Life on Tapp: Smokers might have to stub it out for good...

Is it really possible that the last ever cigarette to be smoked in the UK could be stubbed out during our lifetimes?

Saturday, 31st July 2021, 9:00 pm
NO SMOKING: Government target is smoke free by 2030. Photo: Getty Images
NO SMOKING: Government target is smoke free by 2030. Photo: Getty Images

Given that the boss of the company that makes Marlboros has said in the past few days that the iconic brand will disappear from the nation’s shops within the next decade, there is a real chance that fags could eventually go.

While there will be always a hardcore of living room libertarians who will wheeze as loudly as they are able to about the infringement of human rights, the vast majority of us won’t shed a tear if we don’t see or smell another cigarette again.

For those who still bang on about their divine right to puff, I am the last person they want to hear from, given that I’m an ex-smoker. We’re the worst apparently. But I have an insight that evades those who have always been healthy and have resisted the temptation to put a mustard yellow filter to their lips. I know how calming a cigarette can be after yet another rollicking at the hands of a hard-to-please boss or how satisfying it can be to start the day with a couple of drags and a cup of strong coffee.

But I have also felt the full force of a smoker’s cough and was once a man in his early 20s who couldn’t last ten minutes on a football pitch without feeling short of breath.

My own smoking history was relatively short-lived, seven years to be precise, but began several years after my own father, a cigar smoker, died from cancer. My decision to take up the habit was met with much disdain at home by family members who couldn’t understand why a teenager would put his own street cred ahead of his own bitter experience.

I was a regular smoker - sometimes as many as 25 a day - until just before my 24th birthday. It’s an easy decision to stick to because, as a middle-aged man who would benefit from losing at least three stone, I still feel healthier now than I did when I was hooked on nicotine two decades ago.

I’m fortunate that I was able to pack it in so easily as others genuinely struggle and statistics show that there is a link between smoking and somebody’s economic circumstances. A study five years ago revealed that people living in the country’s most deprived areas were four times as likely to smoke as people from more affluent areas.

The go-to argument of professional sneerers is how much better off some poorer people would be if they didn’t smoke. It’s true that at nearly 13 quid a packet for some brands, smoking should be unaffordable for most of us but the reasons why some both start smoking and feel they are unable to quit are deeply complicated and require proper thought and strategy before cigarettes are extinguished permanently.

The Government has set a target of 2030 for the country to go smoke-free, which actually means five per cent of the adult population would still be smoking. Even this goal is deemed by experts to be over-ambitious, especially as last week it was revealed that 200,000 children had started smoking in the past two years.

The tobacco industry can smell that the end is nigh for fags, but knows that millions will continue to use alternatives such as E-cigs for their nicotine fix.

Who knows when an ashtray will be used for the very last time in this country but there will be a celebration in my house when it does finally happen.