Dope users are daring outlaws, tobacco smokers are scum. Unfair, says Martin McNamara
I love smoking. In the depths of my smoking enjoyment, I believe cigarettes to be the pinnacle of civilisation. Those little cylinders of pure pleasure, or whatever it was Dennis Potter called them.

My favourite movie scene occurs half way through Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire. Peter Falk plays an angel who has become human. He is trying to explain to another angel, Bruno Ganz, the divine pleasures of being mortal. The example he uses is the sensation of smoking a cigarette while drinking a cup of hot, black coffee. I can relate to that.

Cigarettes are my friends. And that is why I would like to see smoking given criminal status. Smokers are under attack and what we need is a radical piece of social engineering to alter the status of the smoker. As honest cigarette smokers in today's Britain, we face an increasingly intolerant attitude to what is a legal substance. The role model we should use for cigarette consumption, in future, is that of the Dutch authorities' attitude to marijuana. There, they have a tolerant attitude about what is an illegal substance.

That tolerance of dope has crept into British life - even if the Government refuses to accept it. And I am beginning to develop a deep-seated envy for the joint-smoking community. Compare the press coverage of cigarettes to that on marijuana.

Almost every story about cigarettes, every letter that is sent to the editor on the subject is about the evil and the dangers of smoking. By contrast, marijuana gets an excellent press these days. The papers are bursting with stories about the magical medicinal benefits of dope, of heroic doctors prescribing joints to elderly patients. If this newspaper printed an anti-marijuana story, its letters pages would be flooded with letters from outraged readers.

On the suppliers' side for cigarette smokers, we have got morally corrupt tobacco empires. On the marijuana team, they have got Howard Marks, the Richard Branson of roll-ups. Fag smokers are the gullible dupes of faceless drug barons. Dope smokers are free spirits lighting up for personal liberty. And I know for a fact Clare Short isn't about to speak out for the rights of voters of the filter-tip persuasion.

And the Rizla crowd crow so proudly about their habit. You never hear nicotine addicts talk about the subtler qualities of Camel Light as compared with Silk Cut purple. But dopeheads never stop rattling on about the joys of skunk or giving their thoughts on the great grass-versus-hash debate. Almost everyone I know, with the exception of me, and possibly my mother, smokes joints. They can enjoy a guilt-free habit while they smugly question my devotion to dirty old tobacco.

Meanwhile, the places we can innocently smoke our tabs - offices, trains, planes, even sections of our precious pubs - are systematically being closed down to us. So, fine. Let's go the whole hog. Let's criminalise cigarettes. Let us take the Dutch attitude to dope as our marker. Dealers in fags can be strictly licensed. We can make it an offence to be caught in possession of more than, say, 200 cigarettes, enough for personal consumption.

We could have a network of tobacco houses in every high street based on the dope-selling Brown Cafes in Amsterdam. Places where, if you step in, you are expected to light up a stick of nicotine. Places where, if somebody wrinkles their nose when you light up, or does that idiotic little fake cough that anti-smokers always deploy, they are immediately ejected.

Then we can sit around and boast about how we got wasted after smoking a whole pack of Senior Service the previous night. We can passionately discuss the therapeutic benefits of nicotine and how we're building up resistance to what is going to be the biggest disease of the 21st century, Alzheimer's. Who knows, maybe we can start growing our own - although I have no idea whether tobacco plants can survive on the window ledges of bathrooms.

Let us give the powerful anti-tobacco lobby exactly what they want. Let us turn ourselves into semi-criminals. Then maybe they will sod off and leave us all alone.

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