DISCLAIMER: The premise for writing this article is not to glorify cigarette consumption or portray myself as a martyr. Yet, we smokers are verbally pummelled or beaten and frequently ridiculed by friends, family, loved ones and random members of the public for our intermittent, yet orgasmic, breaks with those killer sticks. I am not going to dispute the obvious health ramifications of shoving dirty chemicals down your throat as you puff away, but is it really necessary for random members of the public to approach us either scoffing or posing senseless questions?
When a member of the older generation spots a smoker indulging in our filthy habit their eyes are consumed with venom as if we're casually committing the worst crime known to mankind.
"Are you aware that smoking kills?" says the elderly lady, who is working far too many shifts at the charity shop and is trying to get home in time for a repeat of the Rockford Files, while she looks at you with great sadness as if her entire existence has been brought into question due to the foolish decisions of people young enough to be her grandchildren. Then to avoiKd any further conflict you pull the same face to the lady that you pull at a relative after receiving a terrible Christmas gift - a slight grin and a scrunched eye, which is usually enough to hurry them on their way after losing you about fourteen point six pence of your cigarette.
Everyone who is a smoker is aware that smoking kills and of the long-term damage. I don't believe that the aforementioned elderly lady is going to succeed in converting someone with a question like that, as they puff away on their cigarette to relieve the stress caused by a lengthy debacle at Waitrose shopping counter. Smoking kills but so does shopping - especially when you rack up a premium plastic bag tab of close to four pounds.
The tax on cigarettes continues to rise and consumers are being priced into a position where they will cut down, which is appropriate, or contribute more, through tax, towards potential treatment in the future. We all make foolish lifestyle choices that aren't always beneficial to us or, indeed, to society as a whole. Cigarettes are a terrible lifestyle choice but they are a choice. My own private views on those who are religious is similar to the public's view of smokers but I remain far quieter and would never attack, condemn or question them in the street as I believe that everyone is entitled to make their own decisions, even bad ones.
Smoking should be discouraged and the NHS must have appropriate levels of resources and funding to tackle smoking from a public health perspective. Reducing the number of people who smoke is imperative but it is equally important we retain people's right to choose.
Those who quit should be applauded and praised by their peers and we should dismiss the phrase "ex-smoker" and simply use the term "non-smoker". I am not a civil liberty-obsessed activist or a libertarian, whose idea of freedom consist of being trapped in a very dark room with minute holes or opportunities. People aren't bound by shackles and chains, they have the opportunity to do something better or worse. We don't need odd passers-by to explain the folly of our ways - if we keep tripping on the way we might at least fall over properly.