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last cigarette

July 6, 2007

The first days of the smoking ban in UK [edit: in fact, England] have gone and life goes on… It’s not surprising; people adapt as they always do, almost in any conditions, they rationalise and go on. People working in a nearby building told me that according to the new rules, they need to go 25 meters away from the building’s entrance in order to smoke. ”But isn’t there another building?” I asked…

Smoking is associated with living 10 years less and is considered a major contributing factor to health problems. And yes, at last we can fully provide public places for non-smokers now, but the question remains: why are there not any, just few, places to serve smokers? First we suffocated the non-smokers,did we not learn anything, should we now suffocate the smokers?

Unfortunately, following the recent UK political trend: one more liberty is to go. And no one seems to pay attention. Difficult also here to ignore the highly patronising and selective mentality of the new measure. Its followers have totally disguised this obvious and weakly founded attack on personal choices – even if these choices are unhealthy things in life – under some sentimental and iconoclastic campaign that moves the crowds.  (By the way, what about all other things which are killing us? Does the list end anywhere? Or we should forbid everything in the name of health and safety!?).

The question in personal level becomes even more painful. Under an increasing barrage of normative rules, does self-determination lead to self-destruction?



A growing tendency. Cig break in the streets © 2007 Christos Stavrou


Interestingly, it was not long ago that the currently stigmatised social activity of smoking was a socially promoted habbit and behaviour, from graceful cinema heros to charismatic prime ministers. And now smoking is transforming again, within this new mentality of political asphyxia, into a vague and grotesque act of individual liberty…

no smoking_by Christos Stavrou (c) 2007

No smoking (© 2007 Christos Stavrou)

Arguably, it seems that a society creates problems, such as this one of the existing smokers, only when there’s a decided action ready to be imposed, within the crucial problematic of regulating populations. In other words, is the public service of few smokers such a social problem -that has to be totally denied, when not even one cafe is allowed to cater for smokers? Or, smoking just became a problem, when governments realised that the huge income generated from cigarette taxes could be replaced and actually increased (adding the higher productivity rates) by a new health prevention policy? In order to enforce the latter new social problems needed to be defined and their alleged danger to be socially magnified. Thus, smoking was not simply defined as undesirable, but it is now socially persecuted despite the unreasonable justification for its total public ban. The point is that the whole population is targeted and the whole one needs to move along the new lines of “healthy living” as soon as possible. Other similar ‘new’ problems will follow: for example, watch out for the growing negative discourse about obesity…

Ok, let’s forget all this and enjoy an arresting photograph of the writer Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues by Henri Cartier-Bresson (Italy 1933)



3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2007 9:11 am

    Hi Christos,

    Your statement “The first days of the smoking ban in UK have gone,” isn’t entirely accurate: only a smoking ban in England came into force on 1 July 2007. Smoking is already banned in enclosed public places in Ireland (since 29 March 2004), Scotland (since 26 March 2006) and Wales (since 2 April 2007). I can understand your feelings, though.


    P.S. Keep up the good work. There are some cracking images on your site.

  2. thinkinpictures permalink*
    July 11, 2007 10:00 am

    Hi Graeme, thank you for the correction!
    yes, I meant to write England.

    ps: thank you for the kind words too

  3. Mai permalink
    July 14, 2007 5:28 pm

    You reminded me a short story titled “the last of the smorkers” written two decade ago by a Japanese novelist (science fiction writer), Yasutaka Tsutsui.

    As the title implies, this is a story of a chain-smoking novelist who has become the last of the smokers. He fights against “fascist” anti-smoking efforts. Quite fanny with a essence of black humor.

    If you are interested, the free English version can be found on his Website.

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