Now for a long time, long before I gave up smoking myself and long before the Bhutan ban and long before the British not-really-a-ban, I wondered why the UK didn't do it. Why did someone never say 'right, we know** tobacco is bad so let's stop fucking around and just classify it next to cannabis and Ecstasy and the rest'? Well, there is an obvious reason of course. Lots of reasons in fact - currently around ten billion of them (as opposed to the £2.7 billion it's claimed they cost the Notional Health Service). The government, and this doesn't mean just the current one or just the British one, is far more addicted to the revenue than the smokers are to the weed. So addicted in fact that it really doesn't want to force everyone to give up smoking and slay that wonderful golden goose. Oh, they'll play along with the tobacco hating joyless bastards, bansturbators and killjoys who never fucking smile it case it cracks their complexions, just to keep them onside. But what they won't dare do and frankly can't fucking afford to do is persuade everyone to stop. With only 1%, possibly a little more, of the population being smokers Bhutan could do it, plus, as that article points out, Bhutan is a little crazy ($200 a day tax for the privilege of visiting the place, if they deign to let me in in the first place? I think I'll stay here, thanks). Britain's government is also crazy (and stupid), but not that crazy (and stupid) to want to cut off a major income stream until it's identified a replacement. Until then ASH is in for a disappointment, but that's still bad news for smokers since in practical terms it means the policy of making smoking increasingly inconvenient and unfun - but not so much that smokers start quitting in droves - will continue instead. Even if they haven't got their way yet (and since nothing pleases the cunts more than being displeased they ought to be oddly happy about it) the neo-Puritans are still way ahead, as Jeremy Clarkson explained recently.
In the not too distant past, the notion of not being allowed to smoke in someone’s house would have been as alien as not being allowed to use the loo. Now, most people I know run a fresh-air policy, and those who do allow you to light up always make a huge song and dance about finding something that can be used as an ashtray.Don't hold your breath, Jeremy. A succession of authoritarian cunts have got into power and found that encouraging a load of little interest groups suits their purposes, and until all those groups wake up and realise that this is simply good old fashioned divide et impera those authoritarian cunts will stick with the formula. Bag it but don't ban it, and watch that money roll in.
Worse, even when you are allowed to smoke, there’s a sense still that you shouldn’t. That if you do, you’ll be the only one. Lighting up at a drinks party is a bit like standing there masturbating.
As a result of all this, I have grown to hate parties. On the way, terrified that I won’t be allowed to smoke, I puff away like a madman, trying to fill myself up with a nicotine bank that will last the evening. It doesn’t, though. You can no more store nicotine than you can store sleep.
So, after the first glass of wine, you feel compelled to ask if it’s okay for you to light up, which requires as much courage as it does to ask a girl out. You are terrified that the answer will be no — not because you’ll have to go outside; you’re used to that — but because you’re English and you’ll have embarrassed your host.
And you’re even more terrified that you’ll get an if-you-must yes, followed by lots of huffing and puffing and tutting as the hostess goes off to look in the bottom of the wedding present drawer to see if she can find an ashtray. And then, when she comes back with it, and you light up, you can feel the eyes upon you, and you pray with curled toes and a pile-driver heart that someone else will join in . . .
And here’s the thing, smokers of the world. They always do. If you start smoking at a party, I can absolutely guarantee that within five minutes everyone else will be smoking too. And what makes this even worse than being made to stand outside is that they will be smoking yours.
Since the smoking ban, no one has given up the tabs. They’ve just given up buying them, and this is the most annoying thing in all of human history.
Last weekend I took a crisp, unopened packet of 20 to a friend’s house, where I’d been invited to spend the day shooting. And over breakfast one of the chaps said: “Ooh, can I nick one of those?”
Naturally this prompted his wife to chime in with a request as well, and that sort of opened the floodgates. So, by the time we’d pulled our boots on and set off, I had only 10 left. Ten wouldn’t be enough. When a smoker has only 10 fags in his pocket and there’s no shop for miles, it’s an all-consuming problem. You do a lot of maths. When can I get to a shop? How many hours till then? And just when you’ve worked out you can have one only every 40 minutes, the hordes descend again: “I say, you haven’t got another fag, have you?” So now you have only five.
What party smokers don’t understand is that proper smokers don’t smoke for fun. It’s a drug. We need it. Running out of cigarettes is not an inconvenience; it’s a matter of life and death. Literally. Because in the same way that a heroin addict will mug an old lady for his next fix, a smoker will get up from a dinner table at midnight and, so pissed he can’t even walk, drive into the night to find a petrol station and more supplies.
To get round the problem, I now take four packs to a party. But this is never enough. On New Year’s Eve I had 50 people round for supper. None of them smokes. But that didn’t stop them getting through a carton of 200. I’d rather they’d nicked my furniture.
There are, as I see it, only two solutions. Either the government can come clean and admit that without the tax revenue from smokers, the NHS would be finished. Or, to level the playing field, it can ban smoking completely.
Frankly I'm past hoping for some Niemöller type awakening and I'm starting to think that governments are going to be forced to make a decision not by voters but by criminals. British smokers are being forced to pay more and more to smoke in fewer and fewer places, and I'm sure that increasing numbers of them will start buying from the cab of a Romanian artic in preference to a tobacconists where, if the bastards get their way, all the baccy will have to be hidden away under the counter as if it was hard core goat porn or something. Sure it's illegal but fuck it, why pay more for less? Australia doesn't have much in the way of foreign trucks bringing in cheap fags but since there are places where tobacco plants can be home grown there is a smoker's equivalent of moonshine, with all that implies, known as Chop-Chop.*** Again, the government are just encouraging more trade in this stuff if they go too far, and they can only take so much of that before the loss in tax revenue becomes too much to bear. In both cases they'll hit the buffer sooner or later, at which point they'll have to finally get off the fucking fence and either follow the Bhutanese lead or tell the ban happy bastards to fuck off and live there instead.
* See Dick Puddlecote and Mummylonglegs, who both make good points on the Health Bansturbator, as well as Constantly Furious who apparently isn't even trusted to look at a website about smoking. Free country? Yeah, right.
** Translation: we've convinced ourselves that we know best regardless of any uncertainties there may be.
** That it's possible if illegal to grow your own tobacco here might be of particular interest to Dick Puddlecote who, presumably because of all the spiders, sharks, snakes, stonefish, cone snails, sea wasps, bluebottles and other jellyfish, deadly octopi, crocodiles, trees that try to sting you to death, trees that simply drop whole branches on your head, hostile geography, lousy drivers and drop bears, seems less than keen on the place from comments he's left here. Australia had to have some saving grace, eh DP?