The last time I was around heavy smokers was in the 1980s when The Gazette’s newsroom phone booths should have carried a Government health warning.
In fact, several Government health warnings in light of the fact that people didn’t only light up within them.
Flatulence, flirting, even The Gazette’s own version of the latest Gogglebox armchair critics, it all went on in there.
It didn’t make me a smoker. Or a prude. I find tolerance of other people’s excesses increases with age. Smoking is the least of it. Today smokers, young and old, have the facts and statistics to make an informed choice.
The other day I had to buy a pack of cigs for my brother. I felt as if I was asking for soft porn from under the counter at the supermarket. Porn’s on the top shelf under cover. Cigs are locked away. You need to know the brand in order to buy . Sharp intake of breath when I asked “Can I see a pack? I’ll know the brand when I see it.”
Then you’ve got to find a public place to spark up without feeling like a social leper.
Times have changed. In today’s Lost Archives there’s a picture of actress Leslie Caron at Gigi’s premiere in Blackpool. A rather posh local clad in a dead animal’s fur is lighting up a ciggie. Caron won’t have minded. She’s pictured on a Celebrity Smokers website puffing away through Guns of Darkness - and that was before her fling with Warren Beatty. Indeed fans of cinematic minutiae may appreciate the reference to “four scenes with three lightings, but she doesn’t inhale, which makes it unconvincing.”
So that’s OK then. I daren’t check if there’s a Celebrity Snog site. “four kisses, but no tongues, so it doesn’t count.”
That said, top marks to Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn for trying to pack in smoking - having seen the irony of promoting a public health message and then sneaking off for a cig himself.
But now the nanny state’s talking of a ban on e-cigs. They’re a bit like sausage-shaped vegetarian substitutes for Cumberlands.
Or absurdly low alcohol wine. What’s the point? Why get something that looks like the real thing if you don’t want the real thing?
And a Lancashire county councillor is calling for cigarette packs to be plastered with graphic pictures of the associated health horrors - to cover 75 per cent of the pack. Barely space for the Government health warning alongside pictures of tarred lungs, tumours and ballooning arteries. There have even been complaints about smoking on Downton. That’s before viewers got so incensed at a barely seen rape scene scores complained to Ofcom.
If the rapist had lit a cigarette later there would have been hell to pay.
Sex is thrust upon us from the telly, pop videos and mags - yet a woman’s screams off camera had watchdogs baying about “sick sensationalism” and for Downton writer Julian Fellowes’ blood.
Rape occurred in post-Edwardian England - just as it does today. Rape even featured in greater detail in Upstairs, Downstairs. And don’t even get me started on Brideshead Revisited.
Back then the squeamish wrote to Barry Took. Today they take up a hammer to crack a nut. It makes me fume.
One Flu Over Cuckoo’s Nest next for Reservoir Docs
On the theme - see main story - of nanny not necessarily knowing best I’ve got to side with health chiefs who came up with a tongue in cheek film to promote the flu jab message.
Yet Britain’s biggest union Unison has called it “ill judged” and “inappropriate.”
I’m not sure what department at the Vic does sense of humour bypass restoration operations but I’d suggest Unison books in collectively - and hopes the waiting list isn’t too long.
Earlier this year a film starring hospital porter Phil Smith to raise awareness of flu vaccinations and encourage all hospital staff to get inoculated not only went viral (sorry!) and also became one of the cornerstones of the national Flu Fighter campaign.
The tongue in cheek video showed Phil being high fived by other staff for becoming a hero for the day after getting his flu jab.
It worked because it was warm, witty and wise. It took a wholly different tack which captured the attention and imagination. No one wants to be hectored and lectured all the time.
Now the team has followed up with the equally tongue in cheek Reservoir Docs video.
It’s a spoof of the Quentin Tarantino movie but it’s a parody which makes a point.
Unison says it objects to “violence” being used on the site, drugs administered against the will of recipients and a female member of staff being bundled into a side room in order to get her inoculation.
Oh, Matron, what a carry on.
For pity’s sake, Unison, lighten up. Haven’t you got far more pressing concerns in NHS ranks? Don’t carp on about a short film which makes a good point in a quirky manner. The humour’s a bit hit and miss but I found it inoffensive. And it’s already winning praise as an effective means of getting the message across. And most hospitals, in my experience, are hotbeds of black humour.
Nobody objects to the air brushing of political leaders’ posters to help get the save our NHS and other public services messages across.
Or the Keep Calm and Join Unison campaign.
Or a giant axe depicted on a Unison poster above the message Look What’s in the Tories’ First Budget.
And one of the best posters I’ve seen is the They Slash, You Burn poster showing David Cameron and George Obsorne stepping out in decidedly Reservoir Dogs-style from the Fire Brigades Union. And good for them.
Reservoir Docs is a spoof, not satire to make some cutting political point.
And flu IS a serial killer. Every year it claims lives, young and old. And with the NHS’s culture of overwork staff are at high risk not only of getting it but passing it to others who are vulnerable by dint of age, infirmity, illness or other factors.
Each year I join the queue for the free jab at Cleveleys Health Centre and count myself lucky for being called in as a matter of routine by medics watching over the risk factors for me and mine.
I watch the slick inoculation campaign move smoothly into operation there - doctors and nurses and volunteers coming in over their own spare time to ensure that elderly, vulnerable, carers and others deemed at risk because of underlying health complications are kept as safe as they can be until one inoculation comes along that cracks all variants of influenza.
The flu shot may not be nearly as effective as it needs to be but right now it’s our best shot at staying clear of a bug which can place hospitals under immense pressure each year and even close wards at the height of the sneezing season.
And if it takes a parody of Reservoir Dogs to make people get the jab sooner rather than later - you won’t catch me howling for the video to be withdrawn.
Otherwise make next year’s parody One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ... or The Plague Docs. It’s just what this spin doctor would have ordered...