A night out goes up in smoke
SO, Ireland will be completely tobacco free by the year 2025. If Minister James 'Bottler' Reilly has his way. Then maybe I can get my friends back, and the art of conversation back, in 12 years time.
Oh yes, smoking is anti-social alright.
But anti-social not because of any health implications it has for the innocent passive smoker.
It's anti-socialism is more literal than that.
Or haven't you noticed?
I did, about a month ago.
On a rare night out with (younger) work colleagues, I found myself at one point late into the evening left on my own at a bar table, which up to minutes before had been packed.
It wasn't, I'm assured, my lack of social skills or acceptability, it was that everyone went out the back for a smoke.
They'd gone in shifts before that, but as the night wore on, the rota system was out the window, like their tobacco smoke, and it was a universal fag-fest.
Billy No Mates, and being Billy No Mates is not much fun.
You fiddle with your mobile phone, re-looking at old texts; you look at your watch, every two minutes; you play silly games with beer mats, hum along to the music, desperately look for a quite chat in another part of the room ... please God let them come back soon...
I've never been anti-smoking, but what has annoyed me since the introduction of the smoking ban is that the best 'craic' always seems to happen outside with the smokers.
The howls of laughter, the slagging, the sense of camaraderie that somehow they are being penalised for their beliefs, all leads to a growing sense of isolation for the non-smoker.
Indeed a smoking friend of mine once remarked, shortly after the introduction of the smoking ban, that his love life had never been as active.
Sharing a fag outside in an enclosed space where there were women present was like shooting fish in a barrel (his words, not mine).
If it works, I'm all for it, but only if it brings the banished back in from outside in the cold, and back to the table of conversation and opinion.
If it works, the fear is that the hard-pressed pubs will be even more compromised.
The popular opinion is that the smoking ban ushered in the demise of the Irish pub.
I actually don't agree, and will argue vehemently that it was the elephant in the room that did it. The drink driving clampdown.
Not that I'm in any way condoning drink driving, but there's no question that the rightful overturning of the Irish culture of the acceptability of driving home after four or five pints without fear has been the biggest factor of all.
How will they police it?
Have you a duty to ring a toll-free Garda confidential number every time you smell tobacco smoke?
Will there be underground meetings of smokers in remote country areas?
Only time will tell, and I've 12 more years of social exclusion to endure.
Come to think of it, it's quite a good name for a Brand of Cigarettes.
Twenty Billy No Mates, please.