The Kiss of Death


Dedicated to all of the people who have never smoked. Ever. You are amazing.

Why would anyone write about their phobia of smoking?

This has been hard to write. I’ve had a phobia of smoking and all related activities since my early childhood. I’m sure I can’t be alone with my fear, though I’ve never met anyone as terrified of smoking as I am. Some people don’t seem at all bothered by passers-by smoking in the street. I take it as a personal affront. I know, in that situation, I’m the problem. I also know that smoking is pretty obnoxious, too. I will not, and cannot utter the ‘F’ word. The word for cigarettes that people use as a kind of slang. Rhymes with ‘bag’. To me, it is the most disgusting word in the universe. When someone has said it, I can’t unhear it. Yuk. The person who has said it suddenly seems a little less lovely to me. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. And you’ll not believe how many times I’ve misspelled ‘cigarette’ in the following pages. Apologies if any odd spellings remain. I can only blame my phobia. Fear is akin to obsession, hence the need for me to write all of this. I try not to judge smokers – it is their behaviour that I dislike. Not them. And, ugh. I could never kiss a smoker.

A short smoking history

The practice of inhaling and exhaling tobacco smoke has been recorded for many hundreds of years. When smoking first appeared in England, it is rumoured that people thought smokers were actually on fire, so they doused them with water. When you think about it, smoking is indeed a peculiar thing. We repel our natural fear of fire and the necessity to breathe in order to light up. The reason we need to breathe is to ensure that oxygen can travel to each part of our body. When people smoke, they are transporting the usual oxygen into their blood, along with some extra gaseous passengers. Passive smokers, those who don’t choose to smoke but get the effects anyway, also have these extra gasses transported into their lungs and into their blood. Typical cigarette smoke features around four thousand chemicals, including lead, mercury and formaldehyde. Though smoking a leaf may seem like a natural thing, the chemical processes present in cigarette making are far from natural. People who ‘roll their own’ tend to have a sense of smoky superiority. They like to present themselves as more educated than your average ready-made smoker. However, they still inhale the usual tar and TSNAs that every other smoker does. It is really no better to roll your own. TSNAs, or to give them their full recognition, Tobacco-specific-N-nitrosamines, are the potent carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. The highly toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke are, as we all know deep down, responsible for prompting lung cancer. They are also linked to oral cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer. Complaining of the odd ‘smoker’s cough’ might sound cute. Cancer is not. Ask anyone who has lost a loved one through a smoking related disease. That smoker’s cough is as loud as a bell that tolls. Whether the cancer causation was genuinely specifically to do with smoking or not, the fact that a person smoked will always play on loved ones minds. And what about that smoker’s cough? It just acts as a clear reminder to let the smoker know that they need to light up. Right away. Cough, cough…notice me! You need to smoke to make me go away! Once they smoke, they can ‘clear’ their cough. Addiction is so clever. Cigarette smoke somehow tricks smokers into feeling a little bit better. For a very short time. Though, the fact that they need to feel better because the smoking is actually making them feel rotten gets missed. As long as they can smoke, they feel they can breathe. And, of course, everyone is free to smoke. It is a choice, and I might argue that it is a human right to decide whether we wish to smoke. Of course, the human rights of everyone who inhales second hand smoke are clearly not important to smokers. Smoking is an extremely selfish habit. Smokers are passionate about their pastime. Their days revolve around getting their fix. However, as well as this, they make an extraordinary amount of money for the lucky shareholders of tobacco companies. In 2014 the profits made by one of the largest tobacco companies, British American Tobacco, ran to 3.2 billion pounds. Imagine if that money had been used to support the battered economy in the UK, rather than sitting in the fat cats bank balances? Imagine. Smoking is indeed a right, to be defended to the death. It also makes a few people a heck of a lot of money. Smokers make profits. And hey, everyone needs a hobby.

