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Sofia's Letters from London #2
by Sofia Gkiousou
2006-09-21 22:11:30
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Put that cigar out, Mr Churchill!

Consider. Remember. Churchill, a beloved British politician, not to mention cultural icon, always comes to mind with a cigar somewhere about his person. A big man, with his characteristic voice, he looks out from all his pictures with those beady eyes lost somewhere in his big face and a cigar at hand.

This became a problem lately for Mel Smith, portraying Winston Churchill in Allegiance, a play by Mary Kenny at the Edinburgh festival. He is not allowed to light a cigar on stage. Nor, for that matter, cigarettes or herbal cigarettes. In fact he cannot light anything in an enclosed public space.

The Scottish legislators apparently did not exempt the performing arts from the smoking ban imposed earlier this year. This became a problem for actors and stand up comedians performing at the festival.

Acting is of course the art of imitation. If we can imitate sex on stage why not smoking? Maybe we can imitate smoking. True enough. But I am betting all my money for the first company of actors who will appear stark naked on stage, imitating clothes. Hopefully as a protest.

Well, as you probably have guessed I am a smoker. And as such I have been penalised, looked down upon, suffered endless telephone calls from my doctor and a limited choice of restaurants for the duration of my stay in London. Still I am content. I do have the choice. That is, until next year when the smoking ban will be imposed here as well and I will probably have to migrate to Saudi Arabia. Or Greece. You see the similarities of course.

I know it's bad for me. Nevertheless it's my choice and as a responsible adult I can be trusted to ask for permission before I light up in company.

The fact is that I am not convinced that the smoking ban is an effective means of protecting public health. The poor state, all it wants to do is save my life and the lives of those who have to inhale my smoke. But to use a phrase probably popular during Churchill's time: Poppycock!

The smoking ban is a cheap tactic, no more than that. The state resents paying for my lung diseases, heart diseases and various other ailments that I will probably develop during my lifetime. The state resents giving me services, meaning hospital care, for which I have paid for through my taxes.

I would have accepted the following scheme: Have separate enclosures for smokers in all public spaces. You know, glass enclosures, so that we can lock our selves in there and smoke to our hearts content while still enjoying a good meal, play, movie etc. I would even accept grotesque posters hanging on the glass walls about the state of my lungs. But hey, who will build all these? Who will ensure proper ventilation? Who has the money to separate spaces? And in the end, you'd still have to treat the various smoking related diseases?

The law is a form of therapy, a pill if you will. And whenever I hear someone saying "I'm glad of the ban, maybe it will help me quit", I know that the pill is working. Minimum expense-maximum impact. The most successful placebo ever.

Next step: Airbrush away the cigar from all of Churchill's photographs. Everywhere. In magazines. In newspaper archives. In textbooks. We, will change history. So put that cigar out Mr. Churchill!

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Thanos2006-09-20 08:16:20
We are ...doomed!

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