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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 May 2007, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Romance blossoms at pub doors
By Nuala McCann
BBC News website

Smoke may no longer get in your eyes, but the Northern Ireland smoking ban could soon spell romance at the pub door.

The hanging baskets are not blossoming alone in beer gardens and on bar doorsteps across the north.

Image of smoking
Smoking is banned in pubs in Northern Ireland

Smirting is the fine art of smoking and flirting.

In societies where smoking is banned in public places like bars and restaurants, smirting has become the new speed dating.

Need the perfect excuse to chat to that tall, dark stranger? Just follow them outside for a cigarette!

Smirting took off in the Republic of Ireland in the aftermath of its smoking ban in 2004.

And soon in Northern Ireland, cheesy chat up lines like "Do you come here often?" could prove as out of date as a pile of old butts in a pub ash tray.

Chat-up line

The new line is: "Would you have a light?"

Smirting gives you the chance to speak to that special someone on their own, without the embarrassment of having to approach a group of mates.

Going outside for a quick cigarette carries the illicit frisson of a quick smoke behind the bike sheds. Who knows where it might lead?

If you and the person of your dreams don't hit it off, then he or she will merely take back their lighter and move on.

But the mere act of asking for a light gives you a reasonable question to ask. It is an opening for a conversation. It may be the spark that lights a fire.

Of course, smoking is seriously damaging to health... but perhaps that's not high on the smirters' agenda.

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