My own smoking history

I was born in 1980, to a seventeen year old smoker. My mother didn’t give up smoking during her pregnancy. She was stressed. Despite a tiny baby inside her, she needed to smoke. So, to make up for the toxic chemicals she opted to eat a lot of ‘high quality’ steak. This was her seventeen year old bright idea. She thought that eating ‘well’ would counter the damaging effects of my foetal tobacco smoke exposure. I was treated in the Trevor Mann Baby Unit at the Sussex County Hospital in Brighton for the first few days of my life. I wasn’t breathing well on my own, so spent time in an incubator. My mother continued to smoke, and also she breastfed me. In addition to my in utero nicotine exposure, I was getting a frequent dose in my food. The food that was provided to sustain me also poisoned me. I was taken home to live in a smoke filled environment. My caregivers, my mother and grandmother, both smoked very heavily. Two sets of smoke, ever present during waking hours. These days, parents are encouraged to step outside to smoke. It isn’t ideal, as smoky chemicals still linger on clothes and skin. However, my family shared a small flat that had no outside space. I didn’t get the courtesy of smoke being taken outside, or away from me. As I grew, I learned to detest smoke. I was self-conscious, and always felt like a ‘smelly’ kid at school. I once caught a mouthful of hot ash as I walked slightly behind my mother on a breezy day. When asked to ‘get my cigarettes’ from another room, I’d first go to get some toilet roll. I’d use it to cover my hand like a Mummy’s bandage to form a barrier between me and the cigarette pack. I didn’t want to touch the pack of cigarettes, as they made my hands smell. Even the boxes of matches stunk – Swan Vestas were the absolute worst. I dreaded the sound of the strike of a match – the whole atmosphere changed. The house was overflowing with full ashtrays. They were plonked in to the dish water along with plates, cups and cutlery. The thought of the ash and cigarette ends swimming around with the things I’d eat my food with made me feel awful. I hated smoking. My worst smoking memories are from the times that my Grandfather came to visit. He smoked roll ups, and would spend hours sitting silently, continually rolling and smoking cigarettes. I grew to identify the sound of a cigarette paper being pulled from a pack, the tell-tale signs of loose tobacco dropped everywhere, the loving licking of the glued edge to make a cigarette. It disgusted me. He would spit stray bits of tobacco out of his mouth as we sat and watched television. Wherever that tobacco landed, it stayed. The smoking incident that hurt me the most was on one of his particular visits. It was a hot sunny day, and I was drinking a cold can of Lucozade. In those days I couldn’t drain a whole can of pop in one go. I left my drink unattended for a short while. When I later went to take a few more sips of my drink, I drank the rest of the Lucozade right down. I instantly felt something stringy and foreign in the fizz. It tasted disgustingly foul. My granddad had put his roll up end into my can of drink. That sadly put me off him, and anything smoking related, for life. When I became a teenager, the pressure to smoke was huge. All the ‘cool’ kids smoked. I didn’t want people to think that I didn’t smoke because I was scared of getting caught – though the real reason was that I hated smoking. I decided to give it a try. I didn’t want to be the only non-smoker. I stole one of my Nan’s cigarettes. She smoked ‘Superkings’, the longest cigarettes I had ever seen. They seemed bigger than her head when she smoked them. They are huge cigarettes. I sat in front of a mirror, picked up the long cigarette and lit it. I watched myself smoke, copying what I had seen my loved ones do hundreds of thousands of times before. I managed to inhale and exhale easily – I had