people going swimming in the ocean.

Either way, it’s pretty much accepted that smoking is a hobby which could well send you to an early grave. Which is why I had to suppress a smile when a nicotine-stained gentleman said to me recently, without a hint of irony, “If my wife found out I smoked she’d kill me.”

I’m fascinated by people who go to great lengths to hide the fact they smoke from loved ones. I can just picture the wife who’s found out her husband has been having an affair with a stick thin, red-headed temptress.

“I can’t believe it,” I can imagine her screaming. “I can’t believe you’ve been smoking all these years. I knew about your addiction to strong mints and your extensive air freshener collection, but cigarettes, ugh! You may pack your bags and get out of my sight. I never want your smoke-shrouded silhouette to darken this door again.... but before you go, you wouldn’t fetch me my pipe?”

Weekly teaser

The answer to last week’s teaser was: Yes, it’s possible to go through an entire year without using the letter ‘K’ if you use the following format, “Sunday, January the First, Monday, January the Second, Tuesday, January the Third, etc,” because none of the days of the week, months of the year or the numbers one to 31 contain the letter ‘K’.

Here’s this week’s teaser: How many athletes will represent Scotland at the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics?