This Smoking Life

Society really has come a long way since I smoked my first cigarette. I don’t mean this literally of course; otherwise I would say the little buggers have slowed us down if anything.

It was February 1995 and I was a college student, a friend and I were at a pub one evening. He was one of my cool friends who seemed to have lots of interesting opinions about stuff and had a way about him that felt like a natural leader type. So when he offered me a cigarette that evening, I inevitably accepted. If there had been a ban on smoking indoors at the time, and if I’d had to go into the wintery outside, I probably would have declined. Does this make me a weak willed individual, who may have not taken up smoking if only the establishment had said ‘not in here sunshine’? Well possibly, but maybe my life took a new path when I decided to smoke that first one.

I thought my first blog could be about how smoking and the bans has affected society and me, whilst affording you a brief history of some of my life from this smoker’s hazy point of view.

Smoking through college felt decidedly cool at times, you really felt like you fitted in. There you were, sitting on the grass in free periods, chatting about all sorts of shit, which at the time genuinely feels important. You find yourself smoothly blowing out the smoke you’d just inhaled coupled with a wry smile when a girl you fancy makes a slight about one your fellow students. It’s strange, you’d thought up till now he was an ok fella, but she seems to know best because she’s pretty. It’s only later in life you realise that the fella she was on about was only guilty of not being sheep, what a bitch. Every so often smoking loses its cool a bit though, especially when the addictive side of smoking pulls up beside you in a bright red shiny Astra with new alloys and drags you along the dirt track. It appears at those times when you start a seemingly innocent conversation with a so called ‘mate’ that it inevitably comes round to you essentially begging them for a fag. This happens because sometimes as a student you were so poor that, at times, dignity felt like a luxury that only came along for a few hours after you were paid your pennies from whatever part time job you did.

At my first proper job you could smoke in the office, it seems unbelievable now and I’m only in my early thirties. It was working for a local newspaper, and whilst admittedly most offices had banned smoking, it wasn’t yet a complete legal requirement. My boss was on about 40 Marlboro reds a day, so she wasn’t about to enforce it here. Smoking around a lot of newspaper, now seems like a disaster waiting to happen. At the time however, it felt a bit like a 80s movie about people who need to hit the deadline while phones are ringing and if it’s not done, their ass is grass. Then to affirm the point they put their half smoked cigarette out in the ashtray and said ‘god damn it’…Yeah!

The action-movie life did not last. When the official ban came in to offices, we were sent out into the car park to smoke like all the other lepers in the land. And so it continued through my working life, but outside of work was play. You could still smoke in certain compartments on trains, although I’d rarely use them, these compartments were frankly disgusting. If you were close to kicking the habit at this point in your smoking life, I think these smoking compartments would actually help the cause. The stench of stale smoke, the condition of the area and the yellow-haired old men hacking away was an advert I’m surprised anti-smoking campaigners didn’t pick up on.

So besides your own home, the last bastion of indoor smoking was the pub, where it all started for me. When the ban on pubs was proposed, this is where I remember the objections really kicking off. The last stand was in place, the hope was in the air, and surely it would only be pubs that served food taking the hit. If that wasn’t the case, then working men’s clubs would be the stronghold! But alas all these fortresses were felled and come rain or shine, we would be sent outside like a cat that has shat on your sofa, one too many times.

I continued this segregated smoking for some time with mixed feelings. If it was at work I would be stuck chatting to whoever else smoked whether I liked them or not. In pubs if we were all smokers, we would end up going out in pairs so someone could guard our ‘stuff’. If it was a mix of smokers and non-smokers, we would be deemed to be in the ‘smokers club’. This would sometimes lead to one group of people going out and half of them having a completely different night from the others, who, for all intents and purposes, may as well have not been there.

I still smoke, but it is much rarer now. It was my choice, in the sense someone telling me I should stop was never going to work. If I was told that I should stop, I would nod politely and agreed I should, then become frustrated and go off for a smoke.  I started to phase out smoking in certain environments. Firstly I’ve always had it in built not to smoke when I visit my mum, who was always very anti-smoking.  I thought, it’s all in the head, if I can associate not smoking when I’m at my mums and not be bothered by it, surely I can do it elsewhere, and slowly it worked.  I stopped going for fag breaks at work, I moved in with my girlfriend, who doesn’t smoke and stopped indoors. I don’t need to go out for a ciggy if I’m in a pub with people who are happy inside. I now only smoke when I have a drink outside at a pub, where if I’m honest, I chain smoke the shit out of them.

In conclusion it seems all the bans have had a real effect on me and I genuinely feel better for smoking less. But maybe it wasn’t all by my own plan after all. The bans have indirectly told me to stop, which stupidly annoys me and makes me want to rebel against ‘the man’, who has influenced my own free will. Then again, it was probably that same weak will which put me on the path in the first place. What a depressing thought, who’s got a light?


About residentweebler
Short Story Writer and Opinionated observer. Visit my blog for all this and more.

3 Responses to This Smoking Life

  1. slowlycreepingdeath says:

    As I non-smoker I have always thought the outright ban on smoking in pubs is a little overkill. We work the longest hours in europe in the UK so I think people have the right to sit and relax and smoke if they wish, say in places where food is not served.

  2. Mr Toodle says:

    I too, am a non-smoker, and I much prefer going to the pub now it isn’t full of smokers. I say smokers, not smoke, because there’s something really annoying about people puffing away and not really giving a toss about you or the air you breath. I never complained about it back in the day, in fact I used to join in every so often. It didn’t bother me because, well, smoking and drinking was what pubs were for. But looking back on it now, being a drinker doesn’t effect anyone else’s health, but obviously smoking doesn’t have the same respect for others. It does mean that in clubs you can smell everyone’s sweat and farts, but at least theirs no proven link between body odour and lung cancer.

    All this does sound a bit sanctimonious, even though I didn’t mean it too be, I guess being a non-smoker will always sound a bit like that until smoking is considered weird, if that ever happens.

  3. Not cool or with Opinion says:

    If you break it down – smoking is a pretty odd thing to do…also the perceived pleasure is a myth, a con. An analogy I once heard described it as wearing really tight shoes all day – just so you could gain pleasure by taking them off…you’re just feeding an addiction and therefore you convince yourself by feeding that addiction you gain pleasure… – if you weren’t an addict…guess what…no pleasure…infact – you remember how horrible smoking is…question to the author – that first ciggy you had ,what did you think? it was probably the same as 99% of people – f**k me thats disgusting, it stinks, it’s making me cough, no way could i get addicted to this….

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