Fishy Tales

01 December 2006

Smoke Signals

As well as thinking beer is one of humanity's greatest creations, I greatly enjoy smoking.
Here in New (Labour) Britain I immediately feel inclined to apologise for that statement, which is indeed a pathetic state of affairs. But yes, I do enjoy smoking, as opposed to reluctantly cater for my nicotine addiction, hoping someone will help or force me to give up. I started smoking as an adult (19 years old if memory serves). I made an adult choice, and as an adult I continue to make that choice.

As of July 2007 I am to have that pleasure removed from me, and here's the rub - even in places like private clubs (let alone specifically licensed establishments), where everyone concerned is guaranteed to be of similar mind and prepared to accept the consequences. You don't have to look too far to see the implications of this. If the current Government decides that a pastime is high-risk, it is perfectly happy to ban it outright regardless of the fact that only consenting adults take part and that they endanger no-one but themselves. To how many pastimes could that principle be applied?

Jimbob McGinty summarises it excellently on the relevant BBC Have Your Say:

to paraphrase Martin Niemoller

When Nu-labour came for the huntsmen,
I remained silent;
I was not a huntsman.

When they locked up the demonstrators,
I remained silent;
I was not a demonstrator.

When they came for the smokers,
I did not speak out;
I was not a smoker.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.


Along the same lines I reckon all concerned should read Joe Jackson's excellent article The Smoking Issue.
Many of his points are cogently summarised in the Daily Telegraph (incidentally, where were the Tories when this legislation was voted through?? Certainly they weren't remembering Martin Niemoller, except perhaps for Boris Johnson).

Let's not forget it's about facts and their abuse, as well as personal liberties. Dave Hitt is good on this, but also sharply points up the similarity between the current attitude and the actual historic Nicotine Nazis.

As Joe Jackson pithily puts it:
Smokers are now the only minority whose minority status is quoted as justification for abuse.
-which maybe reflects the fact that to be critical of almost any other group is illegal these days, and that we simply must have our scapegoats.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick continues the theme from a cogent medical viewpoint in We have ways of making you stop smoking:

For the anti-smoking zealots, the loss of civil liberties resulting from their widening range of bans and proscriptions is justified by the anticipated health gain. Yet, as the great microbiologist Rene Dubos observed, health should not be considered an end in itself, but as 'the condition best suited to reach goals that each individual formulates for himself' [The Mirage of Health (1960)]. By curtailing the autonomy of the self-determining individual, authoritarian public health policies infantilise society, weaken democracy and diminish humanity.
[my emphasis]

I hope all this isn't prophetic about the near future. But it certainly reflects the direction in which this once proud and individualistic country is heading.
Pity us.

Alternatively you could take part in a little direct democracy, and sign an online petition at Number 10 :
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to cease the persecution of smokers and allow indoor smoking areas in private establishments.
Small but important steps in the right direction.

Incidentally, no-one should con themselves into thinking there is any scientific evidence that passive smoking harms anybody. Please do research this yourselves on the Web (obviously ensuring you take in both sides of the argument, e.g. ASH and FOREST, and try to locate original sources) because we need more people checking out facts for themselves. But a cogent summary is provided by Lorraine Mooney, a medical demographer, for the Wall Street Journal.

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