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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Smoking on the Tube

Anti smoking police at Turnham Green

No Smoking 1966 Cartoon by Zeke

As I was coming home last night a woman on my Westbound platform, decided to take on her own personal campaign against someone heading Eastbound who was smoking a fag. Instead of just tutting, or even reporting him to one of the handy station staff, she shouted across the platform "There's no smoking on the London Underground, there hasn't been for years".

Smoking man either pretended that he couldn't hear her or decided that he couldn't speak English. "I said there's no smoking on the London Underground. Put that cigarette out", she said with even more force. Smoking man walked so that he was standing opposite here and shrugged his shoulders.

Good gambit, I thought, perhaps he really can't speak English.

"Don't you understand English? Can't you see the signs everywhere?" she said sounding increasingly hacked off and like a blonde, female, shorter version of Basil Fawlty. "PUT YOUR CIGARETTE OUT"

At this point Smoking man remembered that he could speak English, but with a vaguely French accent said "What business is it of yours?".

"Put it out or I'll report you. NOW".

He put it out, but then started mocking her, repeating back "Put it out or I'll report you". It was like being in a school playground.

She retorted back with a 'talk to the hand' type of sign, and then mimed "Yack, yack, yack" with her hand and walked away in disgust.

I do actually remember when you could smoke on the London Underground (pre the King's Cross fire in 1987) and there were smoking carriages - the middle carriage - which were pretty hideous. In July 1984, London Transport began the ban on smoking, but it was intially only a trial for a year and hundreds of people ignored it. We obviously needed more people like the public spirited Ms Fawlty above to "enforce" the ban.

However, I wonder why was it deemed OK to smoke in the middle carriage? And is it really banned more as a fire risk than a health risk?

Researchers apparently have "discovered" that air quality in carriages and at stations is up to 73 times worse than at street level and a 20-minute journey on the Northern line through central London has the same effect as smoking a cigarette. Perhaps Ms Fawlty ought have told Smoking Man to spend a while on the Misery liine so that he could have got his fix there instead.


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