Figures released today reveal that 15,436 UK smokers froze to death during the month of March. Many of them perished in broad daylight outside High Street coffee shops whilst sitting down quietly, giving off bad smells and obscuring the visibility of passers-by and other customers as they came and went, but otherwise minding their own business.
Thousands more, mainly from the east coast, remain missing presumed dead despite rescue workers vainly spending hour after hour following ash trails which only ever led into massive snow drifts in designated outdoor smoking areas, often covered by a canvas gazebo.
Restaurants have also suffered with many reporting the shocking and sudden loss of loyal smoker customers – those who insisted on dining alfresco and ended up making the ultimate sacrifice before they even had a chance to pay the bill.
Admitting that this year-on-year 99.99% surge in exposure-related smoking deaths was ‘a trifle disappointing’, coalition Health supremo, Jeremy Hunt, pointed out that on the positive side, each of the unfortunate fatalities was technically ‘free at the point of delivery’ and had probably saved the NHS quite a lot of money.
Worst hit was the sleepy Suffolk town of Southwold where, during one Arctic Saturday afternoon, 32 outdoor smokers were pronounced dead where they sat outside Cafe de Niro and Starstrucks. ‘I kept warning our regular smokers to stay indoors and stay alive, but would they listen?’ cried a disconsolate Assistant Manager Helen Cockle, who as a vegetarian struggling to control a 5-a-day courgette habit completely understands the issues.
Even more deaths occurred when desperate home-based smokers ‘popped out for a quickie’ and failed to return. Typical of many was the story reported by Dorking pensioner, Vera Cathcart who lost her husband Ronald during the advert break in Coronation Street.
But not many tragedies can compare with the suffering of non-partaker Reg Maltby, who runs a busy mini-market in Letchworth and lost his entire staff during the afternoon tea break last Wednesday. ‘I counted out all eleven at 3.15 and not a single one made it back,’ he said, looking visibly shocked but somehow now much cleaner and fresher than usual.
Meanwhile the last 50,000 pubs in Britain remain open for business, mostly empty, but nicely warm.