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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 July 2007, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Revellers smoke till dawn ahead of ban
By Jon Kelly
BBC News

Tom Findlay
Tom Findlay of Groove Armada smokes his last

As England's smoking ban came into effect, revellers across the country enjoyed their final tobacco-fuelled night indoors.

As the clock ticked down to 0600, an instruction boomed out over the nightclub's speakers: "Please put down your cigarettes."

The occasion offered a glimpse into the mood of the nation's smokers.

The dance floor was shrouded in a hazy fug of smoke, thicker than usual, with the clientele all conscious that what they were doing would soon be forbidden.

Turnmills club in London's Clerkenwell was typical of venues across the country holding farewell nights to the habit.

A dedicated "smoking lounge" was set aside for those wishing to savour their final puffs.

But through the mist, it was possible to pick out some very mixed feelings about this landmark.

For some, this was Big Brother clamping down on freedom of choice.

For others, it heralded liberation from unwelcome second-hand smoke.

A third group's reaction was more complex - unease at the prospect of unsatisfied cravings, but hope that this would free them from their addiction.

Right to smoke

Waving her 1920s-style cigarette holder with studied diffidence, Fiona de la Riviere, 28, a charity worker from Islington, north London, could not have made clearer her contempt for the new legislation.

"It's a ridiculous, anti-libertarian gesture," she complained. "Who are the government to decide what is good and bad for me?

"Until two weeks ago I didn't even realise this ridiculous ban was coming into effect.

"I enjoy smoking. Why should I be denied the right to do so?"

Across the room one fellow nicotine addict took a very different view.

Lighting up as he prepared for his guest DJ set, Tom Findlay of dance group Groove Armada admitted that he welcomed the state's intervention to help him break his habit.

"I've smoked for 20 years," sighed Tom, 34. "Tried to give up 47 times, but it's never worked so far. Now I've got no choice. I'll be forced to go without.

"I think it's a great idea. I've seen it work in Scotland and I'm sure it'll go just as well down here."

Smoking ban: clubbers' views

Louise Byrne, 28, from nearby Camden, was not so sure.

"There's something a bit fascist about it, really," she said.

"I think people should be able to choose to do what they want. It's not up to anyone else whether they decide to damage their bodies."

But relishing the fin de siecle atmosphere, the club night's promoter, Paul Stickings, 27, said he hoped the ban would be good for business as well as for his lungs.

"I'd describe myself as a social smoker," he said.

"I only really smoke when I'm out, so hopefully the ban is going to force me to stop.

"Most people who smoke want to quit. If this helps them, I'm all for it.

"From a business point of view, I don't really think it will make any difference. People will still want to dance. We'll just make it easier for customers to go outside."

As the lights went up, the bar staff collected the nightclub's ashtrays for the final time.

Within lay the embers of the venue's last cigarette. It flickered, faded, and then was extinguished for good.

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