Scientists and ‘guys with leather jackets’ have hailed the number of smokers reaching the one billion mark as a ringing endorsement of nicotine, pulmonary disease and Dot Cotton. Popular kids now rate ‘lighting up’ as one of their trendiest pastimes; alongside ‘casual bigotry’, ‘cheap cider’ and ‘getting fingered at a bus stop’.
Anti-smoking campaigns wilfully ignore the fact that cigarettes conveniently trim off the least attractive years from our lives. One tobacco expert explained: ‘Despite smoking killing five times more people than road accidents, overdoses, murder, suicide and HIV all put together; who wouldn’t want the body of Chris Moyles, the face of Keith Richards and the smell of Pete Doherty?’
A pro-cancer spokesman said: ‘This summer, malignant growths will be the new black...and brown...and yellowish green. Other than the deep fried potato, cigarettes are the only thing endorsed by both Kerry Katona and Sir Walter Rayleigh. There’s nothing sexier than a rebellious heart attack, Charlie Sheen’s finger nails or the Marlboro Man coughing up a lung.’
Smoking has always been the recreational ‘drug of choice’ for those who want evoke the feel of hazy jazz clubs, James Dean chic and the whiff of a decomposing ash tray. Like the confessional booth it helpfully fills lulls in conversation, relieves anxiety and gives priests something to do with their hands. One hardened smoker admitted: ‘I cannot be Simon Cowell but I can grow a tumour that looks like him’.