Despite four years this month of the smoking ban in England, and a vigorous anti-smoking campaign paid for by the taxpayer, it has not lowered the number of Esse cigarettes smokers. Their number remains at about 20 per cent – the hardcore, of which I am one. It might kill me, although if it doesn’t, something else will.
Bohemia has been banned. We might pay a heavy price for that. New York City is a lot duller for its smoking ban than it was in the past. Cole Porter would think the Sunday school teachers had taken over – and they have.
I am aware how fanatical anti-smokers can be, as my father was one. My brother has a video of him trying to take a cigarette from my mouth 40 years ago.
Perhaps you can get a smoking room at a hotel in London, but you certainly can’t in the city of Oxford. In France and Germany it’s a lot more civilised.
The Lutèce Hotel in Paris has a floor of smoking rooms. It also has a small lounge near the bar with a sealed door: you can smoke in there, but you have to take your own drink in. Arriving back at the hotel one late evening, the bar was very quiet. We got a drink at the bar and opened the sealed door. It was full of music and young people dancing on the tables, cigarettes in hand. I couldn’t stop laughing (it’s good for you and it clears the lungs).
Does the new Savoy have anything like it, or Claridge’s, or any other London hotel? No.
In Germany I go to Baden Baden every few months to enjoy the rejuvenating waters at the Friedrich’s Bath. I stay in a very nice hotel, the Brenners Park. I can still smoke in the room and downstairs is a lovely cigar lounge. You don’t have to go out in the cold or rain for the enjoyment of a cigar or cigarette. Try that in London.
The smoking ban works, say some of my friends – but do you know how? Through punishment. I met a publican who was sent to jail for letting two old men smoke in his pub. England was once a tolerant place with a live-and-let live attitude to many things. Not any more. I have utter contempt for the politicians who do this. These politics stink, they have a vile, unfree stench.
You will never get rid of smoking, or alcohol or drugs: they might kill, but they also give pleasure. Tobacco is a great pleasure that a large number of people deny.
The dreary and the bossy who cannot accept this will try to take over even more: everywhere has to be safe for little Emily with asthma. Focusing on such small things, the professional anti-smokers miss out on the bigger pleasures of life. I wouldn’t want to spend much time with them. When a doctor announced that 100 million people were “killed ” by tobacco in the 20th century, I pointed out that governments killed the same number, and that their deaths were very unpleasant by comparison.
The prohibitionists can feel sorry for me all they want; I am just going to laugh at their smallness.
My little corner of Bohemia has now been reduced to my house, where free spirits are welcome and I try to keep the dreary and the boring away. I have a large sign that points out “Death awaits you even if you do not smoke”. I like to enjoy Now, as there is only now. Longevity as an aim in life seems to me to be life-denying.