Smoke laws fan flames of passion

By Rachel Tiffen

Indulged in a bit of smirting lately? Yes, that's right, smirting.

It's the new phenomenon of smokers ducking outside the pub or workplace and engaging in a bit of good old-fashioned flirting.

The trend has been set alight since new smoke-free laws were introduced in December.

In pubs, it's meant the days of screaming sweet nothings above the offensive warblings of Eminem or the bootie-shaking beats of Xzibit and Snoop Dogg are gone. Now, it's drag-and-court, puff-and-pout or draw-and-paw, out in the garden bar.

The term "smirting" has been coined overseas and although some people in the Bay of Plenty are using it, it has not yet reached common use.

"Have you got a light?" has become the new "Do you come here often?"

Waiter Graham Bray - a proud non-smoker - has heard the pick-up line frequently. "Smokers get to milk it. It's like a foot in the door," he says.

Home Bar co-owner Mark Day is fascinated by the trend - musing about starting drink specials and speed-smirting in its honour.

He wonders if another baby boom might result.

"One week you might be standing outside having a smoke, the next you are having an engagement party."

His Tauranga club boasts a large outdoor area - which has become a popular smirting spot.

Across the road at the Grumpy Mole Saloon, manager Riki Walls has no doubt it happens.

"But we are probably a bit different at the Grumpy because we've got such a huge garden bar. We are not forcing people to remove themselves on to the street where it's quiet ... and they have to talk to people."

He has heard about but not witnessed the "try-hard smirter" - someone who carried a lighter to hook up with a date - but promised to "keep my eyes peeled for the fake smirters".

From the chain-smirter, to the social smirter, to the drunk smirter - you are bound to find smirting in a beer garden near you.

One Bay woman, whose employer would not allow her to be named, remembered the grand, old days when smoking was in vogue.

"In the 40s it was considered romantic to blow smoke in each other's face," she reminisced.

Financial assistant and long-time smoker Lyn Page, 43, said there was a sense of brotherhood among smokers.

She was not the least bit surprised the smirting scene had developed. "Everybody's sort of sinning together."

Matt Symons, 24-year-old duty manager at Verde's Liquor in Tauranga, doesn't often go outside at town bars to smoke. "You just lose people - but when you do go outside you scope ... you have a look around."

- HERALD ON SUNDAY

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