seen it done so effortlessly for years. I didn’t feel sick, or lightheaded. Smoking was easy. I still hated it. However, to get by at school as part of the ‘in’ crowd, I could do it. I started hanging out with my fellow smokers during break times at school. Smoking definitely opened friendship doors to me. Rebellious doors. The girls I hung around with would smoke, bitch and gob. Though I smoked, and could ‘take it down’, I never went as far as gobbing my phlegm up on the ground. Smoking was utterly disgusting to me, but spitting on the ground was a step too far. Back in the mid-90s I got £1.50 per day for my lunch money. That would buy me a pack of 10 Lambert & Butler a day, plus a caramel doughnut for lunch. I didn’t smoke the full ten a day, instead I was generous with my smoky friends. My generosity was all part of my desire to fit in, to be liked. The brand I bought, Lambert & Butler (aka Lambert & Slutler) were the cheapest cigarettes my money could buy. There was an arcade near the Pier that sold singles for five pence, but that was far too far away from my school. Plus, they tasted disgusting. At that time, Benson & Hedges were the best brand, the ones the ‘cool’ crowd smoked. People knew you were a proper smoker if you bought Benson’s. They would have taken up my whole lunch money amount, so I stuck with the cheapies. Those caramel doughnuts were the food I had during the school day. I doubt Lambert & Butler’s have much nutritional value. As well as being the cool brand, another Benson bonus back in the day were the ‘Gratis’ points cards. Basically, you could collect a load of cigarette cards to then use as ‘credit’ to purchase other stuff. Lighters, cameras, blank VHS cassettes, plus lots of Benson & Hedges branded tat, I imagine. My best friend in the entire world asked me to look after her collection. She handed over around five hundred cards, both the small 10 pack sized ones and the larger 20 pack sized ones. They all stunk of cigarettes. I kept them hidden in my room, alongside my secret ashtray. My ashtray was a small red plastic pretend bin. It had a lid. It was secret because my Mum would go mad if she knew I smoked. My Mum smoked constantly. I am not exaggerating. She smoked when she woke in the morning, before she went to the loo or brushed her teeth. She would smoke while preparing food, and in the middle of eating meals. She smoked in the bath. She woke in the night and smoked. When cigarettes got too expensive for her, she had to roll her own. She managed to get through a large pouch of tobacco a day. I despised her rolling tobacco. It ended up everywhere. All over the sofa, kitchen surfaces, in my food. Everywhere. Tiny stinky strands of brown string. It made me feel sick. The only upside was that she could never smell the stink of smoke on me. Because she stunk as well. However, she decided to snoop in my bedroom…and found the ashtray. And stack of Gratis cards. She did indeed go mad. Not because I was smoking. She didn’t care about that. She was incredulous that I managed to amass so many Gratis cards! She thought that I had smoked thousands of cigarettes to get the hundreds of Gratis cards. I hadn’t. The cards soon disappeared. I assume they were binned. My best friend in the entire world was not amused. I left school at sixteen, and smoked in my first two office jobs.  I smoked at my desk. I had long weekends from Thursdays to Fridays, drinking and smoking my £80 a week wages. I finally, thankfully, stopped smoking when I hit my twenties. I stopped drinking, too. I hated what I had done to myself – I always hated smoking, and alcohol was a trigger to make me smoke continuously. So, I stopped. And I’ve never looked back. They say that ex-smokers are the worst anti-smokers. I can agree. Though, I hated smoking, before, during, and after I smoked. Looking back, I hated myself when I smoked. I was not a happy person. Not at all.

