Thursday 30 October 2014

It was wrong then and it's wrong now. A decade of smoking illogic

Published 25/03/2014 | 02:30

It's the 10th anniversary of the smoking ban

So, have you got the bunting ready? Have you gathered your friends together in anticipation of next Saturday's big day, when the country celebrates a decade of people being able to properly appreciate the smell of the toilets in your local pub?

Hell, this being the Ireland of 2014, maybe you've even applied to the Arts Council for a grant to help fund your troupe of Tibetan mime artists to come up with an installation to celebrate this special day. After all, nothing epitomises the Irish approach to modern festivals quite like a bit of interpretive dance and some nose flute music thrown in for good measure.

Yes, this week sees the 10th anniversary of the day the people of this country decided to allow the Government to decide what it is best for free, adult men and women.

Of course, those who have been fighting for the rights of the individual to remain unmolested from dogmatic social engineering have been on the back foot for the last decade and that rearguard action shows no sign of abating any time soon. In fact, what better way to celebrate 10 years of telling people what to do than marking the occasion by telling college students, as well as hospital patients and their visitors, that they are now no longer allowed to spark up anywhere on the college or hospital grounds. Because smoking's bad, m'kay?

Of course, such prohibitions have nothing whatsoever to do with public health and everything to do with telling us what is acceptable and what isn't. Or, put another way, it's another way for our betters to show us that they disapprove of something, and we now live in a society where the disapproval of the chattering classes is sufficient to pass laws prohibiting it.

The great myth that has been peddled in the last 10 years was that this move was designed to protect the little people from second-hand smoke – and nobody is going to quibble with that.

No, the quibble is with the zealous and deranged implementation of the law.

I know one former bar manager who lost both his job and his home within a few years of the ban being introduced. It didn't matter that he had proposed using one part of his bar to cater for smokers and the other, larger section, to cater for those who wanted to enjoy themselves in a smoke free environment. That would have seemed like a simple compromise. But sometimes even simple is beyond a simpleton and we have plenty of those deciding what we can do with our bodies. And so another small business was forced to close.

Here's the thing – I'm not sure I even qualify as a social smoker. I can go a few days without having a fag and it doesn't bother me.

Even when it was permissible to smoke indoors, I always stepped outside a restaurant to have a post-prandial puff. If anything, I always thought it takes a particularly obnoxious kind of individual to smoke in a cinema or while on public transport. I felt that way before the ban and I feel that way today – manners are manners and you shouldn't have to legislate for something as basic as consideration of others.

But this has always been about more than ensuring people work in a less unhealthy environment than before – it was about 'denormalising' smoking and making it as difficult and socially unacceptable for smokers to go about their day as possible. A bit like CAB, but for ciggies, not criminals.

First they came for your right to smoke, now they're coming for your right to eat what you want – trans fats, elevated sodium, preservatives, red meat and chippers are all on the target-acquisition sheet for the eternal-life fantasists who want us to exist on a diet of quinoa and Quorn.

So, for those bleating health fascists who have now managed to equate smoking with some form of anti-social leprosy – if you are really worried about second-hand smoke, then presumably you have ditched your car and now cycle everywhere?

Because a solitary motorist driving through town creates far more air pollution than a million smokers puffing away outside in the rain.

WELL, THAT'S ONE WAY TO GO ABOUT IT

I know we should all despise Ant and Dec – they have, after all, presented some of the most intellect sapping TV shows of the last decade. But it's impossible to dislike the diminutive duo – they've mastered the art of making the difficult look simple and, fundamentally, they seem to be two genuinely nice blokes.

But not everybody feels like that – and Ant McPartlin found himself attacked by some thugs when he tried to have a meal with his mum recently.

How do we deal with such disgraceful behaviour?

Well, more than one commentator has suggested that because the thugs were wearing hoodies at the time of the attack, maybe it is time... to ban hoodies.

This is a ridiculous and fatuous overreaction.

Surely we all know the real reason for youth violence is, of course, Grand Theft Auto?

Honestly, they just don't make scare stories like they used to.

OF COURSE! WHY DIDN'T THEY THINK OF IT SOONER

The plight of Flight 370 is a classic example of Occam's Razor at work – all things being equal, the most likely answer is usually the right one.

But amidst all the conspiracy theories relating to the missing plane, we have now seen a cracking explanation for the delay in finding some wreckage – global warming. Sorry – climate change, the name they had to come up with when it became clear that things weren't actually getting warmer.

Apparently, climate change has disrupted the currents in the Indian ocean, making it more difficult to find the plane.

Well, it could be that.

Or it could be down to the fact that this particular piece of water covers 8,880 square miles of open water.

Did global warming, sorry, climate change suddenly make the oceans bigger as well?

Damn, climate change is clever.

Irish Independent

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