Saturday, May 19, 2007
Roll On the Smoking Ban, 1st July
I feel quite strongly about smoking and so Christopher Hitchens' rant about it in The Guardian recently, got me going a bit. Of all anti-smokers I'm probably of the worst category- a former smoker. I was brought up in a Shropshire village where I imbibed the now quaint seeming idea, from my teen confreres, that smoking donated a quantum leap in maturity and sex appeal. Smoking gave us so many things-style, poise, something to do with our hands- and we seldom stopped to consider if it wasn't good for us. I finally stopped, aged 22, when recovering from a heavy cold and when my student finances- having to bear the cost of a wife and a baby girl- just could not manage to fund the regular traffic into my lungs of smoke from those tiny Players Number 6.
Over the years since, I suppose I've never really vanquished my liking for the weed- like any addict I am merely 'in recovery'. But over the years I've also got to hate it more- maybe the two feelings are related- because of the drifting smell of the stuff, infiltrating the pub, the non-smoking section of the airport lounge or whatever; the contamination of my clothes; the disgusting, malodourous mess of a full ashtray. I could go on.
Hichens' piece, beautifully crafted, as always, makes some limited sense but underlying it seems to be two sentiments. Firstly a hatred of being told what to do by anyone, especially the likes of Patricia Hewitt, whom he guesses has not read as many books recently as he has written; and secondly a lofty contempt for anyone who might have the temerity to object to the downside of his beloved, filthy habit. I find myself also objecting to the prissy likes of Hewitt but nowhere near as much as I do to the shameless arrogance of Hitchens and his ilk.
Smokers claim they have a right to pursue their habit if they are not infringing the comfort and health of others. I think most anti-smokers accept this; a bar for smokers would be OK with me; so would a section in a public place where the smoke cannot in any way colonize other parts of it. But when it came to the vote the Commons went for the total ban on the grounds that: smoking parents will tend to influence their children to smoke when too young to make a rational choice; and that the heavy health costs of the habit have to be borne by non-smoking tax-payers. Maybe that was a tad illiberal but I'm not complaining that hard. Roll on the 1st July!
Erm. The ban in public places will surely encourage people to smoke more at home, therefore exposing their children to it more. And smokers pay vast quantities of tax to cover the health costs of their habit.
MPs voted for a total ban in enclosed public places purely out of the consideration that a worker might be compelled by their circumstances to work in a smoking environment against their will. As a smoker, I still see that reason as entirely just (although any attendant legislation or local bans apply to ope areas around enclosed buildings, moivated by whinging concerns over noise or litter, will very quickly see me breaking the law). But it makes you wonder why the tossers in the PLP can't get their act together and do something serious about corporate manslaughter.