The art of smirting
By Katie Evans
A new social phenomenon has been born thanks to the smoking ban. The term 'smirting' has been coined to describe those who gather to smoke and flirt outside. Katie Evans, on work experience with BBC Jersey, takes a closer look at 'smirting'.
Smoking and Flirting - 'Smirting'
Once considered a rather glamorous pastime, smoking cigarettes has since become a decidedly uncool habit, with the number of smokers in the UK continually in decline.
But could a new social phenomenon put smokers back at the top of the social scene?
It’s official: ‘smirting’ is all the rage
A humorous term coined to describe the practice of simultaneously smoking and flirting, smirting is rapidly catching on as a form of socialising outside pubs and clubs where smoking is prohibited.
Smirting originated in Ireland in the wake of the 2004 smoking ban and has since been adopted worldwide as various countries have followed suit.
Jersey’s ban on smoking in public places came into force in January, six months earlier than in England, so Islanders have had plenty of time to adapt to the new restrictions.
For many people smirting is simply a spot of light hearted fun and an easy way to meet new friends or prospective partners.
After all, smirting requires little effort. Surely the ideal way to strike up a conversation is to ask if you can borrow a fellow smirter’s cigarette lighter, prompting a casual exchange which is much less nerve wracking than trying to think up a clever or witty chat up line.
So could you really meet the man or woman of your dreams in the rather unromantic setting of a dingy pub doorway? I took to the streets of St Helier to find out.
Could cigarettes really be a flirting tool?
Love and smoke in the air
"I’d never even heard of smirting until a few weeks ago," said Geoff, 34. "But I find I’m definitely meeting more people outside the entrances to pubs and bars.
"It’s a great way to meet new friends and start chatting to people I might not otherwise have spoken to. Who knows? I might even get a girlfriend out of it!"
Craig, 22, is a smoker who enjoys the al fresco socialising that the ban has necessitated: "I support the smoking ban as I don’t think that others should suffer if I’m smoking. But I don’t mind going outside because I get to chat to people and be sociable," he said.
In recent years smoking has become increasingly frowned upon and seen as an anti-social activity that quite literally gets up the noses of the non-smoking majority.
Since the ban was enforced in Jersey, pubs and clubs no longer smell of stale cigarettes and non-smokers are at less risk from the dangers of passive smoking.
Anti-social or social?
Flirting not smirting
Yet, despite the negative associations and ill effects of smoking cigarettes, plenty of non-smokers are apparently taking advantage of the social benefits and flirting opportunities afforded by the smirting craze.
"I usually hate it when people smoke around me," said non-smoker Verity, 22. "It gets in my eyes and hair and it smells horrible."
And although she supports the new law, it appears that the ban has created a physical divide between smokers and non-smokers:
"I’m almost tempted to stand outside in the cold and rain with my smoking friends so I don’t miss out on the socialising. Although I suppose that for me it’s less smirting and more old fashioned flirting!" she said.
Some people, however, have expressed concerns that the smoking ban could pose a health risk by encouraging social smoking amongst people who do not want to miss out on the pavement flirting experience but would never have considered taking up the habit before.
"I’ve never smoked but I have a couple of friends who are self confessed social smokers," said Emma, 26.
"They take frequent breaks from dancing inside a club and head outside to chat to guys they like. I don’t think they would smoke cigarettes otherwise."
One woman I spoke to had actually met her current boyfriend whilst standing outside a local restaurant on a cigarette break. Smirting, it seems, could even lead to a blossoming relationship. Just don’t forget the chewing gum!
last updated: 29/04/2008 at 15:40
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