Photo by Quinten de Graaf
In the dawn of the 16th Century, Europe was first introduced to her beloved Nicotiana Tabacum, a plant whose scent would perfume the continent for the next five hundred years.
Those dried leaves of the Americas soon metamorphosed into the glowing companion which we recognise today as, ‘the cigarette’. The blue-tinted ringlets of smoke that surround me today are as dear to me now as they were five years ago, that night on which my lips were first exposed to the bitter warmth of smoking tobacco.
Alas, today however you can no longer take pride in membership of that exclusive, fug-filled society of woodbine puffing. Instead, you find yourself vilified and condemned with the kind of fervour to be expected for exposing yourself at a dinner party. It seems that ‘the smoker’ is a dying breed, rejected by society and punished for the victimless crime of tobacco inhalation.
Since the days of New Labour, smokers have faced successive legislative acts restricting our liberty. The smoking ban has tyrannised society, contributing to the decline of the great British ale-house and forcing our clan to resort to huddling in car-park corners for warmth and solidarity.
One of the most notable restrictions of smoking movement in recent years is of course the dreaded ban enforced by the bureaucrats of the National Health Service. Now, you are required to revert to school-boy tactics of fagging-away in the bushes and behind the boiler-house when visiting a whole host of facilities.
However, the question remains; why should smokers be allowed to indulge in self-centred decadence at the detriment of other people’s health? I concede, they should and must not. The ban on smoking at places of work and certain enclosed public spaces if of course for the protection of the health of the wider public; yet government policy does not exist to protect others. Instead it seeks to coerce the smokers of Britain into surrendering to the majority and kicking the dreaded habit.
The task of smokers today is to assert our right to engage in our little vice out of free choice and liberty. This task is twofold. First, we must rebut the argument from utility, that smokers are a drain on public resources. I wave my half-smoked-pack of Marlboros in objection to this claim.The costs to the NHS due to smoking related illnesses in 2005-6 were approximately £5 billion a year, whereas government revenue from tobacco duties amassed to a total of £8.4 billion. On the grounds of utility, smoking actually contributes to the treasury rather than detracting from it. And so let us do away with this false syllogism that is so often propagated by the anti-smoking brigade.
The second battle-line lies entrenched in the superficial appeal from human compassion. The agency of causing harm to yourself is broadly legitimate, but what about the loved ones who are left behind? Surely they should not be made to suffer at the hands of our own self-gratifying demise. No, I do not say they should.
However, let us once again look at the statistics. On average a 20-a-day habit will reduce your lifespan by 10-15 years, whilst the life-expectancy in the United Kingdom is 80.1 years of age. It is true that my chances of living past the age of 65 is significantly diminished through my habit, yet is this prospect so horrifying? I think not. When the party is drawing to an end I intend to leave gracefully. I do not intend to burden my family and friends, financially or emotionally, by slouching in the corner losing control of my bladder and my mind when it would be better that I left them to embrace their own youth and potential. No, I do not see it kind to linger without purpose.
And so, comrades, my brothers in cigarette wielding arms, do not yield to the lip-curling and petty frowns of our fellow man. Tobacco is a vice to be savoured, a habit that we can indulge without the harming of others. It is a vice that must be protected against the do-gooders and dictatorial pen-pushers who desire a utopian society of lentil munching, fat burning bliss. Instead, our bliss is one that can be so simply described by Oscar Wilde’s Lord Henry Wotton: ‘A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?’