Hockney's Art Takes on the Smoking Ban; When David Hockney Read Austin Mitchell's Whinge in the Oldie about How MPs Are Being Unfairly Treated as Lepers, He Scribbled Back an Ironic Blast in Response on the Government's "New Instructions" to Smokers and the Stubborn Temptations of a Cigarette. Here Is an Extract from His Letter to the Grimsby MP

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 14, 2009 | Go to article overview

Hockney's Art Takes on the Smoking Ban; When David Hockney Read Austin Mitchell's Whinge in the Oldie about How MPs Are Being Unfairly Treated as Lepers, He Scribbled Back an Ironic Blast in Response on the Government's "New Instructions" to Smokers and the Stubborn Temptations of a Cigarette. Here Is an Extract from His Letter to the Grimsby MP


Byline: David Hockney

Dear Austin

I read your piece in the Oldie and I was a bit sympathetic. The thing is Austin, that people can be very ungrateful about some things, and after all they don't always know about your work to clean up things, clear the air so to speak.

I know you voted to get rid of all the smokers from pubs. I don't know for sure how it's working as I don't go out too much now, as I am too deaf to be social in crowded rooms, but I keep myself informed. Of course, I do fall by the wayside at times and have a cigarette ...

Mind you I fell by the wayside with the carbon accumulation. I had given up charcoal drawing as it was so obvious the carbon footprint went straight from my easel to the bedroom -I could have been caught out quick. But the other day I failed there. It just came over me that it might be a good idea to draw the trees with a bit of burned old tree, well it's really a twig. Anyway I did a few but I put the stuff firmly back in the box, although you can't lock cardboard that well.

I keep thinking what it was like before your good work. Think of it: people sitting at the front in a nightclub with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and was it Sammy Davis Jr? All, believe it or not, smoking while they were actually singing ... They even had the cheek to sing about smoke getting in the eyes. What must it have been like? Thank goodness we won't have that again. It must have been torture for some, and not knowing 30 years later that that cough had its source in a song many years before.

I used to keep a lot of cigarettes in the house in LA, in case of earthquakes -you know Austin, be prepared, if you were ever in the boy scouts -and I thought, well, water and cigarettes would keep me going for a while (yes, we can be very misguided if good guidance isn't coming from higher up).

I was in York one drizzly evening, and I chatted with an old lady trying to keep her cigarette dry. In her youth they didn't hear your message about smokers dying younger, so it's slipped her by, but of course I could see the menace lurking in her superficial charm. Killer was a word that wouldn't have occurred to me before the recent new instructions, but enlightenment comes to us in odd ways.

I went to see Wayne Sleep in his hotel room. There was a very informative sign that if you smoked a cigarette in the room you would be charged [pounds sterling]150. Anyway, the funny bit was that I'd just read in Bridlington Free Press that someone was fined [pounds sterling]60 for smoking cannabis (this may have been outside. …

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Hockney's Art Takes on the Smoking Ban; When David Hockney Read Austin Mitchell's Whinge in the Oldie about How MPs Are Being Unfairly Treated as Lepers, He Scribbled Back an Ironic Blast in Response on the Government's "New Instructions" to Smokers and the Stubborn Temptations of a Cigarette. Here Is an Extract from His Letter to the Grimsby MP
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