It's true: tobacco can seriously improve your life

THE MEETING was about to start and, at one end of the boardroom table, my friend Roddy was puffing on one of his aggressively large cigars. It was going to be a long, dreary morning, so I lit up a more modest half corona.

As our smoke mingled companionably over the gathering, a female colleague inexplicably began to splutter and wave her arms about like a demented bookmaker. She was allergic, she gasped, watery-eyed. My, how we laughed at her protests although, ever willing to compromise, I opened a window slightly.

All has changed now, of course. That was a few years ago and I feel retrospectively ashamed. Not only were we inflicting our own antisocial behaviour upon this poor woman, but we were probably poisoning her, too. These days, unless I happen to be at the Chelsea Arts Club, an establishment which actively encourages smoking among its free-thinking membership, my half coronas have become a solitary vice.

Like many parents, I thought I knew where I stood on the smoking issue. It was a nasty, unhealthy habit promoted by a sleazy multinational industry that would do anything to addict children and exploit their vulnerability, even unto death. When the Court of Appeal recently overturned an injunction brought by tobacco companies opposing the Government's plan to ban the last vestiges of advertising, it seemed like a vote for common sense.

Subtly, we are told, these loathsome, greedy businessmen - somehow, I imagine them as dead-eyed, Times-reading middle-aged men with trim mock- Tudor houses in the Home Counties - have been engaged in a propaganda war. They put hidden messages on Damon Hill's Jordan. They encouraged Sharon Stone to smoke during her famous knickerless interrogation scene in Basic Instinct. They must be stopped.

But now suddenly, as with so many other things, I am not so sure. Propaganda? No campaign has ever been more effective than that waged by thousands of sincere, good-hearted teachers at primary and secondary schools. Overnight, it seemed, the anti-tobacco lobby had at least one ardent, fanatical campaigner in every family home, squeaking earnest objections at the first flare of a match, sniffing the air for unacceptable smells, haranguing their exhausted parents if they dared to light up at the end of the day.

Fathers, banished from their homes, took to smoking guiltily at the end of the garden. Bravely, I would lock myself away in my study, ignoring the pleas of my children who were convinced Daddy was killing himself, but many parents - not addicts, who were beyond help, but recreational users - succumbed to the pressure.

Years on, and what has happened? The children, now grown, puff away happily while the old folk, guilt having entered the bloodstream, complain ineffectively. Perhaps those smoking film stars were to blame, although somehow it seems unlikely that Sharon and her basic instinct drove teenage girls to smoke any more than she encouraged them to dispense with underwear when in trouble with the police.

The awkward truth is that smoking is cool. While the hard cases - Wheezing Willies unable to finish a meal without a cigarette, Fag-End Friedas who smoke before, after and even during sex - are depressing to be with, so are the new puritans.

I have no wish to be an apologist for the creepy tobacco industry and sympathise with those who suffer from a smoke-related illness. I hope my children will, like me, grow out of cigarettes, and I think they will. But, as the great posse of public health enthusiasts chase Marlboro Man out of town, I can't help feeling that the person who lights up in this great age of disapproval is, paradoxically, exercising a small, significant vote for life.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot