Opinion Columnists

Friday 22 November 2019

St Patrick is new patron saint of non-smokers

Picture posed. PA
Picture posed. PA

John Masterson

At some stage in the dim distant past the notion caught on that St Patrick's Day is not part of Lent. Apparently there is a universal Hall Pass available for the day. So if you have given up chocolates you can take up residence in Butlers for the weekend and eat all around you with impunity. And throw in a few tubs of ice cream while you are at it. I will.

If, instead of giving something up, you have been doing something, like going for a daily walk, then you can lie in bed for the day.

None of this seems to me to be in the spirit of Lent but then, since I have never given up anything for Lent, I am not best qualified to comment. I suspect the exemption came about because those who had gone on the dry needed a day off to remember the joys of a hangover. It was ironic that once upon a time the pubs were closed. Another "it's part of what we are" bites the dust. I, for one, was delighted to see this anachronistic reminder of a church-ridden country sent to the scrap heap. The period of abstinence I do remember was November. It was something of an RTE tradition during my time there to give up the drink for the month. I think it was related to making sure that one's liver was in good condition and that there was some money in the kitty for December. I did it once or twice and was surprised to lose a few pounds each time. I convinced myself it was nothing to do with pints of Guinness but more to do with the reduction in fish and chips that seemed irresistible on the walk home.

I do notice this Lent that the few people I know who still smoke cigarettes are determined to put the habit behind them. They have made the decision. I am very grateful that I never smoked as I am fairly certain I would not have been good at giving up. I would always have found an excuse to have just one more. I criticised my mother's smoking so much as a teenager that I would have lost too much face if I ever put a cigarette in my lips. I escaped. She didn't. She died, far too young, of cancer. I was with her when she passed away. I didn't say anything out loud but I cursed cigarette manufacturers for all the harm they do and the pain they cause in the full knowledge that the product they sell causes cancer. We know that as clearly as we know that the world is round. No doubt they would have denied that too if it affected profits. I have long felt that increasing tax on cigarettes would at some stage produce a tipping point. Maybe we are finally getting there, but I have no problem if the price is further increased. Everyone I know who is giving them up is mentioning money as much as their health. I listened to one young woman do the sums out loud one day. It was as if she had realised for the first time that €10 a day amounts to €3,650 a year.

Over a lifetime that is a lot of great holidays, memorable meals, being in the black instead of the red. Not to mention living an extra decade or so. So remember St Patrick's Day is not exempt. If you got this far you are a non-smoker.

Well done.

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