I have a disciple. One teacher was so inspired by my article on giving up smoking that she too now uses the miraculous Nicorette Inhalator, the pen-like device that you load with nicotine cartridges and suck as if your life depended on it.
Admittedly it's naff - but the same could be said of the cigarette. Unless you happen to be a willowy super-model, spectrally pale and doe-eyed, a fag is not the ideal accessory for anyone trying to cut a dash in Cool Britannia. My disciple even uses her Inhalator in the classroom. She tells me that on the plus-side: she's less susceptible to the mild panic attacks that once punctuated her day; and when the bell rings she happily spends vital "quality time" with pupils who want to hang on as she no longer feels that hysterical urge to rush off to the staff room and her Embassy Regal.
There is a down side: despite having used her Inhalator for over a term, her style-conscious classes still find it hilarious. She also finds that, as with her marking pen, her keys and her reading glasses, she has a tendency to leave the Inhalator lying round - within the reach of idle hands eager to do the devil's work.
In the nick of time, she managed to stop one Year Sevener from inhaling a lungful, and - more worryingly - a group of wags, on whose desk she'd foolishly left her personal life-support system, attempting to substitute a cartridge of nicotine for one of Blue-black Quink.
If they had succeeded she would have spent the rest of the afternoon in Aamp;E attach-ed to a stomach pump which, she calculat-ed, was marginally less appealing than revising solids, liquids and gases with 9D.
My disciple will be shocked to learn that I have abandoned my Inhalator, cold-turkeyed on nicotine, and now get my daily fix of oral gratification exclusively from confectionery.
Yes, I am that appalling man at the Pick 'n' Mix squeezing the Quality Street to ensure he doesn't get lumbered with a Turkish Delight. In my relentless search for an acceptable cigarette substitute, I have eenie-meany-minee-moed my way through the gamut of contemporary sweeties and am sad to report that they are not nearly as wonderful as they were in my short-trousered, milk-toothed, pocket-moneyed days.
Curly Wurlies don't curl and wurl as once they did; liquorice laces no longer go on for ever; Swizzers have lost their swizzle; the romance has gone out of Love Hearts - and modern sherbet, to be brutally frank, isn't worth dampening your dipper for.
Lollipops, alone, seem to be as sweet and as sticky as they ever were. I am now a committed five-lolly-a-day man and am particularly grateful to Chuppa Chips which has gone to the trouble of developing a gizmo which no serious sucker would want to be without.
The marvellous Spice Girls Pop Talker (pound;1.99) resembles a pop singer's head mike. But instead of being fitted with a microphone, the plastic extension that protrudes in front of the mouth, contains a convenient aperture into which you slot your lolly so it is always within sucking distance. I have no hesitation in recommending it to my disciple. She can wear it, safe in the knowledge that she won't accidentally leave her lolly lying around, or be laughed at by her style-conscious pupils. And, of course, it's not nearly as naff as clutching a fag.