Gratis – Benson & Hedges Campaign

At the height of my smoking in 1996, Colquhoun Associates produced their market research entitled; ‘Brand Equity Check for Benson & Hedges in Conjunction with Exploration of the Gratis Catalogue Loyalty Scheme’. I don’t recall being asked, as an underage smoker, my thoughts on the Benson & Hedges Gratis Catalogue Loyalty Scheme. That’s probably because I rarely bought their brand. They were too expensive for my lunch money budget. The report is a fascinating look ‘back stage’ at what the tobacco companies are interested in. So much effort goes in to ensuring we buy that pack of poison to make ourselves ill with. The way they talk about socio-demographic spread, with Leeds the ‘heartland of Regal King Size’ and Birmingham the ‘heartland of Embassy No.1’ makes my skin crawl. I may have been naïve, never before realising that tobacco sales were such a carefully orchestrated craft. Seeing their descriptions of ‘young smokers’ really does make me feel dirty. As dirty as smoking made me feel. Their marketing campaign consisted of the usual advertising that we used to suffer in the bad old days. Tobacco companies spending millions of pounds on trendy photoshoots and pages in glossy magazines. However, the mention of ‘B&H nights’ alerted a distant memory. I’d long since forgotten the occasions where, in a nightclub, someone would randomly start handing out boxes of 20 cigarettes. Dishing them out like a smoky Santa to everyone in the club. Stopping you making moves on the dancefloor to hand you a cardboard box filled with 20 free smokes. A free gift! Everyone loves a free gift. But, nothing is for nothing. This practice echoes what a drug dealers would do on the street, getting people into the really hard staff for free. Because they know they’ll soon be back for more. The report says that smokers’ very much appreciated the ‘By Royal Appointment’ seal on the front of each Benson & Hedges pack. That, coupled with the gold cardboard, made those particular cigarettes seem to have a ‘hallmark of quality’, that they were ‘quintessentially British’ and ‘certainly not budget’. The most striking parts of the report for me were the quotes. All summed up perfectly. They speak the teenage voice that I’d never spoken. It is particularly chilling when you see who said it. ‘You know if you see someone smoking Benson & Hedges they’re not doing it for show, it’s because they genuinely want to smoke’ (Younger smoker) ‘You can always flash B&H around, no one will turn you down, not like Lambert & Butlers’ They just scream ‘I’m smoking because I want to fit in’. The Gratis scheme made smokers, according to the research, proud of the fact that they had found a way to get ‘added value’ for the money they’d spent on a ‘premium brand cigarette’. ‘Me and me mates, we’ll collect them out of ashtrays in the pubs, it’s a race to see who gets to the ashtray first’. They found that the Gratis collectors were ‘younger respondents, just setting up home, who had a great many things that they wanted and needed but could not necessarily afford all at once’. Such a shame that the precious money they did have was being spent on smoking to get Gratis cards. What a waste. The most false economy. Happily, a few of the respondents did voice scepticism, with one bright spark saying; ‘What? 23,000 (Gratis points) for a video? Me, my whole family and all my friends would have to smoke for our whole lifetimes to have any hope of getting that!’ Quite right, too. Each Gratis card had a maximum of 10 points, so to get 23,000 would take 46,000 cigarettes. That’s a lot of smoking.

Why I dislike smoking

Having grown up in an extremely smoky atmosphere, in the days when passive smoking was less well understood, I’ve always hated the act of lighting up. In essence, I see smoking as an entirely selfish pastime. Smokers may disagree, thinking that they are partaking in something sociable. I don’t think so. The thing I hate most about smoking is the addiction to it. The overriding compulsion to smoke. To get that hit of nicotine. The whole routine of smoking. It is all about ‘me’, though the ‘me’ in that instance is the smokers’ alter ego. His name? Nick O’Teen. My top smoking peeves are, in no particular order (I detest them all equally); 1) Being left at a dinner table while smokers leave to indulge in their filthy habit.

2) Being re-joined by smokers who have no idea of how utterly disgusting they smell

3) Having to not mention just how disgusting I think smoking is

4) Having to sit near people who roll their own cigarettes. I can tell the opening of a pouch and the rustle of a cigarette paper a mile off. I then wait for the pungent burst of tobacco scent. It makes me gag.

5) Having to sit where someone who has rolled a cigarette has been – those little pieces of stray tobacco may be invisible to smokers, but I see them in sharp focus. They really make me feel disgusted. And panicked.

6) Walking past groups of smokers in the street who seem vaguely threatening because they are stood defiantly in the way, with a cloud of ‘I’m smoking’ hanging above them.

7) People who can’t wait to get off a train and have their cigarette sticking out of their mouth before the doors even open.

8) People who flick their unwanted cigarette butts everywhere. I especially despair at the complete idiots who seek out gutters to put their dog ends down. Thanks. Your nicotine infused filth is now heading straight for my drinking water.

9) My intolerance for smoking. I’m sure the people who smoke are lovely, but I just can’t see beyond their habit. I hate their habit so vividly, it is all that I see. I’m sorry, smokers.

10) Oh, and smokers coughs. You know, that tragic phlegmy rasp, coupled with wheezes and an air of stale smoke.

11) Smokers teeth. Gums. Breath. Fingers. Fingernails.

12) Catering staff smoking, in their whites, outside their workplaces. Are they really washing their hands after each cigarette? Should they be smoking in their catering clothes? I was a delicious London bakery devotee until I saw a baker, dressed in his whites, outside the front door. He was puffing away like a chimney. I had made a special trip to that bakery to buy a birthday treat. Seeing the sight of him smoking by the front door sight saved me money that day, and ever since. The thought of smoky fingers making delicious food just put me off the whole place in an instant. Yuk.

