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Sunday 10 June 2012

Death by a thousand cuts.

Well not quite as many as that.

I’m afraid this is about smoking again. My history of the slow strangulation of smoking rights.

I’ll start at the beginning of the slow but sure campaign by the anti-smokers.

In the mid sixties, I was a callow youth just starting out in my career as a Marine Engineer. In those days you could smoke anywhere. Even in the classroom. The only rule was that you supplied your own ashtray.The top deck of buses were set aside for smokers, as was the back end of aircraft. Trains had nearly half the carriages designated for smoking. Believe it or not, you were actually allowed to smoke in pubs and clubs.

Then came the rise of the nu-puritans.

The first to go was smoking on aircraft. Smoking carriages on trains were reduced to one badly maintained area which you would be prosecuted if you decided to transport cattle in it. Buses followed suit.

Smoking in workplaces was severely curtailed by having one smoking room.

Just as an aside to the general point of this article. When I was on secondment to a department of the ministry of defence about 12 years ago, I used their smoking room. At the time it was just at the end of the Irish troubles but we were expected to work in civilian clothes in order not draw attention to who we were. In that smoking room I met many people, of which I had no real idea of who they were, although after a while we all surmised what our respective  fields were.

A few of us formed informal relationships, in that we were of the same age group and became friends because of that room.

Imagine my surprise when we were all ordered to wear uniform again in a drive to boost recruitment for the forces. I suddenly found that I was friends with people who were stratospherically higher in rank than my pay grade. Captains (Naval), a vice admiral, and the head of the defence fire service. Rank notwithstanding, we remained informal friends in that room.

Back to the topic I started with.

Slowly but surely I saw more changes. On ships, smoking was banned from alleyways (corridors in lay parlance), The Bridge, and the Machinery control room, and all offices.

After that came no smoking in areas that served food. Fair enough you would say. No.The bastards in charge included the bars as, wait for it, crisps served there, counted as food. The only place left to smoke was in your cabin.(my main place of residence for 2/3rds of the year. The other 1/3 being on leave at filthy mansion).

Of course when the smoking ban came in in 2007, even smoking in cabins was banned. Instead smoking was only permitted on one area of usually windswept and badly lit deck. I’m waiting to hear that someone will be washed overboard one dark and stormy night. And although I will feel sorry for the bereaved, I hope they sue the pants off the MOD under HSE regulations.

Could ASH be indicted as well for colluding in pre-meditated murder?

The Smoking ban was the only reason I retired when I did. Up till then I loved my job. After the ban I hated it.

Sorry for the rant ruining your Sunday evening.