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A Bristol student’s guide to cigar-etiquette and who you should share a smoke with

To share or not to share, that is the question, Or rather: ‘Hi mate can I nick a ciggie / pinch a blem / nab a rollie?’

Picture the scene. The time is 8:02pm / 01:22am / 03:12am / or 4pm in the afternoon. You’re standing outside the W.G. Grace or taking a well-earned breath of fresh air outside the ASS to reward yourself for hitting the 300-word mark.

Wherever you are, minding your own business or engaged in riotous banter with your closest chums, somewhere, somehow, someone will ask you for a cigarette. What psychological machinations will then fly through your mind as you decide whether to answer that question in the affirmative or deny this hopeful grifter the object of their desires?

We present here in miniature some of our findings which may be helpful in informing our discerning readers to whom they should impart their precious leaves of gold. Read on, and discover who is worthy.

The homeless

This one is fairly straightforward. I don’t subscribe to any of the bourgeois paternalist arguments about what a homeless person should or shouldn’t do with their time or money. This one is a down-the-middle yes for me, and I think it should be so for everyone. In a world in which nobody carries cash, the least you can do is roll your fellow man a cigarette, any time, anywhere, however they approach you. If means allow, I suggest offering two straights or a handful of tobacco and accompanying paraphernalia. End of discussion.

The starving artisté

A friend of mine once told me he had spent his remaining monthly funds on tobacco rather than food, as any true artist undoubtedly should. Thus, if you find yourself asked for a cigarette whilst on Woodland Road or outside the ASS by someone on an English, theatre, or art history degree (coincidentally three of my A-Levels) then you best believe they are desperate.

I think you are morally obliged, therefore, to lend a helping hand. Do you not watch television, read books, or go to galleries? Where would we be without the artists? Give them a ciggy, they’ll probably never make enough money to afford to buy their own. I blame the Tories.

The rugby boys

Go and buy your own cigarettes, and whilst you’re at it, shush. That night you had at motion with the boys was not as sick as you think it was, and will certainly not get any sicker just because you keep drivelling on about it. Their likely convivial phrasing “hi maaate do you mind if I roll a blem?” is a deplorable attempt at bonhomie and should be met with the scorn it deserves in this writer’s humble opinion.

The rah girls

The rah girl is likely to approach her target in a state of supreme inebriation, often employing flirtatious techniques to endear her to your generous heart. A tricky one, and entirely dependent on your own personal tastes. If she has indeed “lost [her] baccy” should you lend a helping hand?

I think the key here is politeness. If you detect any ironies in her pleases or thank yous that are commonplace within the deportment of these fine ladies of leisure, then by all means be staunch in your refusal. If, by contrast, you find her pleas genuine, and her situation appeals to your generous spirit, then proceed in kind. A word of warning though to our gentlemen readers: Do not do so in expectation, you will only be disappointed.

The finance bro

N/A. You will never be asked. Lung cancer is not part of their five-year plan.

The Londoner offering to pay

Recently I was having a cigarette outside Temple Meads station when a man fresh off the train from London asked me if he could buy a cigarette for a pound. This is not an unusual occurrence. I replied that he could “just have one mate”. He considered my response in keeping with good old-fashioned Bristolian hospitality. Take the pound, don’t take the pound?

I think as a rule of thumb anyone offering to pay for the privilege (at such a lucrative mark-up) will have opened themselves up to plenty of advantage-taking in the past and could do with a charitable gesture. Like I say, up to you really, I wonder what the finance bros think…

The person who’s ‘trying to quit’

Some people, in a vain attempt to quit smoking, simply decide to quit purchasing tobacco and rely on the rest of us to maintain their habit for them. Whilst I admire anyone brave enough to try to kick the habit (it’s bloody hard, I’ve tried), I would advise against this method personally.

Not only is it about as effective as trying to perform open heart surgery whilst on on MKAT, your parasitic behaviour very quickly infuriates those around you. A true friend, however, is supportive, both of the effort to quit and in putting someone out of their misery.


There all always mitigating factors. The above should be used to inform a decision, not make it for you. Always read the signs of the road and trust your instincts. If they fail you and you discover, too late, that you have incorrectly judged someone worthy when in fact they were not, the only recourse you have is to add, bitterly, “do you want me to smoke it for you as well?” This is particularly effective if, adding insult to injury, they ask to borrow your lighter. It won’t bring your baccy back, but it will at least humiliate the scrounger.

How to ask for a cigarette:

Finally, a brief word for those on the other side of the debate. There are no hard and fast rules but I always think a bit of pre-amble goes a long way. A “hello, how are you” before moving swiftly to the heart of the matter never hurts, nor do good manners, a friendly smile, and some acknowledgement of the imposition you are making.

These are no guarantees, some people are just ungenerous, but they might help sway those potentially on the fence. I can only say that whilst I do not condone your behaviour, it would be hypocritical of me not to admit that we all resort to such tactics on occasion. Desperate times call for, as they say, desperate measures. Good luck to you, though do try not to be caught empty-handed if you can. Or quit. We probably all should at some point.

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