13) Smokers quipping that they are going out for some ‘fresh air’. Har-de-har. 14) Vapers, e-cigers; the people who think they are better than tobacco smokers. Nope. The act of sticking something in your gob and sucking on it is obnoxious, with or without the tobacco smoke. You smell, too. Sorry to break it to you. 15) I hate the fact that my fear of smoking takes up a lot of my nervous energy. I hide it as well as I can, but it is always there.

Is smoking child abuse?

Now, I’m not going to equate smoking with any of the dire atrocities that take place in homes up and down the country. Child abuse is a real, serious subject. It happens far too often. Child abuse is a disgrace, in any form. Sexual, physical, psychological – any abuse against a child is abhorrent to me. I would still like to, albeit delicately, broach the subject of smoking around children, as I believe that I was a victim of this. I was in the womb as my mother smoked, I suckled nicotine from her breasts and I had nowhere to go when my family smoked, constantly, around me. As we know, abuse is sickening. It is all about power. As a child, I was powerless to escape smoke. Nowadays, parents are encouraged to lean out of a window, or to leave the room when they smoke. This mistakenly lets parents think that, if they do this, they aren’t causing any harm to their baby. I think that leaving a child unattended, especially for something as selfish as smoking, is a pretty shitty thing to do. Going outside while they have a few puffs doesn’t protect their child at all. While most of the smoke may appear to dissipate into the ether, many chemicals stay on a smoker’s skin, hair and clothes. So when they do decide to re-join their child, they are still poisoning them. Lovely. Smokers decide to ingest their poisons, driven by the addiction of nicotine. Those who smoke around other people, children and adults, inflict the following poisons: Carbon monoxide (an oxygen blocker) Benzene (a carcinogen) Ammonia (caustic and hazardous) Hydrogen cyanide (aka rat poison) Formaldehyde (a carcinogen) Nicotine (an insecticide) I don’t thinks that any smoker could be ever considered as ‘parent of the year’. Unless they quit. For good. Then I think that they should go straight to the top of the list. I know that smoking caused a huge barrier between my mother and I. The smoke became a shield. I didn’t want to get close to her for fear of being burned, or coughing because of the smoky sting, or because of the putrid smell. Her smoking repelled me. In my childlike mind, she smoked because she wanted to keep me away. National No Smoking day came around each year. I’d always mention it. One year, my Mum tried. By 10am I was in tears, and so was she. She’d got into a massive temper because of withdrawal symptoms, so I got the blame. In order to keep the peace, she kept smoking, and I grew up with the constant fear that my Mum would die of smoking. I would often ask her to stop. She never did. Now I’m grown and able to voice my thoughts, my mother agrees with me. Smoking really wasn’t worth it. Now, this is controversial. But while I’m on the whole smoky subject, smokers are just big babies themselves! I have often seen the act of smoking as merely a distant throwback to when we had our first dummy, or pacifier. Our mother would give us a dummy to trick us into thinking we are being fed, for comfort. To stop us screaming. The act of pursing our lips and sucking on a cigarette really reminds me of a baby sucking their dummy. And a dummy is merely a replacement for a mother’s nipple. Some people even decide to suck on a dummy to help them to give up smoking. So there could be something in it. Freud would have a field day, I’m sure.

Conspiracy theories of smoking

I adore a good conspiracy theory. Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see, right? Absolutely. In fact, this book could actually be a pro-smoking book. I know! Mind boggling, isn’t it? And this isn’t a pro-smoking book, by the way. I promise. No reverse psychology here. And so it goes. Interestingly, there are a plethora of smoking conspiracy theories out there. Here are my top three;

1) Cigarettes contain fluoride. Also present in tap water, fluoride is a manufacturing waste product. There is an abundance of fluoride. It is often thought to be a weapon used against the masses to keep them docile. If people are relatively relaxed, they won’t get enraged by the many injustices foisted upon them.

2) Cigarettes have been unleashed on to an unsuspecting public to weed out and identify the rebellious people. This way, the powers that be know who the sheep are, and can easily spot those who are harder to ‘manage’.

