Why Mummy smokes

It’s 7.02 p.m. and I’m standing outside my house by the bins smoking a fag. Upstairs, I can hear that my six-year-old is awake but I’m choosing to ignore her. How repellent, I hear you murmur. And it is repellent, in many ways. I am a smoker and a mother, hardly the Madonna and child. How can these two realities ever be reconciled? They jam against each other all day long, uncomfortably.  Smoking is bloody great. If you’re a smoker that is. Otherwise it’s just disgusting It’s OK, I tell myself, every single day. I never smoke in front of them. Instead, I smoke when they’re in bed, when the

How the Tories gave up on liberty

43 min listen

On the podcast: have the Tories given up on liberty? Kate Andrews writes the cover story for The Spectator this week. She argues that after the government announced plans to ban disposable vapes and smoking for those born after 2009, the Tories can no longer call themselves the party of freedom. Kate is joined by conservative peer and former health minister Lord Bethell, to discuss whether the smoking ban is a wise precedent for the government to set. (01:22) Also this week: can the UAE be trusted on press freedom? At The Spectator that’s a question close to our hearts at the moment as we face possibly being sold off to an Abu Dhabi

Why Sunak wants to ban vapes

11 min listen

Rishi Sunak has outlined plans to ban disposable vapes, and is hoping to change vape packaging to make it less appealing to children. Why? James Heale speaks to Katy Balls and Kate Andrews. 

Peter Oborne, Kate Andrews and Jonathan Maitland

18 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud, Peter Oborne reads his letter from Jerusalem (00:55), Kate Andrews talks about why Rishi Sunak has made her take up smoking (07:20), and Jonathan Maitland explains his growing obsession with Martin Bashir (12:15). Presented by Cindy Yu. Produced by Cindy Yu and Natasha Feroze.

Patsy would have just ignored Rishi’s cigarette ban

On Monday night, still shaken from the weekend’s news, I went to a small dinner in the basement of a charming restaurant in Chancery Lane, with fellow supporters of the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). The brave MSF doctors and nurses are rather like fire-watchers in their turrets, scanning the world for where they are needed next before diving into danger at a moment’s notice. No war zone is too perilous. They have been entrenched in Gaza for years and are used to functioning under the most difficult conditions. This week, they had to work out of tented operating theatres, erected between bombed-out ruins, because ambulances cannot be

The pipes are calling: confessions of a pipe-smoker

This morning, like so many other mornings, I spent at least half an hour, over coffee, staring at online pictures of pipes. This does not make me an aspiring plumber, or someone with a fetish for u-bends or draining units. I’m talking about briar pipes, tobacco pipes: for though I know I should quit the habit, I’m one of the dwindling band of pipe-smokers in the world. This isn’t an aesthetic choice, nor an activity I undertake outside the house. No one is more attractive with a 150mm briar-wood appendage sticking out of their mouths – apart possibly from Sherlock Holmes, Tony Benn or Gunther Grass, and I don’t want

For my 60th birthday, I’m taking up smoking

Next month I will be 60. It’s an unwelcome landmark birthday as far as I’m concerned but they say that taking up a new hobby or pastime is a good way to combat the advances of old age. So I’ve decided to take up smoking. It was either that or something physical such as cycling or jogging or walking football but, to quote Ronnie Barker in Porridge: ‘What, with these feet?’ Besides, older cyclists look ridiculous, serious runners tend to look ten years older than they really are and as for walking football… what’s the point? No, smoking is easier, more pleasurable, more relaxing and even allows me to multi-task.

Smoking is more hassle than it’s worth

I gave up smoking one year ago this week, as part of a series of pitiful capitulations to the forces of coercive conformity. As far as I see it, the path to the grave is lined with compromise after compromise until, at the moment of the final rattle, one has become a travesty, physically and spiritually, of the person one used to be. Not that I would want to overdramatise the whole thing, mind. I more usually tend to present my dis-avowal of smoking as a kind of glorious epiphany. One moment I smoked, the next I didn’t. And in a sense that is true: no doctors were involved, there

A belter of a podcast, featuring a mad South African: Smoke Screen reviewed

I go back and forth on tobacco companies. On the one hand, they are merchants of death. On the other, cigarettes are fun and delicious. On the one hand, they push cigarettes on children, which is unconscionable. And on the other, I remember how I would gather in the park with other children to collectively venerate a ten-pack of Marlboro Lights, our soft, pink fingers shivering and struggling with the lighter mechanism, our untutored lips puffing ineffectually at the speckled filter, all of us beginning to grow woozy from the acrid smoke filling our virgin lungs as we stood there and thought: this is the life. Luckily, Smoke Screen sidesteps

The dangerous rise of Elf Bars

Have you seen the colourful sticks with blue lights hanging out the mouths’ of most teens and many adults? Elf Bars are the colourful and sweet disposable vapes causing a wave of dependence across all age groups.    While the government is looking to rid the nation of tobacco smokers, electronically delivered nicotine is becoming a new frontier.   People who have not smoked before are getting addicted to Elf Bars. And ex-smokers are turning back to cigarettes to wean themselves off the potent pens.  Costing between £4 and £12 depending where you buy them — they are cheap. Watermelon, Grape, Cola and Cotton Candy are a few of the

