postcard from a twentysomething

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Indy Lifestyle Online
As I write, I've just returned from a pleasant weekend in the country, spent burning down tobacconists' shops and brutally murdering anyone I discovered harbouring a pack of Marlboros. Well, not quite. In fact, I asked a friend of mine not to light up a cigarette in my kitchen, but this means, according to her, that I am an "anti-smoking fascist", so it comes to the same thing.

She reminded me of how much I hate smokers. I'm addicted to hating them. I used to hate them only at parties or when I was drinking, but now I hate them up to 40 times a day, and I still wake in the night, desperate to hate them even more. In short, there's no smoke without fire.

You know the obvious reasons. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, bronchitis, emphysema, Buerger's disease and other hard-to-spell ailments; it costs the NHS pounds 610 million a year; and, worst of all, when it's done in the same pub as I am, it makes my clothes smell.

But I hate smokers for their attitude more than for the habit itself. I hate the way they stop me in the street to ask if I have a spare cigarette, but have never once granted my request for a spare Wispa Gold. I hate the way they imagine that cellophane wrapping and cigarette ends aren't real litter, so can be dropped on the ground without anyone minding. And, most of all, I hate smokers for their self-deluding, reactionary, brattish whining. No one else but the American gun lobby finds it so difficult to distinguish between a basic human right and a stupidly dangerous hobby.

Smokers are uncomfortably aware of how ridiculous they are, so they justify themselves by appropriating the language of persecuted minorities. "Anti- smoking fascist", indeed. If you want to smoke in your place of work, you're forced to sit in a room, reading the paper and having a cup of coffee with your mates for 10 minutes. If that's your definition of fascism, then yes, I'm an anti-smoking fascist. I'm also an anti-littering Nazi and an anti-singing-Boyzone-songs-loudly-in-open-plan-offices dictator.

At this point in the debate, the smoker will clutch at the straw which says that tobacco might actually be good for your health, so there. A recent "controversial" article in the Independent, claimed that smokers were less likely to suffer from "acne, Alzheimer's disease, some cancers". So, there you have it. It's our moral duty to encourage school-children to puff away. "Now, Johnny, you're not having any dessert until that packet of Benson & Hedges is empty - and no stubbing them out before they're right down to the filter, either."

It's a laughable argument and a little inconsistent with smokers' propensity to play the hard-bitten hero, battling bravely against an implacable foe. "Goddamn these babies," they snarl through gritted teeth. "I wish I could quit, but I can't live without 'em." Oh grow up. If smoking made you fat, bald or impotent, we'd soon see how hard it was to do without it. Of course, smoking has much worse effects than these, it's just that they aren't immediate, so it's easy to pretend that they won't happen. But they will, smoker, they will.

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