3) My favourite, and not necessarily a conspiracy theory; cigarette manufacturers sell cigarettes to make money. Quite. Cigarettes make tobacco companies millions of pounds a year. After all, everything we consume is that which is profitable. They don’t sell us cigarettes out of the goodness of their hearts. They do so to hook us into addiction, and to keep us spending. In any case, every true conspiracy theorist knows that money is, in itself, the ultimate illusion.

Conspiracy facts of smoking

I know, I’m biased. I hate smoking. By now, that’s the only thing that you know about me. I am obsessed with my hatred of smoking. I’m over the top about it, I know. Facts hold no emotions though, so I thought I’d list a few that I find interesting. Here is a selection of diseases that are exacerbated by smoking: Bladder Cancer – Toxins from cigarettes end up getting concentrated in urine. The concentrated carcinogens sit in the bladder, causing damage to the bladder lining. Cervical Cancer – Smoking inhibits the immune response to the Human Papillomavirus. Cleft Palate (babies) – Smoking accounts for 20% of the cleft palates that babies are born with. Colorectal Cancer – Toxins are transported to the colon, and tobacco use seems to make polyps increase in size. Diabetes – Smoking increases the chance of developing diabetes to three times that of a non-smoker. It can also make managing diabetes far more difficult. Ectopic Pregnancy – Smokers are twice as likely to have an ectopic pregnancy. Smokers also have an increased presence of a protein called PROKR1. This protein is helpful in the womb, as it helps the egg to implant. However, it contributes to ectopic pregnancy when it is found in the fallopian tubes. Erectile Dysfunction – Smoking causes damage to blood vessels, therefore hindering all-important blood flow that is required for an erection. Heart Disease – Smoking helps dangerous cholesterol plaques to develop in the arteries. This plaque build-up can cause pain, heart attacks, stoke or even sudden death. Impaired Immune Function – As smoking affects the lungs, smokers have a greater chance of catching flu, pneumonia and developing bronchitis. The lungs are under immense strain, trying to protect themselves from the devastating smoke. Smoking can help people to become ill, and weaken their ability to fight illness. Liver Cancer – Toxins in the smoke inhaled are processed by the liver, exposing the organ to cancer causing substances. Lung Cancer – Smoking irritates lungs. It also causes the majority of lung cancers. Lungs help us to get the oxygen we need from the air, absorbing it into our blood, to keep us alive. Lungs aim to repair themselves, but repeated damage from smoking limits their ability to self-heal. Rheumatoid Arthritis – The painful joint swelling of rheumatoid arthritis is known to be a result of the body attacking itself. Research shows that smoking accounts for a third of the most severe cases.  Vision Loss – Smoking has been found to have harmful effects on eyesight, notably for developing Age Related Macular Degeneration. Of course you could be unlucky enough to suffer any of these diseases whether you smoke or not. Passive smokers, those who have never chosen to light up, also suffer such illnesses. The cost of smoking related diseases to the NHS each year is approximately £5,000,000,000 (apologies if I have my zeros wrong. I mean five billion pounds.). The cost of a pack of 10 Benson & Hedges is £4.97 The cost of a pack of 20 Benson & Hedges is £9.30 The cost of 25g Golden Virginia is £9.15 The cost of 50g Golden Virginia is £18.08 I suppose there is at least one good thing about smoking. The fact that we have the right to smoke.

The slowest suicide method

Forget me and my complete terrible obsession with smoking. I’m an anomaly, I know. Most people seem not to mind it. Though, there does seem to be a grim fascination with smoking. People joke about their love of the ‘cancer sticks’. Van Gogh’s dark painting of a skull with a cigarette between its teeth is entrancing. Everyone knows that smoking is unhealthy. People choose to ignore that, and they smoke their heads off. Is this blatant disregard for their own health a form of self-harm? Research into the links between smoking and suicide seems to show that those who successfully commit suicide are more likely to have been smokers. That is not to say that that smoking drove them to suicide. Suicide is a complicated subject, and one that encompasses many factors unique to each individual case. Though, in some ways it makes sense that most suicide victims are smokers. If a person actively wishes to die, they probably figure they might as well smoke. It would certainly help to hasten matters. Scientifically speaking, nicotine is known to relieve anxiety and stress. That may be much of the attraction. According to the New England Journal of Medicine’s Smoking and Mortality study, among women, smokers are 4.4 times more likely to commit suicide. Among men, smokers are 3.2 times more likely to commit suicide than those who have never smoked. It is down to each and every smoker to consider whether their urge to light up is, in fact, a cry for help. If it is, I urge them to talk to someone. Please. Anyone. No one should suffer.

