The Smoking Ban
Smugness is abundant amongst the non-smoking, regarding the surprise outcome on banning smoking in most enclosed public places, including pubs, bars, clubs, social clubs and restaurants. Their main argument [sic] is "I don't smoke, so I'm really pleased". But that's not an argument.
Now let me be clear on this one: I fully accept passive smoking isn't something that should be imposed on non-smokers and to that effect smoking had already been banned in public places the general public cannot avoiding visiting.
Nor have I ever had any problems respecting the wishes of non-smokers to not smoke in their vicinity, even if that vicinity is in my own home.
But to extend this ban in such a draconian way to places people can choose to visit or not, is an insult to civility. It smacks of Puritanism and Big Nanny.
There were strong indications that the market was already starting to self-regulate with many establishments adapting to demands from their non-smoking customers for smoke-free dining areas and better segregation between smoking and non-smoking areas, as well as better ventilation. Others have really taken the bull by the horns by making their non-smoking policies part of their marketing strategy, often successfully and why shouldn't they [be successful]?
The previously proposed legal compromise of allowing smoking only in pubs that don't serve food might have been messy but compromises always are and we embrace many of them. At least a compromise held the promise of satisfying more people and antagonising fewer. I have no problem going to a smoke-free restaurant (I do already), even if it means having the occasional fag in the rain. I also know non-smokers that don't mind coming out to the pub with me even if there are plenty of smokers around. Would this compromise solution really have displeased so many non-smokers? Yet this ban doesn't leave anyone any choice but was voted in nonetheless.
"Good, serves all of you right" say the majority of non-smokers, "smoking is bad for your health and even more importantly bad for our health". But there are plenty of human activities that are dangerous not just to the person in question but also those who are in his immediate vicinity.
Drinking is the most striking example. How many people in Britain die as a result of drink-related violence? How many sustain injuries as a result of it? How many still die or suffer injuries resulting from drink-drive accidents? Drink-driving is illegal you say? No, it's not. A person of average BMI can consume up to one and a half pints of beer and be perfectly within the legal limit, albeit slightly pissed (whether he accepts that or not). And on Friday and Saturday nights our town and city centres are morphed into drunken battle zones with scenes we generally speaking tolerate, no matter how abhorrent, in the name of freedom.
And drink-driving or not, a car driven by even by a tee totalling driver produces pollution and rather lots of it too. Should we ban idiots who take their SUVs on half mile trips to Bargain Booze, thereby contributing to traffic congestion, green house gases and the generally unpleasant smell of unburned hydrocarbons in the air? In the name of freedom we don't...
Then there's the argument that the ban will eventually cause Britain to stub out the last ciggy for good. Dream on: antagonising people rarely leads them to conform to anything.
Basically, the ban forces smokers to commit slow suicide within the confines of their homes, now that must be a real health break-through. Only a prissy c*nt like Patricia Hewitt could believe that.
The papers have generally joined the chorus of jubilating self-righteousness.
Apart from one or two perhaps:
A dissenting voice can be heard from the paper's columnist, Simon Jenkins, though. He agrees that the vote was simple and clean. It was also, he says, illiberal. "I dislike smoking as much as I dislike swearing, drunkenness, blaspheming and race-hate cartooning," Jenkins comments, but laws to curb what citizens find unpleasant should be exceptional in an otherwise free society. The Telegraph agrees with him. "The most draconian infringement of personal liberty yet imposed by the government," says the paper in its leader, arguing that the "nanny state" has failed to distinguish what should not be encouraged from what should be banned.
No, all this ban proves is that humans remain forever incapable of collective thinking: here we have basically one part of society giving another part the finger; very civil indeed...
I give it no more than a decade before discussions on making smoking illegal will begin in earnest.
Keywords: smoking ban, smoking, ban