Ashes to ashes

To mark the 50-day countdown to the smoking ban, the Guardian decides to give Christopher Hitchens and Simon Hoggart the space to duke it out over whether this is A Good Thing or not. Their pieces can be summarised as follows:

Christopher Hitchens: I’m going to start off by using incredibly long words and evoke the good old days to make myself sound simultaneously clever and in touch with the feelings of The People. I’ll also have a go at Patricia Hewitt because, frankly, nobody likes her and I’m on safe ground here. I’ll also contradict my argument a few times, but this doesn’t matter because it’ll be completely obscured by superfluous vocabulary that nobody will notice. Basically this has nothing to do with our health and is all about kiljoys wanting to stop us having a good time. But I don’t actually live in Britain anymore because I’m far too clever for you all, so this is all a massive presumption on my part.

Simon Hoggart: I got drunk once with famous people and politicians. Actually, I used to drink a lot with a lot of politicians, and decided to quit after one particularly bad hangover. But I can’t shake off the craving; it follows me everywhere but at least I’m a better person than the Royal Family. Where was I? Smoking’s a horrible habit, and I’ll rest my case with an amusing quote.

I can never decide if the smoking ban is a good or a bad thing. On one hand I feel uneasy with banning it. On the other hand, as a non-smoker, I really hate coming back stinking of smoke and really don’t like having to sit by smokers, even if I’m far too polite to tell them. By the time I’ve worked out if social intricacies permit me to ask if they’d mind smoking elsewhere they’ve usually finished their fags, so the whole internal debate becomes irrelevant. Actually, I can’t think of a single time I’ve asked somebody if they’d mind lighting up elsewhere, unless its in my house.

But the again, while I’m really not fond of smoking, there are a couple of pubs I frequent that just won’t seem the same once you take away the smoke and the wheezing regulars propping up the bar. In fact I’d go as so far to suggest some of these should immediately be encased and preserved as national treasures. The bars complete with regulars that is.

Then again, Christopher Hitchens is a bit of a buffoon [1] and I can’t possible side with an argument as badly thought through as that. Plus Simon Hoggart is much funnier. Plus the predictions of dooooom [2] don’t quite seem to have materialised in Scotland and Wales.

Ok, so I’m in favour of a ban. Ok, so it sits against my usual principles. I’m fine with that. I don’t have a problem with smokers smoking. That’s their choice. But, regardless of what Hitchens says, not by me pretty much every time I go out for a drink. That said, I’d still like to preserve my local around the corner as it really won’t be the same when they suck the smoke out.

[1] Take the following: “But it has been a long time since any non-smoker has been forced to breathe the same air as a smoker.” It is if you count since last Friday as a long time.

[2] And they are always predictions of dooooom. If it’s perceived something won’t work it’s not just enough that it won’t work. It also has to be responsible for the end of humanity as we know it before it can remotely qualify as A Bad Idea.

[EDIT]: I meant Christopher Hitchens. His name was staring right at me. Instead I wrote Peter. This, also, makes me a buffoon. Now edited. 

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2 Responses to “Ashes to ashes”


  1. 1 cerimorgan May 15, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Well back here in The Land of our Fathers (Wales, obviously) the smoking ban has been quite nice for me actually! I can go for a drink or too and still smell lovely.

    Although i will say the ban has caused quite a few problems at the union. Because of the no re-admittance policy, gig goers are not allowed outside for a fag break, and they start to go a bit mental, and then the bouncers get involved….

  2. 2 garyandrews May 15, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    Now that’s an interesting aspect which I’d not thought of. Like I say, I’m in favour of the ban (just. largely) but I’d say in those cases some kind of accommodation should be made for the smokers – be it a shelter or place to go. Same with clubs. Away from the main bit obviously, but they certainly shouldn’t be shut out just for wanting a cigarette.


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