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DAILY POST COMMENT: Rediscover the joy of staying in.

ACCORDING to a survey conducted in advance of yesterday's smoking ban proposals, those who wish to continue feeding their habit before and after food (or, in many cases, in between courses) will shortly revert to entertaining themselves and others at home.

This is by no means a bad thing, even if it does resurrect the cheese and wine party.

Far too many restaurants have become so fashionable and over-subscribed these days that an impromptu visit is out of the question; bars at lunchtime and late evening are standing-room only, and a quiet tete-a-tete is all but impossible.

Meanwhile the priceless civilising arts of the hostess, of preparing and cooking food, and convivial conversation, have all but disappeared. Yet homes, thanks to Ikea, Habitat and the like, have never been more. . . ideal.

Smokers have always preferred a less hectic, more ruminative lifestyle, perfectly suited for the home with the television turned off and the windows wide open. They do not belong in heaving, sweaty bars or crowded, noisy, over-priced restaurants -- though pubs, of course, where a solitary pint or a slow game of darts or dominoes can be enjoyed, are a different matter.

But if social habits are to change -- as is now predicted -- just about everyone wins.

Smoking, in proximity to others who detest the habit, is a profoundly selfish, antisocial and unhealthy activity. But, in future, smokers will be encouraged to get together out of harm's way where they are at liberty to pursue their addiction to their hearts' content without censure (so long as they don't poison the children), while in addition putting the world to rights.

Non-smokers, on the other hand, can continue to lead their frantic, empty, neurotic lives in the unforgiving glare of the social spotlight where their super-abundant energy is in no danger of disturbing smokers' longed-for peace and tranquillity. For, as most reformed smokers know, when there is nothing else to do with your hands, you've got to so something.

The survey, by You Gov last month, suggests that up to five million people may choose to stay in rather than go out, and this has to be excellent news. Some may even rediscover the joys of their families, and late night traffic congestion could be a thing of the past.

Of course there is always a downside, and pub operators in the UK have already seen share prices fall.

But where there's a ban there are also opportunities for the enterprising. Apart from tobacco firms, fortunes for all concerned, including smoke-free pubs, can only improve over time.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 17, 2004
Words:425
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