| A woman smokes in a bar in Scotland’s Glasgow before the ban came into force. (Reuters)
From the instant she saw him across the smoke-free bar, an eyebrow slightly raised and his dark eyes full of mystery, she felt her whole body quiver with desire.
He motioned to the door and she followed him outside.
“Well'” he said, his voice dropping to a delicious whisper. “Do you fancy one'” She stared into his hazel-brown eyes, her pulse quickening as she took in the manly contours of his chest and shoulders. “I’m Tandy,” she stammered as he pulled the cigarette packet from his pocket. “I’m Jake,” he said, moving closer as he offered a light.
“So, er, what do you make of this smoking ban'” It may not quite be from the pages of the latest Jilly Cooper bodice-ripper, but a wave of high-intensity flirting, with its very own etiquette and code, is heading for Britain.
With the ban on smoking in public places coming into force in Scotland this month, and England and Wales next year, pubs and bars across the country are bracing themselves for an invasion of “smirting” ' the combination of flirting and smoking that has taken the Irish Republic by storm.
The ban in Scotland makes it the first part of Britain where pubs, restaurants and workplaces are smoke-free and is part of an effort to tackle a poor public health record.
From Dublin to Dingle, the outside of every pub in Ireland, where smoking in public places was banned two years ago, is now crowded with smokers giggling as they huddle beneath umbrellas and share cigarettes.
The smirters are young and old, gay and straight. Some had never touched a cigarette until the ban, but have become smokers to spice up their love lives.Many are serial smirters; others do not know that they are smirting until it is too late.
According to one study in Ireland, 27 per cent of people have met a partner while having an al-fresco cigarette. The phenomenon has led to one-night stands, weddings and divorces.
As he watched the smokers outside his pub yesterday, Damien Furlong, the barman at McDaid’s pub in Dublin, said: “I’m married with three kids so I can’t do it myself but there’s a fair bit of the smirting that goes on. It’s like there’s some kind of solidarity between the smokers.”
Tracey Cox, author of the bestselling Superflirt, said: “We have to brace ourselves for this. Being outside the pub will become the hot place to be. Smokers have always been seen as the risk-taking and fun people, but when it’s forbidden and naughty that makes you think about sex.
“Half the time it’ll be so freezing that you’ll have to stand next to each other. Standing outside and having a smoke suddenly becomes an incredibly bonding thing to do.”
In Ireland smirting has become so commonplace that it has even developed its own code. Above all, those wanting to smirt should make sure that they never have their own lighter, while no matter how funny a joke is, it is best to avoid flashing those nicotine-stained teeth or coughing up phlegm.
Before the ban was enforced in Scotland on Sunday, a local newspaper urged all Scots to embrace smirting with all the vigour of the Irish. “No, it’s not dangerous, illegal or infectious,” one columnist wrote.
“In my smoking days, I took a trip across the water (to Ireland) and the ciggie-zones were where all the great chat and flirting was taking place. There was smirting aplenty. And, er, some smissing.”