I didn't mean to have a go at smokers. I mean, it's easy these days, isn't it? They're getting marginalised by the law, by public opinion, and their lungs aren't too happy with them either. They're easy prey and I didn't want to be that obvious.
That said this was always going to read as an anti-smoker rant. If you're going to give someone a kicking you might as well use the hob nailed boots.
I tell you, the sooner we ban smokers the better. Those of a pedantic bent might suggest we ban smoking rather than smokers but I'm taking the hard line here. Frankly I am less concerned about the risks of second-hand smoke and the burden on the health service than I am about the mindless inconsiderate nature of some of the people who smoke.
But perhaps it's not their fault. Maybe they're not inconsiderate - they may just be retarded. You've got to be a few IQ points below par to willingly suck down that chemical-laden, tar-ridden smoke many times a day. When their own filthy habits start intruding into my life it may not be because they don't care, it's because they don't realise. Smoking clogs the arteries and the lungs - the reduction of blood flow to the brain is manifesting itself, that's all.
I have recently started working in central London. The thought process behind moving to our capital was nothing more complicated than "I have no idea what I want to do. I may as well move to London where there's plenty of stuff going on to keep me distracted." City life pulls me in two directions - I enjoy the sheer quantity of diversions and 24 hour services but I also miss the lush, verdant outdoors. Another pertinent side of me is that I treasure my lunch hours. I will take a full hour to sit down, eat, do the crossword, and read the paper. It is one of the anchor points of my day - possibly the only one. These seemingly unrelated factors combine to give me my lunchtime pursuit - sitting in one of London's many parks and eating.
Many other people have the same idea. On overcast days the parks are speckled with people, but when it's busy the places are rammed. That's OK - other people are allowed to like the outdoors as well. We can all sit in the park together and enjoy the trees and the grass, the slightly fresher air, and pretend for a brief slice of time that we're not surrounded by pollution and filth.
Only we can't pretend that, can we? The grass is covered in cigarette butts. London's cleaners do a sterling job keeping the pavement detritus at bay, but you can't brush grass clean. Even if we ignore your discarded dog-ends and settle on the grass we are faced with a larger problem. You see, there is a reason there are butts everywhere. There are smokers in the park too.
Like the lumberjack who works outside because he loves the outdoors, the smokers in the park think nothing of sparking up when they are a few short feet from you. They'll sit there happily puffing away while we try to eat our lunch. I came outside to enjoy what little fresh air I can find, not have it removed by some blonde bint in advertising who talks loudly about when she should text the man she danced with last weekend. This also puts me off my lunch but, admittedly, it may not be relevant.
I'm not bothered about the health issues. I'm not entirely convinced about banning smoking in pubs - it seems a mite hypocritical to protect someone's lungs while encouraging them to poison their livers. You go to a bar, you expect the smoke. The stinking hair and clothes along with the dry throat are the cost you pay for socialising in such locations. I don't expect that from my lunch break.
And how about the degenerate swines who smoke while walking along the street? Double points for having a mobile phone clamped to your ear and the cigarette in that hand so it's not even like you're feeding your nicotine habit. As you walk along and belch out clouds of smoke the poor sods behind you get it in the face every single time. You may think you're clever but one day I'm going to have your ankles. Then we'll see who's the smart one.
Australia has a campaign about cigarette butts. It's based around the slogans "Bin yer butts" and "Don't be a tosser". We need more of that type of wordplay in this country. Quality puns and insults for transgressors. The closest we come to this right now is the pleasure of telling people without seatbelts to belt up.
I don't think there's a solution beyond ghettoising smokers even further. Don't send them outside, where they congregate around doorways like mini smokestacks in their own cliquey industrial revolutions. Stick them in a sealed room in the basement with an air vent. No matter how good the filter is the air will be stale and the walls will yellow and peel. Better yet, put them in a vacuum. They're used to breathing problems and (thanks to the fire triangle) they won't be able to light up at all.