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Thursday, 25 March 2010


This started getting annoying long before the actual smoking ban came into effect.

First, there were the trains. I used to commute in and out of London back in the early noughties on South West Trains. The trains were those mangy old ones with the slam-shut doors that always provided a kind of cool sense of slight danger to the trip. You could stick your head out of the window and have it taken clean off by a train coming in the other direction, so you had to make sure you didn't do that, and you could open the door at any point in the journey and throw people out of it if you wanted. Another thing that was great about them, was these were among the last trains to still feature a smoking carriage.

It was lovely in there. Well, it wasn't, it was really, really fucking filthy, but that didn't matter because you always had a nice civilised journey. It was a 12 coach train, but only one carriage of one coach was for the smokers, and so being a commuter train you always saw the same people in there. This meant people would actually speak to each other, so you could enjoy a bit of banter along with your fags.

You'd arrive at work suitably nicotined up and ready to go, and on the way home you could kick back with a can of beer (from Threshers at Waterloo, obviously you didn't want to pay the extortionate amount for the ones off the stupid little trolley on the train) and chain smoke the stresses of your day away.

These halcyon days soon came to an end when South west Trains announced there had been a survey, and the survey had said that their customers (as if anyone is a customer of South West Trains out of choice because of the wonderful service they provide as opposed to, them being the operator of the train that goes from where they live to where they work) wanted the trains to be 100% smoke free.

I have my suspicions about this survey. Suspicions along the lines of: it never fucking happened and they made it up. Or perhaps: it did fucking happen but they only surveyed the people in the non smoking carriages, and there was no option on the survey for "I don't care. I don't smoke but hey, I don't have to go in the smoking carriage, do I? It's all sealed off. Live and let live, I say, I'm not going to be a cunt about it.". Nobody asked me, or any of my smoking carriage posse, anyhow.

Some people said South West Trains did it to save costs on cleaning the smoking carriages, because they got dirtier than the regular carriages. This was usually met with convulsions of hysterical laughter by anyone who had been in the smoking carriages, for whilst dirtier they did indeed get, clean them South West Trains did not. There was graffiti in biro on the backs of the seats saying "Trev woz ere '77" for a fucking start. I didn't even know they had biros in 1977. The chewing gum in those little metal ash trays had actually fossilised.

I suspect it was more a case of the charmless fuckwits in the anti-smoking lobby interfering where they have no business and spoiling it for people. This is my beef with these bastards. Fine, you don't like smoking. You don't like how it smells and whatnot. But if it is taking place in an area you never, ever have to go to, why the fuck do you have such a problem with it? I hate the smell of Lynx body spray, so I just don't go in teenage boys' bedrooms, it's quite simple. There were always the other 23 or so carriages you could sit in with all the twats reading Harry Potter in the "adult covers", as was the fashion of the day, if you didn't want to go in the one that was smoky. Dickwads.

These are the kind of people who, if you're having a cigarette outside somewhere, will walk past you and have some histrionic coughing fit. When this happens I like to say "hey, relax - obviously you thought this was a vial of anthrax I was holding, but don't worry, it's just a Marlboro Light! Panic over!". When these people look at you like you're killing them, you should look back like you really wish that were the case.

These people put as much energy into hating smoking as Nick Griffin does into hating, well, black people. But unlike Nick Griffin, who most people just think is mental, these people somehow get their borderline fascist views listened to.

So, a couple of years ago we got ourselves a little old smoking ban. This mostly affected pubs, which began closing at an alarming rate (this was pre-recession as well, so there was no other obvious cause). And whilst when other things close they sometimes turn in to pubs (remember that old biddy on the old NatWest ads, "my bank is now a trendy wine bar!"), for some reason when pubs close they just turn into boarded up pubs, still with the sad banner advertising Sky Sports (Premiership '07-'08! Live here!) dangling off of the guttering.

Before the ban the government had promised that the pubs would thrive more than ever as all the people who never used to go to the pub because they didn't like the smoke would now be lashing it up in droves. This was never going to happen. Did they really think all these people, not just non smokers but people who really, really hated smoking, were sitting at home watching Eastenders going "Gosh, it looks like so much fun in the Queen Vic. I would dearly love to have a local pub of my very own, where I might participate in quizzes and meat raffles, but alas that is where there is all of the smoking, which I am very much opposed to.". Of course they fucking weren't. Plenty of pubs had non smoking areas (admittedly it was more your shitty chain pubs, but if you're going to be an arsehole about it you take what you are given), so anyone of that persuasion would have just been going to them, but aside from that your fervent anti smoker just isn't your down-the-boozer-chucking-arrows-of-a-night kind of guy.

So there were none of these new faces in your local pub, just less of the old ones as they either jumped ship to another pub that had a beer garden so at least they didn't have to huddle on the street like something from Soviet Russia, or they just stayed at home with some tinnies instead, wanking over internet porn (probably).

A lot of the pubs with the beer gardens or other outdoor seating realised that here was an opportunity to make themselves more appealing and therefore not go completely under because of a law they had no say in, and invested in some patio heaters. This was pretty nice. You could be warm, you could sit outside all evening and smoke as much as you wanted, any time of year. It was a pretty good solution, the old covered, heated beer garden. The anti smoking bastards had won the battle, but with our patio heaters we would not be defeated and, you know, just fucking give up smoking, that easily... It was still tough titties for the pubs with no outside space of course, but at least some landlords still had a fighting chance.

