The other day I was sitting outside a cafe in Muswell Hill enjoying a coffee before a business meeting. Ashtrays were provided on the tables and I asked the waitress if I was allowed to smoke. She gave me the go-ahead and so I lit up. Within 30 seconds a lady at a nearby table asked me if I would stub it out as it “smells really bad and contains all sorts of awful chemicals”. I asked her if she’d ever tried one and, when she told me that she hadn’t, I offered her one. “They’re really quite yummy,” I added as she tutted and scowled and studiously turned to ignore me.
Smoking is banned almost everywhere now, with talk of banning it in cars and parks as well. The Government, whilst making billions in taxes from the sale of tobacco, continues to bleat about the dangers of smoking, and when I can actually hear them from all the way up there on the moral high ground, the anti-smoking brigade, whilst reeking of smugness, dare to criticise the informed choice of adults who want to enjoy one of life’s last great pleasures. Do they think we smokers aren’t aware of how damaging smoking is? I know exactly how bad cigarettes are for me. And yet I also know the wonderful benefits of it. It dampens my appetite (no bad thing given that I live off takeaway food), dampens my feelings (which keeps me out of prison given my dangerous levels of barely contained anger when not treated with nicotine), provides welcome relief from the mind-numbing hours of piano practice I do every day, gives me something to look forward to every morning, allows me to remove myself from dull conversations at parties and dinners and miraculously helps me both relax and concentrate all at once. Every one is like a little hug.
Alexander Graham Bell, Einstein, Orwell, Freud, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Wilde, Camus, Twain, Frank Zappa, Miles Davis and Stravinsky were all smokers, as is the universally delightful Avril Lavigne, and in an age where everything from driving to TV to eating red meat is apparently bad for me, if I choose to commit suicide slowly, over many years, then why can’t I be left alone while I’m doing it?