OPINION: Remember the era when smoking was glamorous and encouraged?

Science has proven beyond doubt that smoking is bad for us, but there was a time when lighting up was seen as achingly cool. JOANNE SAVAGE laments the fascist smoking ban

Saturday, 21st August 2021, 4:56 pm
Brigette Bardot with cigar. If used on tobacco packaging, such imagery would only be likely to encourage people to light up
Brigette Bardot with cigar. If used on tobacco packaging, such imagery would only be likely to encourage people to light up

There was a time when smoking was part of the very essence of old Hollywood glamour, with stars like John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlene Dietrich (I could go on and on) lighting up on the big screen in iconic movies with defiant nonchalance in the face of damage to their lung capacity or the possibility of cancer.

Smoking was cool, sexy, anarchic, edgy. There was a time when we even believed it was good for us, or that smoking was conducive to keeping women ‘slim and beautiful’ (presumably because it is harder to stuff your face with cream pies with a Marlboro between your lips; certainly it has kept Kate Moss skinny; and perhaps if you haven’t been granted pulchritude a doughty face may appear more attractive to the opposite sex when obscured by plumes of smoke?).

What about those ads that said happiness was a cigar named Hamlet?

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What about comedians like Dave Allen who told hilarious stories while sitting on a chair in a brightly lit TV studio with a stiff drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, puffing at ruminative intermissions in the hilarity that only helped perfect his comic timing?

Has Brigette Bardot ever looked more seductive than in that iconic photograph of her with a cigar hanging between her teeth?

What about the dignity and honour of Tony Benn as he eviscerated the British Tory establishment while puffing judiciously on his pipe?

Would Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir have become such great philosophers and prolific writers without endless cigarettes with espressos to accompany their long hours of existential reflection, the meditative act of inhalation and exhalation of tobacco somehow aiding the meandering, crystalline wonder of their intellection?

Could anyone imagine the god of gonzo journalism Hunter S Thompson without the thin cigarette holder in his mouth while on wild journeys into the savage heart of the America dream between Barstow and Las Vegas?

Did anyone work a cigarette holder like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

Remember when a man or a woman had the God-given civil liberty to enter a cafe or bar and light up with a coffee or pint in hand and smoke like a chimney because they wanted to. Yes, because they wanted to. Freedom of choice. Those were the days. We all have to die of something, so why not choose your poison? Last time I checked, God had granted (wo)man free will.

Yes, smoking is highly carcinogenic, may herald an early agonising death and can set you back about £400 quid a month, but what about the aneurysms, strokes and heart attacks induced by the kind of stress that might have been released by a good drag on a fag or two or more?

Where is the research studying the stress busting properties of the cigarette? The panic attacks mitigated by a Marlboro Menthol?

Where is the respect for the momentary escape from a hellish situation that a hit of nicoteine can bring?

Or the magic shared bonding of smoking with a fellow addict - can anyone quantify this?

The 2007 draconian smoking ban banished smokers to forever cower outside in the pissing rain anytime they visit pubs, restaurants or pretty much any sodding public building.

And now you can’t even buy a packet of cigarettes without looking at pictures of diseased hearts or lungs, even though greasy hamburgers from fast food chains are rarely accompanied by photographic evidence of clogged arteries or obese people suffering heart attacks due to soaring cholesterol.

Do sweets come with pictures of cavities?

Or bottles of wine with warnings about cirrhosis? Nobody would offer you a fine chablis with a picture of a destroyed liver, would they?

Or do we have cars with graphic pictures of horrific road traffic accidents on the doors lest you forget the potency of driving a huge piece of moving metal that is in fact also a potential killing machine?

Comedian Sean Lock, who died this week, felt he had no possibility of joy anymore since the fascist legislation was implemented, depriving him of the chance to visit a pub for a smoke and a pint (it was his primary hobby and he smoked rollies, which are ‘practically salad’).

Well, my Uncle Sean smoked 40 Berkley Blue Super Kings a day and lived until the venerable age of 87. He had a lot to deal with, and fags were his release valve, an important catharsis of anxiety that enabled him to remain sane in an insane world. His defence? ‘Better to smoke here than smoke hereafter, love’.

Anyone got a light?

(If I want to flirt with COPD it is my God given right).