Meet the smokers who want to bring back lighting up inside

I went to Ayia Napa last week and I smoked in every club, bar and toilet on the strip.

At the conservative party conference last week, Rishi Sunak and the rest of the Tory government had a lot to say. But most shockingly, he is advocating for the complete ban of smoking in the UK. “Smoking is unequivocally the single biggest preventable cause of death, disability and illness in our society,” he said. As well as his ban on single use vapes, Sunak is considering introducing tough anti-smoking measures, mirroring New Zealand’s approach. This plan would raise the legal smoking age, effectively banning anyone under 14 from purchasing cigarettes. 

But almost 20 years since the smoking ban, there’s a steadily growing cohort that miss the glory days of being able to smoke inside. Nadine, 57, tells HUNGER: “I know it’s bad, but smoking indoors used to be great. You didn’t have to move, and you could smoke anywhere.” As of 2022, the APS (Annual Population Survey) indicates that over 6 million people, aged 18 years and older, were cigarette smokers. This makes up 13% of the UK population. 

Personally, I am not a smoker, but I decided to imbibe on holiday. It was a conscious choice, motivated by the unique setting and the atmosphere that was Ayia Napa’s nightlife. My decision to smoke indoors was more of an experiment than a habit. It offered me a glimpse into a world I had never truly explored before, raising questions about the allure of indoor smoking and the societal shift away from it. Mason Kirby, 25, who has smoked 10-15 cigarettes per day for the last 5 years tells me: “I love smoking, and I love smoking in bars, especially in Barcelona and other countries in Europe. You can’t enjoy anything anymore, smoking inside is just a nice little pleasure.”

Having grown up in the era when smoking bans became the norm, the idea of lighting up a cigarette indoors was foreign to me. Indoor smoking, which used to be a common sight before the ban in 2007, turned into something you’d only find in old photos and stories from the past. Now, my generation’s obsession with nostalgia and Y2K has sparked fascination with the “heroin chic” aesthetic. Freya, 26, a smoker comments: “Young people are facing a climate disaster, so there is a rise in nihilism. If you’re nihilistic you’re not going to care about the harms of smoking. It’s the perfect compliment to the Y2K / 90’s heroin model heroin chic vibe.” As such, it’s unsurprising that some young people are rediscovering the allure and joys of smoking. Tony*, 26, another smoker corroborates: “I feel that this began when Tumblr was big, especially during the days of Indie Sleaze, it was cool to smoke and still is.” 

As the colder months approach, people yearn for warmth and togetherness and smoking has always played a unique role in fostering a sense of unity among people. In the chill of winter, the act of gathering and sharing a smoke can create a bond that transcends the boundaries of age, background and circumstance. Although, of course, people’s perspectives on smoking are deeply influenced by their personal choices, beliefs and values, and we cannot condone a habit that literally kills. Faiza, 26, a non smoker and drinker concludes: “It isn’t glamorous at all. Your clothes smell and it destroys your body,” still, she adds: “I do hate smokers, but Rishi needs to figure out how we are going to survive as a nation, it’s not just about completely banning cigarettes.” 

*Names have been changed

WriterEmily Grenade
Banner Image CreditUnsplash