Friday 24 January 2020

Declan Lynch: Last luxury goes up in a puff of smoke

The Stop Relaxing brigade is waiting to pounce on our most modest recreations

THE suggestion by Minister James Reilly that smoking should be banned on beaches and in public parks seems to reflect the mood of the time. It will remove perhaps the last pleasure left in this life, to those at whom it is aimed. And it will bring very little benefit to anyone else.

If anything, it will make our lives just a small bit less endurable, by taking away the occasional aroma of cigarette smoke, which, as Foster & Allen noted in another context, "brings all things to my mind".

As a retired smoker and drinker, I now find that the slightest whiff of Benson & Hedges drifting across the air is enough to trigger great waves of memory, and deep feelings of loss.

Memory and loss, and loss of memory -- it is all there, in these precious but fleeting moments of passive smoking. And now James Reilly apparently has nothing better to be doing than to take these moments of smoky remembrance away from us.

For the smokers themselves, the outlook is truly sad. There is almost nowhere left for them to go now, the latest "initiative" being apparently based on some draconian measure introduced in New York.

So we have finally found one of the few ideas they ever had in New York, which tends to limit human freedom in some deeply ridiculous way, and we have "run with it", as they say. Indeed, we will probably end up "rolling it out", as they also say.

There are a lot of other things about New York that we have not been so quick to copy -- they still have many vibrant bars, for example, while in Ireland we have somehow destroyed our pubs in an amazingly short period of time, mainly through the introduction of the smoking ban.

On my increasingly rare visits to public houses, I am always struck by the terrible absence of smoke in the air, and the realisation that about 90 per cent of the atmosphere in pubs was created by us smokers, in that better time.

Indeed, I congratulate myself for getting out of the game just before it all went wrong, and I sympathise with any man trying to smoke and drink in this day and age, with the Stop Relaxing brigade out there waiting to pounce on even the most modest of his recreations.

And strangely, though I still enjoy whatever passive smoking opportunities come my way, it never really lures me back into the game, probably because I gave up smoking in the most effective way possible -- by giving up drinking first.

You never hear the so-called experts in the multi-million dollar anti-smoking industry pointing this out, yet it is blatantly obvious that the majority of people who are trying to give up smoking are foiled in moments of weakness brought on by the drink. Therefore, to stop smoking, it would be a really good idea to stop drinking first.

Moreover, it was only when I was smoking about 50 a day that I considered giving them up, whereas if I had been gradually reducing my intake as some experts recommend, I would probably still be addicted, but feeling like a more reasonable sort of fellow.

We are talking too much sense here, I fear.

Public policy in these matters is characterised by its lack of sense, and, as for wit and reason, they are nowhere to be found. Certainly the smoking ban probably helped or forced a few people to quit, but somehow we had to destroy an entire civilisation along with it, not to mention the lives of almost every poor ould fella in the land.

Now there is this madness about driving the smokers away from parks and beaches, so that James

Reilly can have a cheap hit of positive publicity, based on the notion that the only thing that matters in life is health and safety.

Which of course is wrong -- mankind has always had a need for what we call "places of low resort". And if health and safety were the only things that mattered to us, or that gave our lives any meaning, we would not be going out to parks and beaches anyway, we would just stay in our rooms -- oddly enough we can still smoke there.

For now...

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