Prior to the smoking ban I seldom smoked outdoors. Scotland's not known for warm weather and there were few "beer gardens" and no tables or chairs on the pavements. I'd pop into a coffee shop, pub or whatever, relax, smoke and drink/eat, then have another fag and depart. They'd clear my table, bin the contents of the ashtray and that was that.
In March 2006 I didn't quite know what to do until I saw others smoking outdoors. Then came the "smoking solutions" that vary depending on whether they have a scrap of outdoor area, the turnover to justify a smoking shelter or cash to provide tables and chairs out on the pavement. Now the sight of people smoking is commonplace.
I don't see our behavior as being anything that's likely to bedazzle a youngster. In fact I think people who sit at those pavement tables in the depths of winter as barking mad (though I am envious of their cardiovascular system).
Nor is it a bunch of laughs when there's a howling gale or it's hammering down with rain. That's when it can become amusing, something a nicotine gum manufacturer parodied in one of their adverts. It's never a good idea to use an umbrella when it's very windy and it's just daft to try using one to get still air to light a fag. Much better find a suitable doorway, or bus shelter to light up.
And tobacco control has been insinuating for quite a while now that we're low income, low class, possibly with some form of mental illness - and terribly selfish, even outright anti-social. Some of their anti-smoking adverts are crass, what with cigarettes suddenly developing tumors and little children getting black lungs through 2nd hand smoke.
So I have a vague notion that the rest of society view me in the same light as ASH and the tobacco control industry portray. A poor misguided addict, who may be certifiable or at the very least non-conformist who, given the chance, would most certainly pollute any pub, cafe and so on if the smoking bans were not rigidly enforced.
I of course know why these people sit outdoors, or take shelter where they can find it, or light their fag by drawing up their jacket to shield it from the wind. Like myself they have no choice in the matter, we do what we can with what we've got.
Yet it's remarkable that a Lib Dem Peer - Lord Storey CBE - finds what we do as glamorous! So much so that actually raised the matter of smoking by contestants in a television show called "Love Island" in the House of Lords! He says:
"(he) feared the sight of bikini-cad women and topless hunks puffing away glamorises the lethal pastime to impressionable viewers."
"Those contestants are regularly smoking. What message does that say to young people? That "I can live a glamorous life if I smoke as well"?" (01).
Lord Storey claims there have been 75 complaints about people smoking on the show and it's a huge hit, with 56% of the 16 to 34 age group tuning in regularly (so about 5 million people). And it's based only on the tiny number who whinged that he wants to see smoking banned in all clips shown on television.
As I suspect most of these complaints came from people at the forefront of tobacco control, it's not so much a case of Lord Storey sticking up for the tiny minority, more a contrived attempt to ensure that smoking is never seen on television where there are good looking, sexy people involved. It's okay to show some loser who's been arrested on "Police Interceptors" and lights up, that's the type of image they want perpetuated.
Personally I very much doubt any viewer of "Love Island" is so facile that s/he'll suddenly decide "I can live a glamorous life if I smoke as well"!
What's far more likely to influence youngsters are these Manga characters. They've got their followers and yes people really do dress up like some of their favourite characters - some even post photos of themselves in the regalia with a cigarette in hand. "Scotland's" big with them.
Smoking Scot ("Scotland") decides fate of bad people.
This one'll be real hard for his fans to mimic. Muscles, freckles, ginger hair, confident and with a couple of thousand quids worth of tattoo on his back. Who needs regalia when you're this perfect!
Ginger haired tattooed Adonis smoking cheroot.
And this one'll have the tobacco control lot going apoplectic. A cocky little-bitty kid with a fag in hand, how awful.
Cherubic child smoking.
Maybe they'll demand artists stop trying to "glorify" smoking by including it in their artwork (there are many, many more here (02)). If they can get in touch with them of course. And if they can, I've got a pretty good idea what the reply'll be!
If they do make a big fuss, well all they'll do is give publicity to this art form. The faux outrage voiced by Lord Storey's done ITV no harm and that 2010 juvenile stunt against Gorillaz backfired spectacularly (03). If all it takes is the portrayal of a cigarette, cigar or cheroot to get thousands of Pounds worth of free publicity then lots more characters will appear. Super-confident, couldn't give a damn, rebellious characters who right wrongs - and invariably come out on top!