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Peter Bowden

I get hit by a lot of buses. In fact, it’s an addiction. Sometimes, I get hit by as many as 40, 50 buses a day.

When I wake up, my first thought is of that first bus of the morning. Ever since they made the pubs bus-free, I’ve been rushing pints to get outside and be hit by a bus; they’ve just installed a ‘bus shelter’ for people like me.

Now, I’m not quitting. I know it’s unhealthy. But so what? I could smoke a cigarette tomorrow.

Having typed out this banal/brilliant satire, I then thought of a column around it, and the theme is scare tactics.

My regular reader might recall my rant against the ‘Know Your Limits’ website, which genuinely tried warning us that we’d fall fifty feet onto a waiting rapist if we drank anything stronger than filtered rain.

Turn on any TV after 2am, and you’re plunged into a nightmare world of public service oh-if-onlys, the pavements lined with the corpses of toddlers hit at 40mph. Not hit at 30mph, which is fine. Actively encouraged, almost.

Smokers get the brunt of it; if ’Er Maj’s government had their way, we’d choose bus addictions over fags every time. My first memory of them is at school, age five.

They showed the class what looked like two dead socks after a week in a miserable puddle; these are your lungs when you smoke, they said. It got me, but as arguments go, it’s crap: I was five.

I didn’t know what a real lung looked like. If they’d switched it for a donkey’s scrotum, I’d still have believed it. If they’d said that was what our kidneys did whenever we said ‘and’, I’d have bought that too. I was five. It was a Catholic school; I probably even believed in God.

The arguments haven’t matured since. Smoking kills. Smoking turns your arteries to mustard and drips them out through your toenails.

Smoking shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die. But as there’s no balance, it all comes across as so comically exaggerated as to lose all realism: they might as well show a Hitler-moustached cigarette dropping cartoon anvils on smokers’ faces.

That’s where we’re heading, anyway.

I don’t smoke cigarettes. The only times I’ve bothered, I’ve accidentally knocked off the filter, looked a bit of a tit, and realised that a faceful of gas probably isn’t worth the effort. I didn’t think ‘Shit! Death!’

I just came to a reasoned decision – and that beats blind fear as a deterrent every time. If they really want to stop people smoking, here’s two ideas.

One: they give every child 5,000 cigarettes each, and lock them in their rooms until they’ve smoked every one. Or, two: they actually decide to make balanced, reasonable arguments. For once.

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