This modern life: How the smoking ban is reigniting street culture

For four weeks the smoking ban devised by the Ministry of Culture has resulted in pavements outside pubs, bars and clubs across England being packed with people who would previously have puffed away inside, plus all those wishing to share their company. Pedestrians might as well stop and join in - otherwise they'd be missing a form of social interaction which unites the high and low, young and old, rich and poor, chatty and even more chatty. Where else would one be approached simultaneously by a pristine Kirsten Dunst and a bedraggled tramp, one desperate for a fag and the other for loose change in return for porn found in a skip?

Some smokers puff on doorsteps, their feet half in and half out, forcing doormen on to the streets, while the constant flow of fag-fiends entering and exiting premises causes staff who should be charging entry fees not to bother - unless they have the stamina to deal with constant true or false claims about payments already made or cardies left inside.

Rain showers cause some puffers to enter and exit on a minute-by-minute basis, while others remain outside coolly, getting the lower part of their bodies saturated while protecting their lit cigs with the aid of menus, flyers or plastic furniture held upon their heads. Some stand outside deliberately blowing their smoke indoors through French windows. Some meet over a lighter and then, seemingly within minutes, are running off down the road together to have sex (and then another cigarette), or just start prophesying on the future of tobacco: 'They'll ban it from the streets, forcing us into illicit back rooms where women do alarming booty dances.' Then there are others who declare, 'I know an uninsured shebeen within walking distance, but it's terribly smoky in there.'

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