"No sorry, I couldn't buy you anything this year as I didn't want to damage my lungs."
That could work couldn't it? Especially if you accompanied it with a bit of wheezy breathing and the odd hacking cough.
You see, those trusty researchers at Imperial College London have been doing some proper work (as opposed to getting dressed up and trashing other colleges) and have discovered that "Christmas shoppers in London's Oxford Street are being exposed to high levels of pollutants which can trigger asthma attacks."
The culprits are of course the buses and the taxis, as they're the only things allowed to drive on Oxford Street (theoretically) and they all run on diesel.
And diesel is bad because it contains PM10s: tiny sooty particles that are, according to the Daily Mail, "one of the deadliest air pollutants" and can aggravate asthma and are linked to an increased risk of death from heart disease.
During the study 60 asthmatics were asked to walk for two hours around Oxford St and then Hyde Park:
Lung function was most effected after walking in Oxford Street for two hours. However, the adverse effects continued for 24 hours... The researchers found that the damaging effects of pollution on the lungs of asthmatics was more than three times greater in Oxford Street.
Here, levels of sooty particles were five times greater than in Hyde Park.
So there you go: Christmas shopping is officially bad for your health. Although wasn't there a study last year which said that the stress caused by xmas shopping was bad for you too?
Shouldn't central London be littered with shopping casualties by now? And does this mean they're going to start selling gas masks next to the bargain pashminas and novelty Union Jack hats?
We hope so.