Dear Andy Capp: If even you are forced to put out your fag, what hope is there for the rest of us?

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I was most sorry - distressed even - to read that you have decided to give up smoking. I had noticed on my last visit to Nottingham races that the flag over the John Player factory hung at half mast but it never occurred to me that it might have signified tragedy on such a seismic scale. I think your friend and mentor, Reg Smythe, has done you a disservice. Great men have no right to desert their followers by taking early retirement, and I feel betrayed. Worse, I feel you have betrayed yourself. It is as though Falstaff had chosen to go on the wagon.

Dear Florrie must be beside herself with grief. She once told me that the glow of your cigarette in bed at night was as reassuring to her as the light shining from a lighthouse is to a storm-tossed mariner, although she didn't quite put it like that. You have surrendered one of the last liberties left to a gentleman punter, lounger and ne'er do well. There aren't many of us left.

There are those who would turn your life into a meaningless void - the same men who tried to make you jog from Jarrow to London in 1936. Next they will have you cancel your subscription to the Sporting Life. And life was sporting, Mr Capp, wasn't it? Remember when Nicotine won the Ebor and when we even smoked the cork tips on our Craven A? It is lucky for you that you decided against going to America when you won that free trip in the Rothmans competition. You would have been burnt at the stake - with an environment-friendly fuel, of course. And to think we started smoking by scrounging Lucky Strike from GIs during the war. I remember your hero was Sir Walter Ralegh, who brought back not only tobacco from the US but chips. I suppose Reg Smythe told you he brought back lung cancer as well.

Anyway, there is hardly a place left where you are allowed to smoke nowadays, so you may not miss smoking as much as we would have in the past. I remember when we first met at school; even then you wore a smoking jacket, although you were only seven. You made Florrie, who sat at the back of the class, roll cigarettes for you. We smoked Digger Shag, and if we ran out we smoked blotting paper. You would stuff anything into that pipe of yours.

So this business of your giving up smoking comes as a great shock. It was practically a profession. You will become irritable, obese and have no idea what to do with your hands between pints and races. You might even catch your death of cold - what with the bedroom windows open. Have a care, Mr Capp.

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