The Future

As smoking tobacco becomes more of a taboo, people are turning to modern methods to get their nicotine fixes. Worryingly, the chemicals found in electronic smoking devices may be just as harmful as traditional cigarette smoke. And, the new-fangled devices definitely look like toys, a throwback to those pacifier dummy days, I think. All vapers and e-cig smokers are currently guinea pigs, testing the effects of their new addiction. I can just see us all looking back in a few years’ time to say ‘Can you believe it? They told us that e-smoking was healthy’. Because, they said the same about smoking, once upon a time. See where that got us. So – what are the new generation of electronic smokers actually smoking? Vegetable Glycerine sounds positively healthy – smoking juices probably helps e-smokers to believe that they are adding to their ‘five a day’. Propylene Glycol, well, that has to be a good thing, they put it into asthma inhalers! Along with a touch of Pharmaceutical Grade Nicotine. It sounds innocuous, but contains sulphuric acid. Yum! Smells great. Not to mention that it is more commonly used as a drain cleaner. Plus, if a spoonful of pure nicotine can kill a person, it seems a rather dangerous thing to be bandying about. Some of your bona fide vaping connoisseurs make their own e-liquids. Having access to such a fatally dangerous chemical could be devastating in the wrong hands. It is not for me to tell e-smokers that they have just substituted one horrible addiction for another. Deep, deep down, I’m sure that they know it. I hope that they see e-smoking as a stepping stone to giving up their addiction forever. Because, remember kids; we buy that which is profitable. That’s why we smoked in the first place. We don’t smoke purely to demonstrate our right to choose to smoke. We smoke to make money for others.

Further reading

British American Tobacco –

Voice and Friend of the Smoker –

Colquhoun Associates Research Summary Report (Gratis, Benson & Hedges) –

World Lung Foundation –


The Unsolved Murder of Keith Lyon Aged 12 (1967)

The Unsolved Murder of Keith Lyon

Keith Lyon was 12 years old when he was murdered on 6th May 1967. Keith was stabbed to death on his journey to buy something to add to his geometry set. He was murdered on a bridal pathway in Happy Valley, a large field on the outskirts of Brighton, between affluent Ovingdean and the village of Woodingdean.

Keith was the eldest son of band leader Kenneth Lyon and his wife Valda. Kenneth and Valda died without know who had murdered their son. Keith is survived by his brother, Peter, who was 7 years old at the time the murder.

No one has ever been brought to account for causing his brutal death.

The Murder of Keith Lyon

Keith Lyon

Keith was 12 years old when he was murdered. Keith attended Brighton and Hove Grammar School, and was wearing his school uniform at the time of his death.

Keith was stabbed 11 times in the back, chest and abdomen. The weapon was said to be a serrated kitchen knife.

Keith’s body was found by a 16 year old girl, out walking her dog at 4.15pm. Keith was lying by the bushes. She raised the alarm. It was noted that the pockets of Keith’s trousers had been pulled out and his four shillings and keys were missing.


‘Witnesses described a group of youths scuffling near where his body was found’.

‘Two women living nearby saw what they later described as four boys ‘sparring’ and apparently involved in a scuffle by some bushes on the path’

‘A bus driver reported seeing two youths in an ‘agitated’ state on his bus to nearby Whitehawk’

Investigation at the time

Keith Lyon 2

The news of an innocent child being stabbed to death ensured that a highly visible police investigation took place. Soon after the murder, the surrounding area was sealed off. The police set up an incident room within a local primary school, and officers from across Sussex were drafted in.

