STANDING downwind of a smoker outside the railway station the other night, I caught a lung full of tobacco smoke. Disgusting.

I pointedly moved away from her. With smokers, I don’t care if I offend by making my thoughts clear. It is a detestable habit.

Why anyone would want to smoke beats me. Especially young people who have grown up with anti-smoking messages rammed down their throats.

I see students and other young people puffing away without a care in the world. Young people who look like health-conscious, gym-going, healthy-eating types, brandishing a fag like a badge of honour.

I see adults hooked up to drips standing outside the hospital, in front of ‘No Smoking’ signs, puffing away.

I want to go up to them and scream in their faces: “ARE YOU MAD?”


They are perpetuating a habit that - thank goodness - is on the way out.

In the (almost) six decades that I have been alive there has been a sea change in both laws and attitudes towards what is often and, quite rightly, described as a ‘filthy habit.’

When I was a child most people smoked. My parents didn’t, but many of my friends’ parents did. Every time you turned on the TV someone would be smoking, from movie stars like Marlene Dietrich and Lauren Bacall to chat show hosts and even sports stars.

If anything it was seen as glamorous. Most kids I knew at school wanted to smoke. I was among those who tried it. If we ever managed to buy cigarettes it was always Consulate, the menthol ones we thought were more healthy and didn’t stain our fingers. Just to make certain, though, we would wrap dock leaves around the tips before taking a puff.

When I started work as a journalist, in 1992, the newsroom was often a haze of smoke. I sat between two smokers and didn’t think anything of it. That was how it was. There were no polite ‘Thank you for not smoking’ signs back then.

Now, of course, it’s all changed. Smoking is, I believe, now seen by most people as anti-social. When once it was positively celebrated, now it is in its death throes. At least it is here in the UK.

Oxfordshire County Council has just announced that it could become England's first smoke-free county by 2025.

It wants to cut the proportion of people smoking to below five per cent - half of the current total.

When smoking rates fall below that, an area is considered to be ‘smoke free’ because the habit would be deemed unusual.

A consultation on an “ambitious" strategy will be launched by the council in March.

Let’s hope that it won’t be long before such a stance is adopted in Yorkshire where smoking rates remain the highest in the country, according to statistics from Public Health England. They reveal a smoking rate of 16.2 per cent in the region, significantly higher than the England average of 14.4 per cent.

The figures mean there are an estimated 700,000 smokers are living in Yorkshire.

I know the habit is hard to break. My husband smoked when I met him, and wasn’t the best company - a rabid werewolf would have been easier to be with - when I insisted he pack it in.

Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable deaths in England, accounting for nearly 80,000 deaths each year. One in two smokers will die from a smoking-related disease.

But, aside from the health risks, the ever-present smell of tobacco smoke on clothing and in hair - smokers on public transport are easy to identify - should be enough to persuade anyone to give up.