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Some anecdotes about cigarettes on the first day of the smoking ban in England.

From 6am Sunday 1 July 2007 smoking is illegal in public places in England. It's the end of an era, a smoky, smelly and unhealthy one. many would say, and the dawn of a new age of better air quality in pubs and restaurants. Smoking has gone from a ubiquitous social activity to one that is increasingly proscribed and disapproved of. Here are some anecdotes on cigarettes.

Smoking is reported to have become popular after the Crimean War, when British soldiers came into contact with Ottoman Turks smoking tobacco in rolled up cylinders of paper. (See the Wikipedia entry for more fascinating facts about cigarettes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cigarette).

Soldiers in World Wars One and Two had cigarette rations.

Many cigarette packets were sold containing collectible cigarette cards. This came to an end during the Second World War due to shortage of paper.

In 1947, when the Labour government increased taxation on tobacco, there was an popular outcry. How could politicians deprive the soldiers who had fought for King and Country of their one pleasure, people asked.

In the fifties, some cigarette adverts claimed that their particular brand was actually good for you. The claim was even supported by doctors, according to the adverts.

In the film 'Hell Is A City' made in Manchester in 1961, people are smoking practically in every scene. We often forget how ubiquitous cigarettes were, and how it was generally acceptable to smoke almost anywhere at any time.

The actor Stanley Baker, who smoked his way through Hell Is A City' along with everyone else in the film, died in 1976 at the age of 49 after developing lung cancer.

In the 50s and 60s it was common to smoke plain cigarettes. As the dangers of smoking became more apparent, cigarettes were increasingly made with filter tips.

Manchester Corporation buses were painted in a yellow ochre colour on the inside of the upper deck, apparently in anticipation of the paint becoming stained due to tobacco smoke.

The days of 'I'm going upstairs for smoke' came to an end some time in the eighties (can anyone provide a more exact date?) when a smoking ban was introduced on the upper deck. It had always been prohibited on the lower deck. I learned to spell the words 'prohibited' and 'allowed' through seeing the notices on buses.

Even up till recent times, smoking was allowed on planes. I remember clearly on a Japan Airlines flight in 1988, a large group of tourists from the Cologne area lit up mid flight, all at the same time. Even though I smoked at the time, I had to ask to be moved.

Attitudes towards smoking vary according to era and country. Ireland was always a country of heavy smokers. No Irish bar seemed normal without groups of old guys sitting around with their pints smoking brands such as Sweet Afton, Players or Senior Service, the latter two favourites of my father.

In some countries smoking is much more common, and it will be many years before a smoking ban in public places will be introduced, if ever. In Saudi Arabia one of my Saudi colleagues - a 30 a day Marlboro man - told me that Saudi men smoked like chimneys because of the lack of any other recreational activities available to them.

In the UAE one of my teaching colleagues was fond of the 'beady' or hand-rolled cigarette from India. I smoked my last cigarette n the early hours of 1 January 1996 after arriving back from New Years celebrations at Finnegan's Irish pub in the Forte Grande (later Westin) Abu Dhabi. I gave up in a way not recommended by advisers: I smoked fewer and fewer cigarettes until I eventually stopped. I enjoyed smoking but had to give it up due to the risks.

In Germany, cigarette machines now have an age checker: The purchaser must prove their age by inserting a debit or credit card. Since the introduction of this measure, sales from vending machines on the street are reported to have dropped sharply.

According to figures quoted on the http://www.hypnotize.me.uk/ site, about 13 million adults in the United Kingdom smoke cigarettes: 29% of men and 25% of women. In 1974, 51% of men and 41% of women smoked. People aged between 20 and 34, as well as those in the 'unskilled' socio-economic bracket, tend to smoke a lot more.

Pressure group Forest http://www.forestonline.org.uk campaigns for smokers' rights. Members include David Hockney and Antony Worrall Thompson. Forest broadly accepts that there are health risks to smoking but casts doubt on official figures relating to passive smoking. Freedom To Choose are mounting a legal challenge, claiming the smoking ban contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.

From 6am on the 1 July 2007, it became illegal to smoke in a public place anywhere in England. Bans have already been in force in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, New York and New Zealand.

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