Slow suicide

Dear Auntie I notice that in your picture you always have a tab to go with your pie and pint, so I'm sure you understand my problem. After 30 years on the Golden Virginia I can't so much as walk past a pub without lighting up. My local pub landlord and his customers are all smokers. Where's the harm in us all committing slow suicide together? Is there any way we can get round the new smoking ban? 'Old Holborn', Sunderland

July 1, 2007 · 2 min read

Dear ‘Old Holborn’

Look closely: that’s not a tab, it’s a spliff – and can you see any smoke?

Auntie did hope that spliffs would be exempted from the smoking ban but the Health Act 2006 specifies that it includes ‘smoking any other substance’. (So that rules out crack, smack and dried banana skins, too, in case you’re tempted.) In fact, the act prohibits merely ‘being in possession of [tobacco or] any other lit substance in a form in which it could be smoked’, even if you don’t actually smoke it. That unlit spliff of mine is about as far as you can go in a designated ‘smokefree place’ without defying the law.

There are exemptions. These include hotels, care homes, prisons and ‘other places where a person may be detained’. So there’s nothing to stop you lighting up in a police cell, then. It’s also okay for ‘those participating as performers in a performance’ to light up ‘if the artistic integrity of the performance makes it appropriate for them to smoke’. You could always become a performance artist in residence at your local, with performances repeated at, say, 30 minute intervals, and see where ‘integrity’ gets you.

Auntie will mention only in passing that Hitler once suggested that the Nazis would never have come to power if he hadn’t given up smoking. Or that one of the few acts of Pope Urban VII’s 13 days in office involved a threat to excommunicate anyone who ‘took tobacco in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose’. (Watch out for a sudden boom in the snuff business, by the way, as a byproduct of the ban.)

These little nuggets may be worth sharing with the rest of your fellow slow-suiciders on 1 July. Auntie would have given up smoking years ago if the Health Fascists weren’t such an unattractive bunch.



The crack pipe of peace

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Learning by number

Dear Auntie _ At one of the Gaza protests in London, Stop the War put the number of protesters at around 100,000 but the police insisted it was only 20,000. Can Auntie reassure me that the Met has a scientific methodology for estimating crowd numbers? _ Numberless in London

No hope

Dear Auntie, All my left-wing friends seem to be overjoyed about Obama winning the US election, holding real hope that he will bring change, that he'll stop the wars, and that he'll somehow make America all cuddly and nice. But haven't we been here before? I'm getting flashbacks to the expectations people had of politicians like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, and how quickly they betrayed us. Is it terrible that I think Obama will be just more of the same? Hopeless, London


Both feet not in the grave

Dear Auntie, Having reached 50, I've become invisible. It's the only explanation of why people look right through me. I'm ignored in shops and at bus stops; and getting served at the bar is an endurance test, as men and younger women always take priority. I have a lifetime of experience as an activist, but these days there's always a 'Darren' or 'Ryan' whose opinion matters more. I'd go as far as saying they don't even hear me speak! It seems white hair and wrinkles are taken as an early indication of Alzheimer's. But I'm not ready to go gently into the night and as Auntie looks of a similar age, does she have any advice? The invisible woman, London

Do what I say, not what I inhale

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Nice smelling poo

Dear Auntie, _ I'm a vegetarian who is fed up having to justify why I don't eat anything with a face on it. And it's the environmentalists who are also meat eaters who seem the most personally affronted by my choices. Do you have any suggestions how I can deal with this? _ Chickpea not chicken lover, Totnes