The trouble is, it turns out, that whilst the anti smoking nutters don't want you smoking in the pubs, the eco global warming carbon fucking footprint nutters really hate the patio heaters. Oh, Jesus. Nutters around every corner. Honestly, will people stop creating problems every time we find a solution here? Currently, nobody gives substantial enough of a fuck about this so we're alright for now, but it's only a matter of time before those get banned too going on past form for getting things-that-aren't-really-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things-worth-getting-all-upset-with (I hear carrier bags are next) banned under Labour is anything to go by.

The smoking ban was not of course, just for pubs, but for all workplaces and "enclosed public places". This means that long distance lorry drivers can't smoke in their cabs anymore, and if you and your partner both occasionally work from home, you could be done for smoking in your own house (even if you both smoke) as this too is a workplace, though I don't really think they can police that, not without putting cameras in your house, and we're not quite that far into 1984 territory just yet. It would suck, once the initial kinkiness wore off anyway.

Other countries have the ban too of course, but in France they pretty much just ignore it and do what they want anyway, in Italy publicans can just bribe the police to leave them alone, and in Spain they have a slightly more liberal version of the ban where certain places can still have smoking areas. They have it better than us, and come on, are we really going to let those crazy European bastards be better than us? Fucking looks like it. And the fags are cheaper there too, so they not only have it better than us, they are paying less tax for the privilege.

The latest change made to pander to the anti smoking lobby, is those grim pictures on your packet of snouts. Not content with the big massive "You are going to DIE" messages, now you get to look at a delightful image of some throat cancer or a corpse. Now come on, we've all seen a dead body before (right?), and that cancer is clearly Photoshopped. What kind of pussies do you think we are that that is going to put us off? There's even a bizarre one with a baby breathing out smoke (again, Photoshopped, or at least you'd hope so). What does that even fucking mean? Don't give a baby blowbacks? Smoking only looks cool once you get into your teens? It's kind of stupid. I mean, you don't buy a bottle of Bollinger and there's big fuck off picture of a cirrhosis liver on it. Postcards from beach resorts almost never have a little melanoma in the corner to remind you of the dangers of sun bathing. What next, will whores have to have little tattoos of a penis with herpes on it, just to make you aware of the risks? We know the risks, attempting to portray them in a slightly more "shocking" way makes no difference, and if we decide we've had enough we'll just buy cigarette cases. They look kind of cool, anyway. So balls to you, balls I say!



  1. The non-smoking fascists were ecstatic when we they put the smoking ban in place here. I remember taking a smoke break with one of my "social smoker" (the "I only smoke when I am drinking or would like to bum one off of one of my smoker friends at work and take a break" types) coworkers, and she was excited to be able to go out to clubs and not deal with all the smoke around, and that things would be so much better for bars because more people would go out and stay longer because of the ban. I said, if that was the case, then why hasn't anyone just proactively opened a non-smoking club if there is such high demand? She said there was one, but it went out of business after 4 months because nobody went.

    The fact is alcohol and smoking go hand in hand. I can see a ban in restaurants, but just a straight up establishment dedicated to getting people drunk should have the right to choose if they want to be non-smoking or not. Nobody is putting a gun to the head of non-smokers and forcing them to patronize these places. At the end of the day, the ban hasn't been such a big deal to me (though I do hate the fact that if I nip out for a smoke odds are I will lose my seat at the bar) since when I am at home I smoke outside anyway. But now that they have forced us smokers outside, that isn't even good enough for these fucks. People now complain about all the smokers standing outside and the cigarette buts on the street since while government has decided to force smokers outside, they have neglected to be at all courteous and provide us with ashtrays. Give them an inch and they take a mile.

  2. Oh Jonesy... it's not illegal to smoke in a company vehicle if you're the only one that uses it. I suspect that's why the Metro delivery vans have the driver's name on the side. It's also not illegal to smoke in a workplace if you're the only one that works there (and it's not open to the public), and I strongly suspect that "home" would trump "home office" in a can/can't smoke fight.

  3. Timmy Tim Tim, that's why I said it is if you and your partner both work from home occasionally - it does have to be more than one person, yes. I think a company vehicle is different from a vehicle that is a workplace, so a salesman with a company car only he uses can smoke in it, but a lorry driver whose workplace is his cab cannot.

  4. 1,000's visitor award goes to... ME!

  5. Marc, as a prize you get to sleep with this really dirty girl I know.

  6. These transport companies some how need to turn something you described here into the almost USP of a train ... being able to repeatedly travel with the same members of the public, which, from previous journeys, you have determined are not arseholes. The smoking carriage partially achieved it, due to the shared activity, which some chose to partake in and some chose not to partake in. Regularly choosing the same carriage is one way, but you need to then prevent others, particularly infrequent travellers, from using up the space available in that carriage. Maybe themed carriages or carriages with different sorts of music or no music. Maybe some sort of reservation system, where you pay slightly more, to reserve a spot in a particular carriage, for some part of the journey - the first class carriages do this already, but the additional cost is too much, for the majority of those travelling. Some days, you might want to change to another particular carriage or a random one, for variety. There is definitely a customer satisfaction improving change that can be made here, given how much of their life many people spend commuting ... I shall ponder further.

    PS Jonesy ... exactly how dirty is this girl ;O)

  7. Sort of, train as one of those nightclubs with loads of floors, type of thing? Interesting idea. They have those quiet coaches for if you're knackered and want to sleep, but they kind of suck because they still have the recorded announcements every twenty seconds about not forgetting your luggage so they aren't quiet at all. Those old South West trains also sometimes had a bar type bit next to the buffet where you could smoke and drink. That was cool. Made you feel weird that the pub you were a regular in was also a train, but still...

    Ben, I have no idea how dirty she is, you'd need to ask Marc, he won that prize ;)