There are a lot of things that are unattractive about smoking, not the least the lingering smell, not only from those who participate but from the way the smoke permeates the clothes of those who are unfortunate enough to be close to the participants.

Worse still, is dining with smokers and the frequency with which they're required to leave the table, not conducive for the conversation flow. And if they bring their grotesque cigarette packets, featuring gangrenous feet, popping eyes, filthy lungs and rotting teeth to the table it's enough to make you puke.

They're told that each cancer stick, as we used to call them, cuts eleven minutes off their lives which means a pack of twenty cuts their life short my more than an hour, and yet they still leave the table to puff their way to an early grave.

There was a time that Parliament resembled an opium den, so thick was the smoke around the place. It was virtually compulsory to smoke everywhere, the debating chamber, select committee rooms and Bellamys was always acrid with smoke.


But suddenly smoking became untrendy. There were howls of derision when the final bastion of the butt, Bellamys was declared smoke free and the smoking stalwarts were forced into the Wellington wind to try and strike up. In recent weeks even that's been banned, from the front forecourt of Parliament anyway.

They now have to skulk around the back of the building to partake. If they were sent packing from there, the custodian of our pure air, Parliament's Speaker knows it'd cut to the very heart of democracy, MPs off the precinct aren't allowed to cast a proxy vote.

So some of them had to stub their butts out the back to get to the final vote last night on another measure to make cigarettes even more unattractive to the punter, plain packaging.

They've had it across the ditch for almost four years and the results are varied, depending on who you listen to. The baccy companies say smoking's actually increased while the health industry fewer people are fagging.

Now not wanting to sound like a bleeding heart but what happened to freedom of choice. If the product's legal, and of course tobacco is, then why shouldn't they allow it to be advertised? And before they argue that it's a drain on the health system, that's surely covered by the excise tax paid by smokers. And if they do live a shorter life, then they won't be a drain on the pension.

If there's to be a level playing field, how about looking at that other addictive product that arguably causes more pain and suffering than fags - liquor?