Right - I've done alcohol, quickly followed by a good dose of sex, so now I am going on to tobacco - this may be the last vice of mine I can comment on (unless I keep up the avarice thread), so make the most of it.
Tobacco has been widely used in Britain since 1593, but I have only been using it since about 1973.
I've always been a bit slow to take up new trends, and it took me quite a while before I discovered the joys of tobacco - about 380 years, to be precise. I caught on to sex and alcohol a few years before that, but not many.
Us smokers have been under constant attack for about 20 years now, and the antis have been getting the upper hand. They stopped all advertising many years ago, and now they intend to not only disallow the display of all tobacco products in shops and supermarkets, but force the manufacturers to package all goods in plain, brown paper. This would suit me fine, as I hate most tobacco packaging that is not based on traditional wood-cuts.
If it were not for the fact that prohibition has been proven not to work, and that governments derive vast revenue from the sale of tobacco, they would have banned it. I really would not mind if the millions or billions of revenue were to be handed straight over to the Health Service, but - of course - it isn't. The shortfall in the N.H.S. funding could be pretty much sorted out in one swoop if the government did not already include the projected revenue from tax on tobacco in their financial forecasts. They have other plans for it. I pay about £6 for 25 grams of rolling tobacco, and about £5 of that is tax, so you can imagine the income which is to be made from the 25% or so of the Brits that smoke.
Ironically, it was the countries which you would least expect to pass legislation against smoking, who took it up first - Ireland and Italy, for instance. I was in Italy the summer they first banned smoking in bars and restaurants, and the Italians could not believe what was going on, as almost all of them smoke, it seems. Conversely, the country that you would think to be the most enthusiastic to adopt a ban - Germany - allows a designated smoking area in all bars and restaurants over a certain size, and - satisfyingly - these are usually the best areas in the house. You would think that smokers would be punished by being placed in small booths, as they did when they allowed smoking in airports before the total ban. Most of the French get around the ban by simply ignoring it, probably because they have a long history of disrespect for the Belgians and Belgium in general, from whence these laws emanate.
The Victorians had a perfect solution to placate those who did not like smoke in public houses - they were called 'Smoking Rooms', and you can still see the beautifully cut glass windows on the doors that lead to them in many old pubs in London and the North.
I probably would have stopped smoking voluntarily years ago, had I not been forced into conflict with the European Union - an organisation which I never agreed to sign up to, and which seems to spend it's entire time producing dictats when not deciding the best way to carve up the hard earned incomes of impoverished countries in order to put two (or one) fingers up to the U.S.A.
Ironically, it was the U.S.A. (or the colonial Americas) where the filthy weed came from in the first place, and it is the US.A. from where the perplexing trend to turn smokers into anti-social criminals comes from today. I wish they would make their bloody minds up, having got the rest of the world addicted by the 19th century.
The Native Indians of America did not smoke the sort of mild tobacco in their peace-pipes that we import today - they smoked a variety that was so strong that it can be hallucinogenic, which is why the pipes that were passed from person to person were so small. You can buy the seeds of this plant on the net today, but not the actual weed. Even the original Settlers found this type too strong for daily use, so developed a plant which could be used as a mild stimulant and be smoked whilst still standing up.
So after about 400 years of smoking tobacco in an English tavern, whilst sitting next to a fire with a glass of beer in my hand, I am (along with all the people who work at the bar there, for which this law was passed to 'protect') - thanks to the 'government' - obliged to stand on the doorstep outside in all weathers to smoke my little roll-up.
At around five or six o'clock outside my 300 year-old coaching inn, a queue of traffic builds up and most nights, busses packed with people coming home from work come to a complete stand-still right beside me. The bored people on the bus look down on me with a look of pity and disgust (again) on their faces. I look proudly back at them, since they seem to forget that they are all packed like animals on public transport, where as I can not only afford to drink and smoke, but run a large and expensive automobile as well.