The Drag of the Daft

The Drag of the Daft

The Drag of the Daft

Of all the daft ideas I have seen or heard promoted in my lifetime the UK Government’s encouragement, by reducing tax, to smoke e-cigarettes is surely top of the list. Let’s go back to the 1950s when cigarette smoking was all the rage. You boasted about your consumption – ‘I’m a 60-a-day man’; ‘wow, I’m only up to 40’. Chronic asthma, chest complaints, recurring colds and ‘flu, dried out eyes, nasal congestion and of course lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, esophageal cancer, all these and more were the product of the habit. Prostate cancer was directly related to cigarette smoking because of the nicotine residues collected in the prostate.

Cigarette smoking also gave rise to a big persecuted minority – the non-smokers. Sitting in your commuter train or at a restaurant or even – seems unbelievable – the doctor’s waiting room you were trapped in a haze of smoke. Smoking at home caused the fabrics in the house to smell of smoke. Clothes reeked of smoke. Kissing a smoker was like kissing an ashtray. Nicotine-stained fingers pointed their after-smoke smell at you wherever you went. Smoked-out voices croaked.

It has taken years of education, legislation and bitter loss to get people to realise that smoking is not only deadly but actually wrong, almost as wrong as drunk driving. Killing yourself may be permissible but killing others is not. It has taken so long because smoking, as well as being addictive, is a cult. I remember a newspaper advertisement in the 1950s for a cigarette called Army Club. It had been designed to compete with ‘Players Navy Cut’. The ad said – and, believe me, I remember it perfectly – “Old soldiers never die, they all smoke Army Club, that’s why”.

The cult was geared to gesticulating – making use of your hands when talking. This burning ritual allowed you to make a drama of lighting up, of igniting the smokeable with a match or petrol lighter, of waving your arms like an orchestra conductor to make your point, of blowing smoke rings to excite admiration, of stubbing your cigarette out viciously to demonstrate powerful disagreement. A dozen cigarettes in a lengthy meeting and you could have entered for the Oscar Awards.

I was a smoker. At my preparatory school the Prefects were given a dinner at the end of each term by the kindly Headmaster. We were then 12 or 13 years old. At each of these dinners we were plied with cigarettes to show what Big Fellas and How Important we were. That launched me on my smoking career. When the American Surgeon General’s devastating report was published it was time to give up. But the cult was entrenching. Giving up was so very hard to do.

I devised a method I have not heard of anywhere else. It worked for me. For four days avoid alcohol, a serious resolve weakener. During those four days smoke as much as you want, but stop yourself from inhaling. The discipline of not inhaling is easy after about the first day. But not inhaling destroys the fun of smoking. So you quickly start lighting up only to put the cigarette out. After four days I was cured. Others who have tried the regime found it worked, too.

So what the hell are we doing encouraging people to develop the cult all over again, puffing vapour clouds over their neighbours, pouring nicotine into their prostate glands and precipitating prostate cancer? It seems to be an example of inherent self-destruction.

Don’t smoke e-cigarettes; they will surely ruin your health.