Saint Jacinda’s war on fags

It is a curious irony that the West’s leading progressive icon is probably the most authoritarian leader in the free world today. Since sweeping to power in 2017, the New Zealand prime minister has been repeatedly lauded by the London intelligentsia as the ideal model of a liberal, centrist premier. This is despite the blessed Jacinda’s stock response to every public policy crisis being to restrict or ban the offending phenomena in question. After Christchurch it was guns; for Covid it was lockdowns, with bans on the unvaccinated. Now Ardern has stumbled onto the solution to smoking: why not simply ban cigarettes? Today her government has announced that it will outlaw smoking for the next

The WHO’s bizarre war on e-cigarettes

When the COP26 climate change conference hits Glasgow at the end of October, the media will be out in force to discover how world leaders are going to meet their ambitious carbon emission targets. It will be on the front pages. Edited highlights will be on television. Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon will be elbowing each other out of the way to get in the limelight. Extinction Rebellion will be performing their doomsday japes outside. But when COP9 begins in November, few will notice. Admittedly, this event is being held online this year, but it would have flown under the radar even if it had been held in the Hague,

Oxford’s petty war on smokers

Life is about to get even more miserable for smokers living in Oxford. Oxfordshire county council has announced plans to make the region ‘smoke-free’ by 2025. Smokers will be prevented from having a puff outside cafes, pubs, and restaurants, while employers will be asked to impose smoke-free spaces in workplaces. Hospitals, schools, and public areas will be urged to ban smoking, and lighting up will be discouraged in homes and other private spaces. In short, Marlboro retailers hoping to ply their wares anywhere between Banbury and Henley are going to be out of luck. I’m not a smoker and I have no desire to be. The combination of a wheezy grandfather and

Covid has killed off our civil liberties

It started with smoking. The 1960s and 1970s saw little popular objection to legislation restricting advertisements by private companies purveying a legal product. Little objection was raised thereafter when these same companies were banned from promoting their wares at all. Broadly shamed, even smokers have mutely accepted confiscatory taxes on cigarettes. As laws to protect the public from passive smoking have extended parts of the US to beaches, parks and even one’s own apartment balcony — locations where the danger to others is virtually nonexistent — few have cried overreach. It’s a truism: tobacco companies are evil (and so are smokers). The suppression of smoking is widely regarded as a

If anything is ‘essential’ right now, it’s cigarettes

The owners of my local grocery shop, a mile or so from my house, very kindly sell me cigarettes in blocks of 200 at a time — and they have also delivered them to my house during this lockdown. This is useful for several reasons. Most importantly it aids my self-isolation programme. But it also minimises the risk of me being caught in the shop by a lurking Matt Hancock or perhaps a chief constable of the police, anxious to punish people who may be purchasing goods which they do not consider ‘essential’. If anything is essential during this time of compulsory boredom, it is cigarettes and alcohol. I have

How many Britons now vape?

Talking Turkey David Cameron again accused the Leave campaign of ‘lying’ about the prospect of Turkey joining the EU. A reminder of what he himself has said on the subject: — ‘I’m here to make the case for Turkey’s membership. And to fight for it… I will remain your strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy.’ (Speech to Turkish parliament, 2010) — ‘In terms of Turkish membership of the EU, I very much support that. That’s a longstanding position of British foreign policy which I support. We discussed that again in our talks today.’ (Speech in Turkey, 2014) — ‘At

Dear Mary: How much should I tip a black cab driver?

Q. We have near neighbours in the country with whom I would not wish to fall out for all sorts of reasons. But they are disorganised and this is testing my husband’s (and my) patience. Whenever we go to supper with them we arrive at about 8 p.m. as requested but don’t usually sit down to eat till around 10 p.m. By this time we, like all the other guests, are stuffed with crisps, drunk and irritable and have run out of small talk. (I have tried asking if I can help in the kitchen and they always say no, everything is under control.) They are not the sort of people you

Your problems solved | 6 June 2019

Q. My mother died a few months ago. Her collection of colourful clothes, hats, shoes and an immense amount of costume jewellery was donated to various charity shops in nearby Devizes. Consequently, I now see a diverse range of ladies wearing one of my mother’s ‘little numbers’. If I bump into a friend festooned in these purchases, what is the right compliment to make? — N.C., Stanton St Bernard, Wilts A. Say nothing. Part of the joy of vintage clothing is the mystery of its provenance. The buyer can fantasise — surely it must have cost a fortune originally! It’s so chic it might even have belonged to Catherine Deneuve? Or

Clearing the air

We are, of course, in the midst of an air pollution crisis which, like every other threat to our health these days, is ‘worse than smoking’. According to the Royal College of Physicians, everyone in Britain is effectively smoking at least one cigarette a day, rising to many more in the most polluted cities. What’s more, as Bloomberg once put it, London has a ‘Dirty Secret: Pollution Worse than Beijing’s’. And London’s air pollution has ‘been at illegal levels since 2010’, according to the New York Times. Serious though the problem may be — I’ll take Public Health England’s word for it that air pollution contributes to between 28,000 and

How smoking saved my life

I almost got killed this week. I went for a very early morning walk in a New Hampshire forest, in the icy rain. Black coat, black hood, black trousers. And so the hunter saw this hunched, awkward, shambling black beast, stumbling over sodden logs, and immediately raised his rifle to his eye and cocked the trigger. One thing, and one thing only, saved me. The armed cracker, looking through his telescopic lens, thought to himself: ‘Hey, it’s a bear — but it’s… smoking a cigarette?’ And so, at the last second, refrained from pulling the trigger. I had this brush with death related to me, with great glee, by the