MONDAY marked the World Health Organisation’s No Tobacco Day, an annual effort to persuade people to give up tobacco, the cause of almost one in six deaths in Scotland of folks aged 35 or over.

It’s also been the major factor in almost a third of all hospital admissions, pre-Covid. Pretty well uniquely, it’s the only product which is guaranteed to be harmful when used according to the manufacturers’ instructions. As it now says on every packet: Smoking Kills.

As a former user of this lethal drug, I’m not pretending it’s easy to stop. Most smokers will have a few unsuccessful attempts before kicking the habit. And everyone who succeeds will have had a different trigger. Mine was having an operation on my neck, and, trust me, when your throat is cut, you stop gasping for a gasper.

One of my friends went cold turkey when her first grandchild came along, figuring (correctly) that passive smoke was harmful to the wee one. There was also the very real possibility that the mammy would have banned her wean from granny’s house.

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When the government banned smoking in commercial premises, everyone predicted people wouldn’t comply in bolshie Scotland. And everybody was wrong. Some people started going to pubs again because they could do so without their clothes smelling like a tobacco factory.

It’s said, not entirely in jest, that the ban on smoking led cities like Glasgow into an involuntary café culture, as tables and chairs and awnings sprang up outside hostelries and restaurants. Meanwhile, folks at their work who couldn’t or wouldn’t stop, found themselves huddled in seriously unfriendly external smoking areas where the atmosphere was more fug than fun.

The tobacco industry is not a pleasant one. For years it was found to have hidden clear evidence that its product had addictive qualities as well as harmful properties. And when sales began to drop in countries where that evidence was publicised, they cynically began campaigns in countries where it wasn’t. They knew they would have to grow a new market. They also paid large sums to high profile apologists. As I say: not nice folk.