Smoking or Non-Smoking?

“Would you like seats smoking or non-smoking?” The thought of somebody asking you such a question as you’re about to board an airplane is nowadays unfathomable. Smoking your lungs out on an airplane, in a restaraunt, at the shopping centre – you’d be crazy to think it! However it’s not so far yonder back since the local pub stank like a Carolls Number 1 incubator.

Thankfully our attitude towards smoking has changed much for the better over the last 15 years or so. The  ubiquity of the ’40 a day’ smoker is fading out. The hazy days of smokey bars and restaurants are but a thing of the past; a paramnesiac glitch in the memory of many adolescents and young adults. In the current age of organic health foods, personal trainers and e-cigs, it’s difficult to imagine a horizon full of smokers celebrating their right to light-up in public houses. Yet that is how it was in Ireland up until 2004.

My own memories of the pre smoking-ban era include the smell of smokey clothes and smokey shopping centers, and a much more lax attitude to the habit in general. Stretching the memories back as far as pre-adolescence I recall a time when smoking was just a bad habit practiced by adults, not neccesarily an abomination, but a silly habit nonetheless. Pre-ban outings to restaurants and bars were entwined with the rich aroma of greyish-blue smoke whirling around indoors. Consequently even non-smokers would arrive home from social outings reeking like an ashtray.

As I entered my teenage years the final days of the pre-ban era were looming. One of the striking differences between primary school and secondary school was the widespread normality of smoking in secondary school. Smokers were in no short supply. Cigarettes weren’t yet overwhelmingly expensive, not neccesarily cheap but not what they cost today.

The biggest changes in people’s attitudes to smoking came in the decade that followed the ban. Within a year following the ban, nobody really smoked in the toilets in schools. Penalties were implemented for smoking in public places; in bars, on public transport and so on. The price of 10 cigarettes was a little less than €3 when teenagers of my generation started buying them, however it was impossible not to notice the price jumping by a mere few cents every so often until at last the legendary 10 box was outlawed in 2007. As the price of 20 smokes continued to climb, eventually hitting the €8 mark, young people were forced onto the now illustrious Amber Leaf rollies. This marked the beginning of a new era in tobacco logistics.

The prominence of the roll-up cigarette has now reached critical acclaim, and it’s avid supporters share mutual feelings of understanding amongst each other; the annoyance of running out of filters, the gritty last smoke at the end of every pouch, the yellow fingers that don’t go yellow anymore(?) and so on. Now the latest addition in the chain of cigarette-evolution is the widespread clunky e-cig.

Thanks to the 2004 smoking-ban everybody can enjoy the benefits of fresh air wherever they go. Knowing the detrimental health effects of heavy smoking, only beggars belief will tell you that there once was a time when an ashtray on every pub table was the standardized norm. People still smoke but nowhere near as much as they once did. The death of the chain smoker has given rise to the eminence of the ‘social’ smoker. People are now more concerned about staying fit and looking after their health yet from filtered rollies to e-cigs the habit still lingers but maybe now it is nearing the end of its widespread popularity forever.