A large magnetic mine detector was brought over from Aldermaston; a heavy magnetic roller. This could pull metal objects from the ground. However, the alleged murder weapon, a blood stained knife, was discovered and handed in by some schoolboys, close to the rear of Fitzherbert School.

Evidence suggested that someone had tried to wash blood from their hands and clothes in a local public toilet block – a public lavatory that ‘only a local would have known of’.

The Brighton Dog Section was drafted to help seek the murderer, to no avail. The Police took great interest in local ‘beatniks, tramps and rough sleepers’.

A day after the murder a wax dummy was used in the area to help to jog the memories of potential witnesses. This didn’t elicit any further information.

A few days after Keith’s murder a rumour spread that Keith had been stabbed by a youth or gang of youths. The Police announced that they would fingerprint local boys. They hoped that boys evading the fingerprint process would help to highlight the murderers.

Coroner’s Report

In December 1967 the Police advised the Coroner that:

75,000 house visits had taken place
2000 written statements had been taken
17 schools had been visited
1900 school children were interviewed
6000 finger and palm prints had been taken
726 items of clothing were examined, 361 pieces were to be sent for forensic tests.

The blood on the steak knife that had been recovered by the schoolboys showed the blood type was the same as Keith’s.

The Jury returned a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown.

One year on

On the anniversary of Keith’s death in 1968 his father offered a £1000 award to anyone giving information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the killer.

New Information in 1974

Detective Superintendent Jim Marshall announced in January 1974 that that new information about Keith’s Murder had come to light that ‘opens a new line of enquiry’. A special squad of detective began to re-interview dozens of people, though this renewed effort came to nothing.

Mislaid evidence

Keith Lyon 3

The alleged murder weapon and other items relating to Keith’s case were mislaid, seemingly after the reinvestigation in 1974. The knife was only found again by workmen in the basement of Brighton Police Station in 2002.


Rumours of inter-school rivalries abound. Keith went to a well-regarded ‘posh’ school, and his uniform could have marked him out as a target. Police are informed that a family abruptly emigrated to Canada, though they do not know who those people are, or whether there is a murder suspect within that family. ‘Apparently in the Keith Lyon case there was some suspicion directed at a gang of lads from Fitzherbert (school), in Woodingdean. No evidence of course’.

Notable Local Cases

Michael Trower went missing from Hove in 1966. His skeletal remains were discovered in 1967, on the outskirts of Brighton in a shallow grave. “The boy played truant a lot and failed to turn up at school when he went missing in 1966. His remains were found in January the following year. He had a large skull fracture but it was impossible to determine whether he had been sexually assaulted. That said, it was known Michael frequented amusement arcades and piers and he associated with known paedophiles.”

Michael’s murderer has never been found.

Vishal Mehrotra vanished in 1981. He was eight-years old. His remains were discovered in 1982 by pigeon shooters in remote marshland near Midhurst.

Vishal’s murderer has never been found.

Later suspects ‘to be questioned’

Three men have been arrested in connection with Keith Lyon’s murder. I can’t find a report of who these three people are.

Of interest is Brian Field (aka Brian Lull – born December 1937) – convicted of Roy Tuthill’s sexual assault and strangulation in Surrey in 1968. He may since have been questioned in connection with the deaths of Keith Lyon, Michael Trower and Vishal Mehrotra. Brian would have been 30 at the time of Keith Lyon’s murder – he worked for the Milk Marketing Board, so travelled often.

Unanswered Questions

Using up to date forensic technology – is the blood found on the alleged weapon actually Keith’s? At the time, the blood was found only to be of the same ‘type’. It is notable that only school aged boys were fingerprinted – if Keith’s murder took place today, would the investigation take into account other suspect types? What was the new information that led to a new investigation using a ‘new line of enquiry’ in 1974?

Keith Lyon – My full research, maps, timeline and sources

  1. Keith Lyon’s body found (1967)
  2. Michael Trower’s remains found (1967) (went missing in 1966)
  3. Roy Tuthill’s remains found (1968)
  4. Vishal Mehrotra’s remains found (1982) (went missing in 1982)