Smoke (No Longer) Gets in My Eye – by Nick Caddaye



An anniversary has passed us by without any commemoration. July 1st marked six years since smoking was banned in pubs and clubs. Six, long clean years…

But the time for silence has ended and I must speak for those whose lack of trachea mean they cannot speak for themselves. For I am prepared to admit something unpopular.

I liked smoking.

There. I’ve said it. Although, at this early stage I feel that it’s important to admit something else as well. I don’t smoke. Never have. Contradictory? Well, yes, but these are contradictory times.

Instead, I am a dedicated passive smoker. I have been for over 18 years, since the darkened corners of the Basketball courts of an expansive State High School in Queensland. I have no desire to smoke a cigarette myself, and certainly no desire to buy the damnable things. I have scant few dollars to begin with, and see no benefit in subsidising the tobacco industry when the alcohol industry needs my money so badly.

I have been known to smoke the odd cigar. But I defy you to find a chap who doesn’t like to occasionally wrap his lips around a phallic object and chuckle heartily at his self-awareness. But I don’t care for the ciggies. But oh, how I loved the smoke. I am amongst a very small group here. Most of my friends joyously proclaimed the smoking bans as the best thing since sliced bread (ironically, invented by a two-pack-a-day man). They rejoiced in being able to see each other in clubs and bars across Melbourne. Of being able to dance without the inevitable asthma attack. Of not smelling of an ashtray next morning.

But I miss these things. Whilst my binge drinking usually makes it difficult to see people clearly anyway, I find I miss the haze. I personally don’t care for the dancing, and I usually found that the ol’ factory assault that was the stench of my clothing served as a Pavlovian reminder of the events my alcohol soaked memory had erased.

Also, I have now spent years stranded in wind-chilled laneways and sodden streets with my smoking friends – many of whom are charming, even if they are in nicotine’s yellow thrall. Should I be denied their company, simply because of their addiction, and my low tolerance of Melbourne’s biting cold?

It is discrimination at it’s mildest. And I am outraged.

I’m outraged that when I walk into a pub I can’t just feel the sticky carpet. I can smell it. All the rotting beer and sweat and vomit… The grey veil has been lifted. I can witness the misdeeds of my fellow drinkers, whereas before the random acts of bastardry and desire could be passed off as merely spirits in the fog.

The social wellbeing of dear friends is suffering, as I am forced to see them in situations where they, because they cannot smoke and drink at the same time, choose to be sober. This does no favours for anyone. Many of my friends are apparently rational, interesting people and I am appalled. How did that happen? It wasn’t part of the plan…

And so, the landscape of my social existence was forever changed. Make no mistake, this is akin to the slow alteration of the arctic-circle as glaciers melt and crumble away. Nothing will ever be the same, and it’s the Polar Bears that ultimately suffer.

Have these changes been for the good? Maybe my lungs agree. And my body will thank me when it is not wracked with tumours. But the cost is high, as I have always feared change, and all those who sail upon her.

Six years ago I was wracked with doubts; would I ever feel entirely comfortable in these now well-ventilated venues I have called home for all my adult-life? Would I ever again get the smoky thrill I once got from the Tote or the front bar at the Retreat? Would I be able to complete a song in the harsh spotlight of the Charlton’s Karaoke stage without the traditional coughing-fit? Did I want to?

I felt wronged. No one thinks of us – the passive smokers. Sure, they say they do. They say that these laws were very much designed for our benefit, but I remained outraged nonetheless. How dare those worry-niks at city hall deny me my second-hand smoke?

But I now have my answers. Yes, No, Yes and… not so much. But has this satisfied me? No. And as such I have finally planned my revenge on these ‘law-makers’…

I plan on taking up smoking. Yes, the ultimate ironic victory.

And on my death-bed I’ll weakly shake my fist and gasp my victory to whomever sits nearby. And the last thing these do-gooders will hear will be my rasping laugh.

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