Sunday, December 10, 2006


It will be the end of an era. On April the 2nd, 2007, smoking in public places will be banned in Wales; England will follow this example a month later. Die hard smokers are not happy, but it was inevitable.
It will, of course, hit the tobacco industry; but the cancer wards might be a little less overcrowded.
So what of the entertainment world? When we first meet James Bond in the novel Casino Royale, he gets back to his hotel room and lights up his 70th cigarette of the day, while in the film Dr No, Sean Connery introduces himself with that immortal line 'Bond - James Bond' while lighting up a fag. Since Connery, only Timothy Dalton has been seen playing Bond with a fag in his hand - and there were complaints about that; hence Pierce Brosnan punching out a smoking baddie with the line 'Filthy habit!' in the Tomorrow Never Dies pre-credit sequence (and getting slagged off for puffing on a cigar in a later film!).
And of course, there will be no more cigar-chomping fictional characters like Columbo, Rumpole of the Bailey, Hannibal of The A Team; no celebrities with trademark cigars like Groucho Marx, Terry Thomas, Lord Grade ... or Winston Churchill, for that matter.
On the positive side, it will help a lot of people to quit; the one's who earnestly want to pack in the weed, only to have their resolve crack when they enter the smokey atmosphere of a pub or club.

Helpfully, Smoking has become anti-social, where it was once considered cool. Watch a few episodes of a series made years ago, and you almost wince as you see people lighting up in restaurants.
In the late 80's I went to see a play with Keith Michell and Gerald Harper called The Royal Baccarat Scandal. In a crucial scene the cast were smoking cigars, and from where I was sitting (in the front row of the stalls) you could actually smell them. Now, of course, you will have situations (as in a Scottish theatre recently) where Mel Smith played Churchill and had to tote around an unlit cigar because of the smoking ban. This is a price that has to be paid, but in ten years time (I imagine) it will be hard to believe that we ever smoked in public places at all.
Will I miss the smokey atmosphere of a pub? Somehow, the fug of nicotine gave the place a certain ambience --- an unhealthy ambience, it's worth remembering. So will smoking die out altogether? It wouldn't be such a bad thing, but I doubt it; not for a while, anyway. One way and another, this has been a bold move on the part of the government (considering the revenue from the tobacco industry), but I think it will prove a good one.
So, come April the 1st, cigar smokers will have one last chance to bite down on a cigar and give vent to their finest George Peppard impersonation: I love it when a plan comes together.