Restricting smoking areas creates a smoking utopia with benefits for both the smoking and non-smoking camps, as well as those who bat for both teams.
For non-smokers, especially of the female variety, there is an immense pleasure to be found in sampling the positively neutral aroma of your clothes and hair following an evening in a bar, pub or club, meaning that you don’t need to wash them after just one outing. This is especially satisfying considering we are in a society desperately trying to save the planet by re-using and saving water. For the particularly health conscious who are concerned about the risks of passive smoking, or for those who are not generally exposed to smoke and therefore especially sensitive to the smell, taste and heavy texture as it enters their lungs, the indoors of the drinking establishment is a haven. In particular it is a largely unpopulated haven where there is a much better chance of getting a drink before you collapse of thirst, and returning to your chosen drinking spot un-barged with less drink trickling to your elbow and seeping through your shoes.
The smokers still get to retain their label of smokers’, and are free to chain-smoke all night long should they choose to, as long as they’re outside. Furthermore over the last year society’s really got into the swing of the ban, and outside’ is generally nothing like the banishment of a disobedient household pet; many places have erected canopies and garden heaters (don’t tell the environmentalists) to create a pretty cool drinking area. Of course when the weather’s dry enough, standing outside in big friendly crowds of fellow compatriots united by the ban, holding plastic cups under the night sky, has a lovely cosmopolitan vibe, enjoyable to the both the smokers and their non-smoking companions. The smokers too get to benefit from the spaciousness of the interior when they head inside for a drink break.
For people who wanted to give up smoking, the extra hassle added to the hobby has been a good excuse to help them achieve this. For those who don’t want to, they don’t have to. Of course what has been an interesting trend is that actually the majority, smoking and non-smoking alike, have migrated outwards for the sake of the smokers. However that doesn’t mean that the ban hasn’t worked, or that as people choose the smoking section anyway the ban was unnecessary. It’s provided a choice you are no longer forced to be in a smoky environment if you don’t want to. Furthermore, to be a non-smoker outside is infinitely more pleasurable than inside before the ban. You get to enjoy that vaguely smoky smell, without actually having to inhale it. With such an abundance of air, as well as space for the smoke to go in the outdoors, I can stand with a smoking friend all night without necessarily having to wash my hair and clothes before taking them out again, unless I have a cheeky fag myself. Which if I choose to do, I can. Even better, if you’re popping out to keep someone company, the extremely vocal anti-smoking friend inside doesn’t have to know if you have a quick one too!
Occasionally, I admit, I have found the ban a little frustrating. A few weeks ago I went to Brighton and was at a small licensed caf one night with a group of people of whom I knew very few. Thus, mingling in the core of the group was crucial to the success of my night. Someone I was talking to suddenly and very obviously began trying to get out of the conversation and outside, bringing to my attention that I was one of a very few people still indoors that I recognised. Considering it was raining I was surprised by this, until I remembered the ban. The small amount of space under the porch was taken up, and a lot of the people out there weren’t even smokers. Therefore I found it a real shame that to avoid standing indoors staring out through the glass like a total lonely loser, I was forced to stand out in the sudden monsoon conditions like a total wet loser. However at the end of the day, I made my decision and I am grateful for having the freedom to do that, rather than being forced to inhale smoke indoors, when sometimes you just really don’t feel like it.
If the purpose of the ban was to reduce the percentage of smokers in the population, looking at the crowds outside pubs, I’m not sure if it has been successful. However if the purpose was to create a more harmonious society by allowing everyone the freedom to the lifestyle that suits them, then yes I think it’s working.