Smoking – A Dying Art

I used to smoke. I started when I was 15 years old. It was part of my teenage rebellion. My parents ‘never knew’, or never owned up to knowing. I am not sure if they ever thought my rushing to the bathroom as soon as I got home to wash my hands and brush my teeth was odd! There were also the times where I had a lovely yellow tinge on my fingers, and had to bleach it off. Domestos usually sufficed.

It was the mid 80s and very common to smoke then. There was simply not the same stigma we see today.

What did we have on our screens to help us decide?

Audrey Hepburn throwing the ultimate in chic parties in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, with her long slender cigarette holder setting fire to a partygoers hat! I never watched that and thought of the fire risk and safety. I focussed on wanting to be at the coolest party and a guest of Holly Golightly.

James Dean was the iconic young cool and anti authoritarian smoker.

Right through to the 90s when The Mask aka Jim Carrey uttered ‘Smokin!’

So is it still cool to smoke today? I don’t think so, and a packet of fags and lighter should not be part of the modern Boulevardiers kit.

Historically the stylish Boulevardier would choose his brand of cigarettes based on what matched his outfit (I always was a marketers dream).

At 15 I was a gothic punk, and almost everything had to be black, with the odd dash of red. I smoked Raffles predominantly because they were in a black packet, and matched my look. Secondary was the price and at £1.13 for 20, a bonus being a young man with limited income. It didn’t seem right to ask my parents to increase my pocket money to pay for my habit!

At some point in that year it became sophisticated to smoke Consulate, because of the classy menthol flavour and the filter which was white rather than the common beige . I hadn’t realised the cool feel of the menthol sliding down your throat would only last a while and I was soon back on Raffles, stating to anyone that asked ‘I really always was a Raffles smoker, and only ventured into Consulate for a change’.

I smoked Benson & Hedges for a while whilst a soul boy. Raffles seemed too schoolboy then and I was maturing.

I was happy with my B&H until my first full time job, and I was teamed with a sophisticated older lady (23) who smoked Embassy No 1. She looked so experienced and cool and oozed charm as she drew on her cigarette, so I followed suit hoping to look as cool as her. She was also quite the cigarette nazi, and I wanted to offer her one of mine but she would smoke nothing but Embassy.

Whilst I am sure I looked every bit as cool as the enigmatic Diane, being able to afford more cigarettes meant I smoked more, and smoking didn’t like me very much and I started to get very regular or rather daily sore throats. There was only one thing to do! Switch to Silk Cut. Dianne was disgusted but I had to save my throat first and impress my work colleague after.

I gave up smoking at 21 years old due to a religious calling, and didn’t smoke again until I was 32!

I stupidly started again, but at least went with the Silk Cut and was welcomed into the world of cigarette breaks! How weird that people bond because of 2-3 5 minute sessions, outside a building, Monday to Friday. Secrets were indeed spilled due to our shared addictions. How times had indeed changed. When I gave up the first time I was working at an Insurance Company in Southgate, who had introduced the radical measure of only allowing staff to smoke for two 30 minute sessions at their desks during the working day, rather than whenever they needed to. Previously I had worked where you could smoke all day in the office.

Smoking was banned in the workplace during my abstinence, which I welcomed (being an ex smoker – apparently the ‘worst’ variety), but I had not enjoyed the cigarette break and the unfolding secrets until I went back at 32.

I didn’t really enjoy smoking, and it certainly wasn’t as cool as it used to be but couldn’t seem to give up. In the end I went for a single session of hypnotherapy recommended by an ex boss who used to smoke 40 a day, and had this solo session and never smoked again (this did not however affect her cocaine consumption). My office was based in Croydon and the Hypnotherapist was based in Willesden Green. I smoked as much as I could during the day, knowing my giving up was imminent. As I exited the train station and walked towards his treatment room, or rather his front room I managed to consume at least 4 cigarettes. It was a 15 minute walk!

His home was on the wrong side of Willesden and an almost cottage oasis amid the low local authority rises…

I was not sure whether it would work, but didn’t want to go in with my 1 solitary cigarette in my last packet (just in case needed), as it seemed a defeatist attitude. There was a litter bin ¾ full on the street, and I therefore delicately balanced my last packet with its sole survivor at one corner of the bin, where I could easily access it again later should the necessity arise.

The session was 2 ½ hours long and the first hour and a half  was talking about why I smoked, when I smoked and how I smoked along with some simply horrid facts about cigarette production. Then he gave me a crocheted blanket and asked me to sit back in the armchair, which he duly reclined, and make myself comfortable. I covered myself in the blanket. My eyes were closed and the next time I heard his voice, it was over a microphone! I almost sat up shocked and burst out laughing… I managed to contain the shock and the laughter. This was a serious session after all!

The actual hypnotherapy was about 40 minutes in length, and I found my thoughts drifting sometimes thinking about what I wanted for supper and trying desperately to snap my way back into the session, as it was pretty costly and I could worry about supper later. I wondered whether I had truly ‘been under’ and whether it had worked… Then as he brought me round he suggested firstly that I move my fingers and toes, and I knew then it was for real. They moved slightly stiffly as if awaking from sleep. I could not stop smiling and really felt like a non smoker. The power of positive thought both conscious and sub conscious had worked! I didn’t go back to the bin to fish out my carefully placed packet. It was a disgusting thing to do in the first place, a show of desperation, and a sign of an addict.

I have never smoked since, and over 8 years have passed.

Long gone are the days when smoking is an accepted pastime or cool. The smoking ban in enclosed public areas in 2007 really changed a lot of attitudes, and we non smokers no long had to accept smoking in our presence. It’s odd how we just accepted smoking in pubs, restaurants and clubs, accepted the potential passive danger and our hair and clothes stinking.

It’s now frustrating when walking into a building through a fog of smoke as the workers or patrons have come out to ‘get their fix’. They really should move further away from the building. Or whilst walking along the street casually holding the cigarette away from themselves, blowing the smoke over their shoulder and out of their own face, straight into mine.

Pub gardens soon will have to have smoking and non smoking sections as its just wrong to feel happier inside in the summer because of the sheer number of smokers outside.

And I have to say outside hospitals is the utter worst particularly for those trying to get into the building to get well. It’s selfish and needs to stop.

There is absolutely no way that smoking should be part of a modern boulevardiers styling on any level.

My mother has always been a strong anti smoker. This extended to active action in restaurants (before the ban). If someone on the next table started smoking mid meal, and held the cigarette away from their fellow diners as an act of manners, not wanting the smoke to go in their parties space, my mother would respond with a handheld fan, which was extracted from her handbag, switched on and blown straight at them! A few grumbled and gave disparaging looks. My mother would inform them unfalteringly ‘I am sorry, but if you chose to smoke whilst others are trying to eat you can keep it to yourself!’ – The delivery was such that few argued and many extinguished their smouldering sticks and attitudes at the same time!

TNW

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