Yes, we’ve taken back control from Brussels and their consistent efforts to curb and censor our personal liberties in the most nitpicking petty little fashion! Those dirty, filthy vapers will be aware of how the EU has already interfered in their harmless habit by banning various products associated with it despite there being no concrete medical evidence of any damage to the users’ health. But why worry about the bloody Brussels Jobsworths when we’re more than capable of producing our own? When it comes to the fanatical anti-smoking lobby, we’ve never needed the EU to play the perennial party-poopers. Plans to ban smoking in prisons were announced last week and now we are told proposals are afoot to impose similar punishments upon council tenants.
New tenants of local authority or housing association homes could be forced to sign smoke-free agreements forbidding them to light-up on the property. The reason given is an old chestnut that has little relevance for many residing in council houses – it’s for the children. As with the infuriating lids on bottles of tablets seemingly designed to avoid being opened by anyone (regardless of age), taking children into account fails to acknowledge not every household has one. But, of course, we cannot question the motivations where kids are concerned; we all have to fall into line and put the precious cherubs before ourselves, even if we’d rather have rabies than babies.
The proposals regarding HM Prisons and council homes are merely the latest example of how the anti-smoking prohibitionists won’t be content until the freedom to choose one’s legal vice has been completely removed. Haringey Council last week put forward the notion of banning smoking from pub beer gardens and restaurant terraces, extending the interior ban to the point whereby smokers won’t be allowed within a hundred yards of the premises in question. Considering the endless column inches devoted to celebrating liberation from the worst kind of intervention in people’s private lives attributed to Brussels bureaucracy, it’s notable that smokers don’t count where this brave new Britain independent of the EU is concerned. We are effectively one notch above Paedos and bankers on the bedpost of shame.
Simon Clark, director of the pro-smoking group Forest (an organisation which has yet to be bracketed in the same undesirable category as the Paedophile Information Exchange, but give it time) said the proposed council tenant smoking ban ‘would penalise unfairly those who can’t afford to buy their own homes’, and that lucky homeowners will be excluded from these punitive proposals does evoke memories of Iain Duncan Smith’s idea that anyone claiming benefits should pay for their fags and booze via a card with a limited amount of money on it. It obviously hasn’t occurred to those who have never been detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure or have been rooted at the bottom of society’s heap that being in such a trough might require a little liquid or chemical stimulation to simply get through the soul-destroying grind of the day. But if one’s concept of fags and booze is restricted to a bottle of Beaujolais nouveau with the evening meal and a cigar after it, empathy is hardly to be expected.
The fact that smokers being cast outdoors places them in the same permanently polluted environment as any non-smoking pedestrian, inhaling petrol exhaust carcinogens that can pump out more damage in just an hour than a smoker can inhale in a lifetime, means nothing when the rigid tunnel-vision of the anti-smoking lobby takes hold of public opinion. New Labour may have many crimes to answer for, but I’ll never forgive them and Blair’s blinkered crusading Public Health Minister Caroline Flint for forcing through the smoking ban – a ban which miraculously didn’t extend to the bars in the House of Commons, funnily enough. The previous sensible (and fair) approach of having smoking and non-smoking bars in pubs, therefore catering for the tastes of both parties, evidently didn’t fit the narrative of the smoker being the lowest of the low.
Since that ban came into being exactly ten years ago, the closure of public houses has accelerated at an alarming rate as smoking drinkers prefer to stay at home to indulge instead of being forced to shiver outside (this country’s climate wasn’t considered, of course), yet this clearly wasn’t enough for the anti-smoking brigade; they now feel the need to besiege the castle of the Englishman as well. Thanks to them, public places also now include bus shelters and station platforms, while drivers in the privacy of their own cars can no longer smoke should anyone under-18 be present in the vehicle (though can said under-18 smoke if he or she fancies a fag?). Censoring smoking in public places has given them the confidence to push a little further, to encroach deeper into the rights of the individual to live his or her life within the boundaries of the law – and lest we forget, purchasing and smoking cigarettes is still legal, even when they’re hidden behind closed doors and their packaging is now so uniform that the wrong brand is often sold to the customer.
When vaping was unveiled as a healthy alternative to the cigarette, they couldn’t even tolerate that and have successfully campaigned to also ban the e-cig from bars, shops and restaurants. Will Self has a theory that the most self-righteous puritanical zealots promoting anti-smoking are able to derive a smug sense of superiority when looking down at a small crowd of smokers huddled outside pubs and signing their own death warrants in the process, but when confronted by a vaper producing an e-cig indoors it’s such an affront to that superiority that the vaper may as well (in his own words) be ‘having a little wank in public’.
In his own way, Self may have hit the nail on the head – or in the coffin. The humourless narcissists who worship at the altar of their body temples – who don’t drink or smoke, who jog religiously, who spend all their leisure time in gyms, who monitor everything they eat and drink with obsessive fastidiousness, who control their lives with a strict regime that would be regarded as a bit extreme even by North Korean standards – cannot compute that some folk receive highs that can be achieved with such miniscule effort that it rubbishes their own back-breaking drive for perfection and proves that the shortness of life can at least be punctuated by simple pleasures that make it tolerable and render fitness fascism irrelevant.
How do they deal with this crushing realisation? They embark on a crusade to deny others the pleasures they themselves are incapable of enjoying by imposing their regime on everyone – and when they have a powerful lobby behind them, the age when grown-ups were treated as grown-ups (visible in any archive TV drama produced in the last century) evaporates quicker than the vapours from an e-cig. Whether or not one smokes, the persistent chipping away of the already limited rights of those that do should be of concern if personal liberties count for anything in a so-called free society.
© The Editor