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June 2020
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2002-11-20 Smoking kills number one

On the packet is written Smoking can cause cancer or heart disease, Smoking kills. Mmm, yum, I think I will have some of those. Sorry, but wheres the logic?


Apologises to all you dedicated smokers, but Ive bided my time long enough, it is time I shared with you the reasons why smoking is Number 1 on my list of miscellaneous dislikes. And why, if someone says do you mind if I smoke, I now reply I do, actually.

When I was wee, a babysitter forced myself and my sister to have a drag of her Woodbine down on the Mardyke on the Point Road. Getting a cigarette stubbed out on my cheek (my facial cheek) by a frustrated customer in my Dads shop only added to my intolerance of the cancer-stick. I think it is just that everything about this selfish habit, for me anyway, is negative. Permanent damage is done to ones health, skin, appearance and bank balance, and now cigarettes are even less acceptable socially.

If I have had the misfortune to find myself in a smoky environment, the following morning my clothes and bedroom reek of the stuff. Why should I have to pay for dry-cleaning clothes which I didnt dirty in the first place?

I think the reason smoking became so cool was in part due to the glamorisation of cigarettes in the 1960s. And then Happiness was a cigar called Hamlet, sorry, not my idea of happiness, but at least that ad did popularise Bach. The title role of Bizets opera Carmen is a cigarette factory worker, but strangely, in the gentle Chorus of Cigarette Girls they dont all wheeze and cough in the key of Ab Major.

So what is attractive about breathing in dioxins and carbon-free radicals (both carcinogens), carbon monoxide, nox emissions and saltpeter (used in the making of gunpowder) as well as all the other well-publicised ingredients? Because of smoke I dont go to pubs anymore, and I no longer enjoy weddings. A few years ago at an extremely smoky wedding reception (smoking between courses is the worst) my eyes began to water and my voice began to go. The next day I had no voice and it only began to return around a fortnight later. Around the time of the launch of our first album I stupidly went to a pub for about 20 minutes with my colleagues. Same symptoms and no voice for about 10 days at a really important time in my career. The laryngologist told me to stay away from smoke as I was basically allergic to it. Roy Castle who played trumpet in smoky clubs for years famously died from passive smoking.

Ah yes, the stench of bedspreads and curtains in smoking hotel rooms, the sight of a full ash-tray in a greasy-spoon café, the comparison between kissing a smoker and licking an ashtray, that visible cloud of smoke above drinkers in a pub, those photos of a smokers lungs, the lady just having had her hair permed and lighting one up, the sight of patients in wheelchairs or carrying a drip smoking outside the hospital entrance, those sexy yellow fingers, that yellow smile, the scent of forest pine-trees temporarily upstaged by the whiff of an approaching smoker, the collection of cigarette butts at many of the countrys beauty-spots, the thick choking smoke of a pipe-smoker re-igniting his tobacco, chain-smoking TV and Stage crews, the young pregnant mother with fag hanging out pushing a buggy, or the smoking staff member at a Dublin dry-cleaners folding your Armani suit which had been left in in the first place to get rid of the smell of smoke!

Yes, it is official, I am the worlds most boring non-smoker and would be for banning it in all public places. Maybe I cant understand the addiction? At least alcohol can taste nice. At budget time, could tax be piled onto cigarettes making them unaffordable (as in New Zealand), so encouraging people to quit? Think of the money you could save and the holiday you could have instead?

A friend of my fathers was sitting in a non-smoking carriage on the Sligo/Dublin train. When an elderly gentleman lit his second cigarette opposite him, he drew his attention to the No smoking sign on the window and said Does this mean nothing??. Not at all, came the reply, Smoke away there, youre grand!.