It's 26 June 2006, exactly three months after the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 came into force, exactly three months since it became illegal to smoke in an "enclosed public place" in Scotland. You are several miles up a trackless glen, in a bothy, on a damp, midgy evening. The only other person there is a bloke you've never met before, friendly but grizzled-looking. He lights up a fag. What do you do?
I'm a militant anti-smoker - even my partners have had to smoke outside the back door (which is possibly why one finally left by the front door). However... a lone smoker in a bothy is a minor irritation. Once we were in a popular bothy (to which you can drive) when a group of 20-somethings arrived with cannabis, vodka and ghettoblasters for what they termed "a party". They removed to the upstairs room, but the noise and general aggro was such that sleeping in the back of the estate car was preferable. One elderly cigarette smoker is a mere bagatelle by contrast.
Then there's the question of ventilation. Most bothies, unlike pubs, have howling draughts through doors and window frames, and the jetstream is sucked up the lum - a little nicotine blue is easily dispersed.
Then there's the question of whether a bothy is a public space. It would be if still used, say by working shepherds, or if you paid for a service as in a pub. There are some grey areas in the legislation - literally as well as figuratively - and this could be one.
Then there's the question of implementation. Even supposing you persuaded an environmental health officer to come and fine him, he could also fine the owner of the property for allowing the smoking. Landlords everywhere would relish the excuse to immediately close all bothies to avoid £1000 fines.
No - I'd just breathe deeply (well, not too deeply), and relax.
(a) Implausible scenario. I'd be at home watching the World Cup.
(b) Anyway, what possible reason would I have to stay in a bothy when I could simply walk a bit further in the day and stay in a comfortable van or bed with no grizzlies?
(c) If for some unaccountable reason I was in such a pickle I'd probably say nothing (I hate confrontation), but would silently curse him and curse myself for being so stupid as to stay in a bothy. However, I did
once turn round and rip the fag out of the mouth of a chap behind me who was belching out smoke on a non-smoking bus, so I do have my snapping point. I later wrote to the First Bus people about it, who confessed that no one had ever been prosecuted for smoking on a bus despite all the warning notices about megafines etc.
It's therefore possible I would give the bothy bloke a mouthful of abuse and then set off in high dudgeon into the dark midgy dampness, knowing that after a few hours' walking I'd probably feel much better. (If the midges were really bad I might nip back and ask him for a fag so I could keep them at bay.)
As is compulsory for all Shetlanders and ARSes (Affirmed Residents of Shetland), I carry at all times several ounces of Official Zetlandic Substance, reestit mutton, a sort of North Atlantic biltong. It is useful in all kinds of circumstance. It can be chewed - an act which releases, after several weeks, a pungent tang approximating dead sheep. It can, in emergency, wedge open doors, be used as a weapon, repair boots and poison marauding eagles. Boiling for a month produces a popular Zetlandic soup, though endemic high blood pressure is only one result.
Anyway, on entering said bothy, I would of course immediately offer the grizzled smoker (I know this chap: Samson roll-ups, almost certainly) a chunk of reestit mutton to savour. It is the natural act of an ARS keen to share his adopted homeland's finest cuisine.
Several outcomes are now possible: (1) Death - the unaccustomed consumer of reestit mutton may not be able to cope with the high arsenic content. (2) Heart failure or stroke - the salt may have that effect on a susceptible smoker. (3) Appalled disgust, vomiting and rush for the door. In this third case, it may be possible to bar re-entry, or simply to explain that reestit mutton is traditionally made by steeping meat for weeks (in brine laced with all kinds of evil things) then drying over the traditional Zetlandic Rayburn stove, in a crofting kitchen. As this will undoubtedly be a place foul with expellation of tobacco-soused lungs (everyone in the Zetlandics smokes, drinks two bottles of Trawler rum a day, and dines weekly on psyllocibin omelette), I would then say: "That stuff you've been eating - that's your lungs, that is, matey."
If none of this works, I'll just use the satphone to summon a helicopter and reluctantly spend the night at Gleneagles again.
I used to embarrass my kids by making Scenes with the Scoutmaster, but I think I'm innately an appeaser. It's partly a gender thing, though when filled with righteous indignation I can pile into a pompous ass of a businessman bellowing into his mobile in the intercity quiet coach. Still, in general I've found negotiation more productive than confrontation for getting through life smoothly.
