Smoke gets in your brain

There is perhaps little I enjoy more than seeing a pompous old windbag getting a good mauling. So today's column by David Aaronovitch in The Times was particularly amusing.

Aaronovitch was picking on British artist and self-appointed spokesman for smokers David Hockney. Hockney's paintings look pleasant enough but his pronouncements on smoking are significantly less well-developed.

Aaronovitch really puts him to the sword:

[He] began by rather testily telling Marr that “everybody has to die of something�, and that modern society was strangely obsessed with staying alive. Hockney’s “common sense� is, of course, the purest form of anti-scientific garbage. Because some people beat the odds doesn’t mean that the odds aren’t there.

Hockney’s second unquestioned argument was that smoking represented part of the essential diversity of human behaviour, which was being suppressed by an urge to make people conform. What kind of useful or interesting diversity is encapsulated in your right to smoke over other people? You know that pro-smokers are in trouble because of the arguments they are forced into. I particularly like the one about how Scottish smokers will desert their own pubs and cross the border to smoke in English inns. My bet would be on the opposite happening; smokers, like Hockney, are incontinent and often choose to have no idea of how much non-smokers dislike their habit. Who, after all, is going to tell the nation’s most celebrated painter that he stinks like an ashtray, and makes them cough?

So when Hockney conjures up images of rebellious, freedom-loving Britons rallying to the cause of freedom, I am afraid that he inhabits a fool’s smoky inferno.

The irony is that, were smokers like Hockney more willing to accommodate others in their habit, to recognise that smoking is in severe decline and that therefore smokers might want to consider voluntarily reducing their impact, anti-smoking laws might not be necessary. It's completely absurd that, in the 21st century, smokers still consider it appropriate to smoke near children or pregnant women at bus shelters. Or think it's okay to stand in an open train doorway smoking right up until the final moment the doors pop shut. Or light up next to a non-smoker on the street or while they're eating at a restaurant. This incalcitrant behaviour has guaranteed a much worse result for smokers than would have happened had they behaved more socially.

But, as Hockney admirably demonstrates, clear thinking and smoking seem to be mutually exclusive.

blowing smoke

One of my biggest pet peeves, aside from cigarettes in general, is when people inhale their last puff, toss the cigarette, and walk into the train. The doors close and they exhale all that stinky, poisonous nastiness all over me and the girls. So gross!

I had a friend in college who insisted she wasn't smelly. How can you smother yourself in burning tar fumes and smell fresh as a daisy? It can't happen. Sorry, Nancy, it's nothing personal but you did kinda stink.