According to the latest exit polls, the Scottish No vote won by 54% to 46%. But I’ve been thinking about the missing ‘atmosphere’ in pubs since the smoking ban.
When I was about 10 years old, my school was on the top of a hill in Hampshire overlooking Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. On a clear day they were perfectly visible. But on winter days mist would often completely obscure the view, and you couldn’t even see the perimeter fence around the school’s grounds.
And on some days – very rare days – the mist would be so dense that it had become a fog through which you could see barely five yards.
I used to love those foggy days, because when you went out onto the school’s wide lawn, you could get lost in the fog after taking just a few steps into it. And as you wandered around in it, you occupied an intimate, private space all of your own, invisible to anyone, even though you were in the middle of the lawn.
And if one of your school chums should by chance come walking out of the fog, perhaps to ask you where the hell we were, there’d be just the two of you together in that intimate, private space. And the closer you stood together, the more clearly you could see the other’s face, because a yard or two further away they’d become misty outlines.
But if the fog had suddenly lifted, and you could see all the way to Portsmouth again, then all the intimacy and privacy would have vanished.
And I think that this is how the smoky atmosphere in a pub or party or dinner serves to create an intimate and private and cosy atmosphere, and why the fun went out of it all when smoking was banned. As Jax wrote a few days ago:
many of my non-smoking friends have now stopped giving parties at all because (and I quote them here, not my own opinion) “They just don’t seem to be as much fun as they used to be,” before waxing lyrical about how great they used to be, whilst failing completely to put two and two together to draw the obvious conclusion.
It’s not an illusion. It’s a physical effect. Mist or smoke or fog in the air reduces visibility almost as effectively as walls and curtains, and creates cosy, intimate, private spaces. The same sort of thing happens when there’s loud music or conversation. And it serves to push people together, so that you find yourself enjoying the thrill of speaking into the ear of some hot blonde, just to get heard at all.
And it’s probably precisely this intimacy that antismokers don’t like. They don’t want to be pushed together with other people. They want to stay far apart. They want the kind of clear air through which they can see Portsmouth. Because when the fog closes in, they get nervous.
I used to visit Barcelona before the Spanish smoking ban was introduced, and in the district in which I stayed, of about thirty bars and restaurants, just three were non-smoking (and also largely empty of people). And it was probably no accident that all three had entirely banished not just smoking, but also intimacy and privacy. Because they all had huge floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows that rendered them completely transparent to the outside world. And they all had the same brightly-lit open-plan interiors, devoid of private areas or kiosks.
Antismokers don’t seem to like intimacy and privacy, and they don’t want you to have any. Which is why they’ll not just ban smoking in public places, but also private spaces like private cars or homes. Next they’ll want people’s houses to have plate glass walls, and be brightly lit inside. For nothing must be private, and everything must be public.