So what comes to the fore in the crucial milliseconds as this grizzly fellow lights up? A spat would be unpleasant; I have to spend the night under the same roof, with no gallant knight to back me up. I could feign an asthma attack, but heavens! He might try a kiss of life. Anyway, I'm a useless actor. But there's a moral dimension here, and I'd be ashamed to do nothing. I think I'd take a big breath and say: I'm awfully sorry, but I can't abide the smell of smoke, especially where I'm eating and sleeping. Would you mind putting your cigarette out, or smoking it outside? And I'd smile very sweetly and look expectant. I think he'd respond better to an appeal to his gallantry than to a terse reminder that he was breaking the law.
If he proved intransigent, there are all sorts of manoeuvres like opening the door, coughing loudly, flapping the smoke away. But I don't think it would come to that.
Here's what came into my head with a cheeky 18-year-old Highland Park. Avec da baccy.
- Ony chance o' a draw? Ma baccy papers got soaked falling on ma erse in a burn, nae papers, tons o' baccy mind.
- Aye nae bother, ma fags is in aboot, jist let me get half the A'an oot ma bits first.
- FFS, bloody Sovereign - they're pish!
- Aye, pish right enough, the midgies hate them as weel, tho.
- Still get coupons with these?
- Aye, collecting them for the new Burgerhoose Gore-Tex jockstrap for the dug.
- How do you keep your smokes dry on the hill?
- Richt ticht in ma ain Burgerhoose jockstap, got it last month.
- No a bad draw fae them, wid ye tak a drop o the cratur? (Bottle appears.)
- Braw, a dram and a smoke with guid craic, just what the bothies is about, eh!
- This is an MBA bothy and you cannot smoke in here.
- Oh aye! Thon pish fire you've got's reeking like a minks' encampment.
- You have to go outside if you want to smoke.
- I think you will be going ootside!
Observations from a bothy smoker, actual practice:
If anyone objects, I do go outside. Anybody smoking the "blaw" is asked to go outside to partake if my kids are there, and all do so. Several lads/lassies who smoke the pipe or cigars add to the bothy atmosphere! All non-smoking bothiers I have known over the last 30 years have never complained about fag smoke. Common sense will prevail, those who feel strongly about non-smoking in a bothy environment are entitled to do so. Those who smoke will form a view and act accordingly.
Being a smoker for 30 years who is trying to quit, I would go and sit beside the lawbreaker and if I could not get satisfaction from passive smoking I would probably - no, definitely - ask if I could pinch one off him. However, if a non-smoker were to enter the bothy, I would turn on the smoker and condemn the evil weed in no uncertain terms. Given the amount of blowbacks most bothy chimneys are prone to, the smoke from a few fags would be lost in the noisome odours anyway.
Seriously though, I think voting Tory is much worse for your health.
My first reaction would be one of relief. It is an ongoing phobia, as I plod up a midge/rain-drenched glen, that the matches have somehow gone missing. This particular form of angst is founded on a midge/rain-drenched evening when I was reduced to eating partially rehydrated lamb casa roll (sic - exactly) and broccoli, frappé. The reason for my mild paranoia could be that (a) I had forgotten to pack the matches, (b) I had packed the matches but not in a waterproof container, or (c) in a moment of alcoholic euphoria I had packed the summertime matches in the wintertime sack.
My second reaction would be to weigh up the opposition. Even given my limited knowledge of the extent of citizen's arrest under Scottish law, he would have to be a bit of a dwarfie if I was going to armlock him. I might make some sort of English joke along the lines of "I say old boy, it seems a long way to come to find a bike shed," but it is most likely that, as a former sinner, I would leave well alone. The question begged is if the culprit is female, French and smoking. If she mistook me for a local expert mountaineer who knew the location of the Bealach of Dreams, then that might be a different matter. As the cognoscenti put it - there is no fire without smoke.
This not just any bothy but a remote bothy - not just far from the madding crowd, but more importantly from Law and Order. Far enough away for any smoker now turned social pariah to feel safe to drag on a fag without the smoke police putting him out.
As a lifelong non-smoker I have to admit to a certain smug delight in the new law. No more stinking of nicotine after a night in a smoke-filled pub. No more travelling in works transport, passive smoking. No more trying to enjoy lunch in a site bothy (oh yes, building-site bothies are an experience).
However much I might be tempted to ask this huge grizzly offender to stub it out, I have to think, who else would have dry matches to light the stove or fire? In more than a few bothies cigarette smoke can be the least of one's problems. In bothying, the experiences one's nostrils are exposed to are part of the phenomenon. Going for days as part of the great unwashed, to become minging. A week eating Beanfeast comes to mind, when a curry-like smell exudes from pores, oxters and orifices. Clothes smelling of bothy fires. Nay, on reflection smokers should be made welcome, offered a seat by the fire with, "Need a light there, big man?"
