COLUMN: Smokers have been pushed out to the margin but let’s not cut them off completely

Blaise Tapp.
Blaise Tapp.

Put bluntly smokers are modern day pariahs. It is now more socially acceptable to admit owning everything Gary Glitter recorded or that you wish that they still made Sunny Delight than to spark up in public.

Smoking is something that everybody, and not just rebellious schoolkids, are now forced to do in a bike shed (not behind it at least) or in scruffy patches of land at the back of pubs which carry the loose description of beer gardens.

I used to work in places where fag break meant the newsroom was left looking like the Marie Celeste but nowadays those who happily admit to a relationship with the dreaded weed are nearly as few and far between as Lib Dems, not quite.

As one who lost a loved one to lung cancer I know all too well the dangers that smokers expose themselves to as well as the potential harm they do to those who spend a lot of time in their company.

Yet I feel a slight pang of sympathy for the daft sods: yes they insist on standing outside regardless of the weather to get their fix and they are happy to spend the best part of a tenner on a pack of 20 but they are getting a raw deal.

The smoking ban, which has rightly been hailed a success, has pushed the significant proportion of Brits who still smoke out into the margins to such an extent that there is a suggestion that a replacement for cancer sticks - the increasingly popular smokeless E-cig - could soon be outlawed in at least one corner of these fair isles - Wales.

I am by no means a fan of the E-cig industry, which has been one of the fastest growing in our economy and one that a lot of us know very little about.

But it seems that law makers in Wales might be being hasty in its quest to ban their use in public places and prevent sales to under 18s.

While many of us can see the sense in the age limit, ostracising those who have turned to an alternative in a bid to kick the filthiest of habits, just like I did 13 years ago, seems like a retrograde step but don’t take my word for it.

There are a number of organisations that oppose the proposed ban, including Cancer Research while the British Heart Foundation say there is a need for more evidence before such measures are taken.

Clearly there are some, other than those with a vested interest, who see merit in electronic cigarettes and it won’t be long before some genius in the Treasury works out a way of sucking as much revenue from the industry as they can.

Yes there maybe something slightly odd about the sight of a grown man or woman sucking on a piece of brightly coloured plastic but I would rather have E-cigs than dog ends any day of the week.