x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Where there's smoke-

We're all right! Light up, puff out and generally continue to enjoy smoking, smokers. The law banning the pastime in public places has been delayed until enforcement procedures have been decided upon, we are told. This could take weeks or even months, it is said. Hurrah- cause for celebration. Or is it? Several nights ago, my friend Caitlin and I found ourselves post-dinner and parked in front of her television watching My Sister's Keeper. We were both reclined on the sofas and smoking languidly, as if exhausted flapper girls just home after a night out dancing. There would be nothing remarkable about this were the film not about leukaemia.

"I'm not sure it's right that we're smoking and watching a film about cancer, you know," I said solemnly to Caitlin, wincing as I flicked my butt into an ashtray and Kate, our on-screen heroine, vomited into a hospital bin after a session of chemotherapy. It's a glib observation, but it wasn't the first time in recent weeks that I've felt guilt at lighting up. My grandmother died recently. Cancer was the chief contributing factor. She had gone through months of chemo too, losing her hair, although managing to maintain a great sense of dignity throughout her ordeal, partly thanks to the wearing of a turban. It wasn't lung cancer that killed her, and she didn't smoke. But the physical act of smoking, immediately after her death, was one that made me feel ashamed. What a waste, she would say if she could.

Then back in London last month, smoking was a challenge because it has to be done outside. Have you ever stood outside in temperatures several degrees below zero, with red, raw hands, just to have a quick puff? It felt absurd to be a slave to something so small. "It was the same in New York. I barely smoked there," said Caitlin, who has recently returned from a trip to the city. My remark about smoking in front of our film had sparked ruminations on the date that we would both quit.

Trouble is, we both feebly agreed, that smoking is too easy in the UAE. You can smoke in a restaurant, you can smoke in a bar. I smoked endlessly in a horrid little room in Abu Dhabi airport when my flight was delayed last month. Plus, cigarettes are mighty cheap when compared to prices elsewhere. When the flesh is weak, the fallible among us need a shove in the right direction. Finally enacting a law that makes smoking less convenient might just be the thing.