In the end, past experience has shown that fag smokers usually are fishermen. Very few walkers and climbers I knew smoked at all. But if they did, it was usually a good cigar and a neat malt.
I have an ambivalent attitude to the ban, being a former smoker. I say former, but the only former smoker is a dead one, and those of us who have given up for good are probably deluding ourselves. Anyway, I haven't indulged for some years, though at one time I probably rivalled the great Bill Hicks ("I get through two lighters a day - is that a lot?") in consumption.
Cigarettes may have begun as a youthful style accessory, but soon became a habit as I puffed my way through packets of Gauloise when reading Camus, St Moritz mentholated when listening to Roxy Music, Marlboro while watching Apocalypse Now.
When I started hillwalking I was delighted to find that my monkey was of practical use in warding off midges. I chain-smoked my way up my first Munro, and I recall being begged to light up in a badly bitten non-smoker's tent in Tyndrum. There is of course a downside (other than loss of breath, temporary or permanent) to smoking on the hill. Howling with frustration when you can't get your soggy fag to light in driving rain is probably a clue that you've got a problem.
My attitude to the bothy-polluter would be ambivalent: sympathy with his need for, and, it must be recognised, pleasure in a smoke; but fear that, before the night was out, I would have made a Promethean grab for his gasper and inhaled greedily just one more time.
You tell him politely that you've no objection to him smoking as long as he only exhales when visiting England.
Funnily enough this happened to me recently. I was heading up to the bothy in Glen Murk and was looking forward to getting out of the drizzle. The midges were driving me mad and I could hardly see through my eyes streaming with hay fever. I entered the hut, banging my head on the lintel, and could feel the warmth immediately. When my sight became accustomed to the smoke, I could see the roaring fire belching it out. I guess the chimney was leaking.
At the far end of the room was an Aran-sweater-clad man crouched over his leaky primus. His burning sausages must have reeked of paraffin. Friendly guy, though. He handed me a mug of hot tea, and I was just settling down to quaff it, while I pulled the ticks from my legs, when he had the cheek to ask if I minded him lighting a cigarette. I quoted the smoking in enclosed spaces legislation and told him to go and stand outside the building. "And in the doorway is no good", I added. "Three metres away is a good guideline."
After a couple of minutes I thought I'd check that he hadn't positioned himself downwind, allowing the gale to blow the smoke straight back in. I didn't see him at first. It was only then I realised that Glen Murk bothy is just two metres from the top of the sea cliff. I looked down and saw him puffing contentedly, fag in one hand while hanging from the clifftop with the other. In fact, I didn't really see him until after I'd trodden on his fingers. He dropped his fag among the sea campion as he plummeted towards the waves.
Some people! It could have been a fire hazard.
Dilemma! Do you ignore it and mumble under your breath about bloody smokers but resign yourself to having the upper hand in all other enclosed public places? Do you point out that the bothy is covered by the no-smoking regulations and he will have to smoke outside?
Unfortunately there is doubt as to whether bothies are covered by the new legislation. Are they public places or private houses left open for unsupervised visitors? If there is no signage then it would be tricky to argue the no-smoking case and you would have to appeal to his better nature to smoke outside. But you could hope that his knowledge of the law is poor and he accepts that he should not be smoking inside - after all, he should be used to it by now. Then again, he might call your bluff and ask whether you intend to notify the authorities about non-compliance by the Mountain Bothies Association.
I would most likely chance my arm and ask him to smoke outside without being bolshie. If he refused, I would accept that the major sources of second-hand smoke have been dealt with and treat this incident as a minor irritation on a par with having to walk past a huddle of smokers outside a pub or office.
Smokers are humans first and addicts second. I would introduce him to the medical history of my larynx culminating in the laryngoscopic images of the scar tissue on my vocal cords. (You'd have carried laryngoscopic images in with you to the bothy? Blimey - Ed.) Chances are he would empathise and desist. In the past I have persuaded whole troupes of colleagues to puff on wet pavements outside fancy Glasgow southside restaurants. If he didn't, I'd write something self-pitying in the bothy book.
I draw his attention to the three silver birch leaves indicating my rank of Obergruppenrauchführer for the Highlands, confiscate his tobacco products, and fix a metal shackle to his neck bearing the legend "Ich bin Raucher".
A couple of MBA office-bearers were invited to contribute their thoughts, but declined.
TAC also contacted Scottish Health Minister Andy Kerr, which led to a response from a spokesman for the Scottish Executive Health Communications Team: "I can confirm that bothies are not covered by the legislation, and, therefore, smoking would be allowed within them." So now you know.
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