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You have to like Limerick: guest post by John Mallon

Above: Forest’s John Mallon at Ocean FM in Sligo. John is currently touring Ireland, spreading the message that the high rates of excise duty on tobacco are “punitive” and “immoral”. He writes:

Some observations on the tour so far.

Last week in Kilkenny my eyes were drawn to a notice on the hotel entrance door. In big bold print it instructed, 'No smoking and no vaping either'. It was all 'strictly this' and 'absolutely forbidden that'. Tongue in cheek at check-in I alluded to the sign and asked if there was any particular way they wanted me to sit on their chairs.

They have no sense of humour in that part of the country, as I discovered on check-out. I was asked if I had enjoyed my stay with them. Truthfully I said I had but I objected strongly to their condescending attitude to smokers and vapers.

The receptionist told me it was the law and I countered that vaping was not against any law of the State. "Vaping," she spat. "Sure, that's even deadlier than smoking." So, a word of advice to all readers. If you should find yourself anywhere near a certain hotel in Kilkenny, don't dare vape or smoke, particularly during the shooting season.

In contrast, in Limerick I had finished my full Irish breakfast but wanted to leave my coffee briefly and go outside with my e-cig before returning for a second cup. Not only did the waitress tell me it was fine but she led me to a small garden adjacent to the breakfast room and even went back inside and brought me my coffee. When she saw the e-cig she added, "You should be allowed to have that inside." You have to like Limerick.

At the hotel in Tipperary they had a covered garden style area off the main bar and before I turned in I saw several people scattered around four tables. They smoked and drank unselfconsciously as they chatted and there was a glass ashtray on each table. This morning at 6.45 I noticed the area had been cleaned and swept and the ashtrays emptied, washed and placed back on the tables. Most of the time elsewhere they seem to like to let the smoking area look dirty and unkempt so full marks to the Clonmel Park Hotel.

I spent my first night of the tour in a room over a pub in a small village. They had six rooms for hire and I detected the lovely scent of freshly smoked cigarettes while upstairs. In the bar below four patrons were vaping, I noticed, which allowed me to sport my new red e-cig after dinner. The guest house clientele and the pub customers were all working men in overalls and my guess is that only starting a fist fight would really be frowned upon there. Smoking and vaping would be way down their list of no-no's.

I've done six of these tours to date but this one has been entirely different. I am well used to being confronted and baited by angry presenters as they attack me for defending smoker's rights. The ad hominem goading has always been an unpleasant feature of past tours, as has the listeners' complaints that I am on-air in the first place.

For the first time ever I am being welcomed into each and every studio like some sort of prized celebrity. I have been treated with curtesy and respect and encouraged to have my say. The conversations were cordial throughout and I was not the butt of any personal attacks.

I can offer no reason for this whatsoever. I haven't changed one iota and if anything I am tending to be more grumpy as the years go by. But I will say, it is positively spooky/friendly out there this year!

Guest post by John Mallon

See also: Travel story - on the road with John Mallon

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