{04/08/2012}   Smoking in cafes and pubs

On 1st July 2007, just over five years ago, smoking was banned in enclosed public spaces in the UK.  Every now and then I visit a country where smoking isn’t banned and it’s far more awful than I ever remember it being.  I read this morning that the Japanese coffee chain, Doutor, unlike Starbuck’s for example, allows smoking inside.  This seems a huge novelty but there is no way I would go into such a café now that I have become pretty much smoking-intolerant.

I used to smoke but gave up long before the ban, but even as a smoker I never liked the smoky hair and clothes that were inevitable after a night out.  Having had five years of smoke free socialising, I really can’t imagine it was ever ok to smoke inside.  The air would be thick with stale and “fresh” smoke, ashtrays and cigarette butts would be on the floor and on table tops, smoke would be puffed towards you wherever you walked.  And in restaurants.  While eating food.  I can feel myself getting indignant, I can’t believe it was considered acceptable for so long.

I had an unexpected flash back to life with smoky clothes a few weeks ago; I can’t remember what triggered it but I was looking at a pile of worn clothes that needed putting in the laundry basket.  I suddenly recalled a pile of post-pub clothes in a pile on a bed and picking them up, releasing the pungent, foul smell of stale smoke.  Just the thought of it made me recoil.  But to go out – to a restaurant, pub, club – you would return home stinking of smoke, and it’s a horrible smell.

I also remember being on a few flights either in the smoking section or, pretty much just as bad, being in the non-smoking section.  Being trapped in a plane with increasingly stale air and more cigarette smoke the longer the flight was just horrendous.

I have spoken to a few Tube drivers who recalled days when drivers could smoke as they drove the Tubes and passengers could smoke on the platforms (could you smoke inside the carriages?  I’m not sure but it appears that smoking was banned in 1984 so maybe you could smoke inside the carriages up until then).

It amazes me how quickly attitudes change.  There was a huge uproar about the smoking ban being introduced.  People were convinced smokers would be less inclined to while away the day or night drinking and smoking at the bar.  Pubs are struggling but did the smoking ban contribute to that or is it that alcohol has got more expensive and/or that we are in a recession?  I guess we can’t really know for sure.

It’s a weird thing to be out with smokers, and it appears that hardly any of my friends are smokers these days, who disappear for chunks of time to go outside for a smoke.  But I almost envy them the sociable nature of being a smoker now.  There seems to be a great sense of smoker camaraderie outside pubs and the al fresco seating areas in cafes and bars seem to be the domain of the smoker.  Best seats in the house or leper colony?


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