Belfast Telegraph

Ban on smoking outdoors would be a breath of fresh air

By Claire Harrison

There I was walking through Belfast city centre, when a woman in front of me took a drag from her cigarette, inhaled deeply and exhaled dramatically, right into my face. Before I knew what was happening, I had inhaled the toxic chemicals - direct from her lungs into mine - and I thought I was going to be sick.

She was left in no doubt when I illustrated my disgust with a glare and a loud cough, but on she went with a shrug, taking a plume of chemicals with her to envelope the next unwitting victim.

In theory, it wasn't her fault. She didn't do it on purpose and we were outside where it is perfectly legal to smoke. But it was an example of how the filthy habits of careless smokers can still impact on the lives of us vehement anti-smokers, despite Northern Ireland taking huge strides in protecting the public.

It's nearly eight years since we pointed the way to the rest of the UK by banning smoking in all enclosed public spaces and workplaces (the work of a direct rule minister, by the way).

While that was a relatively short time ago, it's now hard to imagine that there was a time we had to tolerate breathing in the smoke of others. Or that when you went for a night out, you accepted you would come home smelling like an ashtray.

It was the moment the pendulum of rights swung firmly towards the non-smoker for the first time. Now that pioneering move has settled in to become the norm, it's time to start thinking of the next step to reclaim more oxygen.

Former Health Minister Edwin Poots continued the march with a ban on vending machines and tobacco displays in shops but proposals on banning smoking in cars carrying children have so far come to nothing. Despite mixed messages from within the DUP on tobacco legislation, it's good to note that Poots' successor Jim Wells is firmly in its anti-smoking camp.

Personally, I disagree with telling people what they should do in the privacy of their own homes and cars. Smoking around children is revolting behaviour, not to mention selfish.

Puffing away in the confines of a car takes that to a whole new level, but perhaps the answer to that is to use a carrot rather than a stick. Public spaces are an entirely different matter, I have no problem telling smokers where to go when they're polluting shared air.

While Northern Ireland once led the way for the rest of the UK, London could be the city to go one step further with proposals to ban smoking in outside areas including all public parks and landmarks like Trafalgar Square. Expected to be backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, it would make 40% of the city smoke-free.

So how about Botanic Gardens becoming a smoke-free zone? Wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air? And the shopping areas around Belfast City Hall? Based on the number of young people I see puffing around Castle Place, that would be the place to start.

It's the teenage girls who seem most keen to kill themselves slowly here while mistakenly thinking they look like Audrey Hepburn. How about Ormeau Park and the Gasworks seeing it stubbed out?

And let's save the roses of Lady Dixon Park from carcinogens while we're at it.

The momentum is in our favour, oxygen-lovers. Let's keep it up. Like ashtrays on airplane seats, let's make shameless public smoking a quizzical quirk of the past.

At least my mum missed seeing Rolf...

Nostalgia lovers are enjoying the BBC's new online tool that allows you to find out what was on television on the day you were born. The new Genome Project lets you search every edition of the Radio Times published between 1923 to 2009 with fascinating results.

So what was my mother missing on the box when giving birth to me on a Saturday in April 1978?

First there was Record Breakers with Roy Castle, followed by Grandstand with Frank Bough. And at the moment of delivery, she was missing, er, Rolf Harris on Saturday. With hindsight, maybe that was one worth passing up.

Naomi shows she's human after all

It was a genius idea to get Noel Gallagher, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell to do Gogglebox as part of Channel 4's Stand Up To Cancer.

While Noel and Kate were almost amusing as they offered opinions on the X Factor and Strictly, Naomi sat impassive, seemingly afraid to make any sort of facial expression in case it broke her face.

At one point I began to wonder if she was actually a cardboard cutout until the heartbreaking story of a young boy battling cancer came on, and a tear rolled down the supermodel's cheek, proving she was real after all.

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