Two days ago the nation's 13 million smokers were subjected to the annual barrage of harmonised tut-tutting and synchronised finger-wagging that is No Smoking Day. They were reminded that - unless they are involved in Formula One racing - cigarettes are A Bad Thing.
Of course, such campaigns have no effect on smokers - other than making them more determined to cling to their appalling habit. But they do allow the rest of us to relish the unique delight - as satisfying as a firmly packed Marlboro - of feeling superior. We might be indolent, gluttonous, selfish, envious, malicious, complacent, self-serving, small-minded and boring - but we can at least congratulate ourselves that we don't smoke.
And I speak with the authority of someone who hasn't lit up for all of 17 days, 11 hours and 34 minutes. I don't feel any fitter, healthier, richer or more relaxed but I positively glow with a new-found smugness. When it comes to self-righteous pronouncements on the wonders of willpower, I am an unapologetic 40-a-day man.
In fact willpower has played only a small part in helping me develop a superiority complex of Lord Irvine proportions. I may no longer kipper my lungs on a daily basis, nor contribute more to global warming than a medium sized Bessemer Converter, but, thanks to the miracles of modern science, I can still keep my bloodstream brimful of nicotine. It's all thanks to the magnificent Nicorette Inhalator. It looks like the stem of a cheap pipe which has been inadvertently jammed into the cap of a particularly naff fountain pen. You load it with cartridges of mentholated nicotine and then suck as gleefully as you would sherbet through a liquorice straw. True, it is not terribly chic, but according to my doctor, nor is an iron lung.
That isn't to say the manufacturers shouldn't introduce a few modifications that might make the Inhalator more attractive to those of us who have not only given up, but want to be seen to have given up. For example, it's a shame that the Inhalator has only a suck facility. I'd like to be able to blow. I'd be happy to pay a few pence more if it were fitted with a gaily-coloured feather on the end of a rolled-up plastic tube - the sort of thing children annoy people with at parties. Blow down it and it unfurls, emitting a dramatic whooping sound.
With such an attachment, not only would you enjoy the satisfaction of non smoking, but you could also ensure that everyone within hearing distance was kept well aware that you were no longer numbered among the damned. A second outlet could enable the self-righteous with a social conscience to fire soggy paper pellets across crowded restaurants at those lost souls huddled in the smoking area.
With these simple modifications, we'd no longer have to worry about how smoking is so often glamorised in movies. Directors could simply substitute the offensive fag for a life-enhancing Inhalator. For instance, think how more engrossing Brief Encounter might have been if Celia and Trevor had been able to fire random pellets at the station's third-class passengers or punctuate Rachmaninoff with a few poignant whoopees.
But don't wait for the modifications. If you are a smoker and want to give up, risk pound;6 on the Inhalator starter pack. And see how long it takes before your colleagues start grumbling about the ill-effects of passive smugness. ArnoldEvans@virgin.net