There’s no shortage of irony in the fact that smokers are set to become an endangered species by 2007. MPs voted yesterday to ban smoking in all ‘enclosed areas’, excluding private homes, residential care homes, hospitals, prisons and hotel bedrooms.
Thank you, oh mighty government, for not banning smoking in the confines of my own property! How magnanimous of you!
I’m in two minds about this subject. On the one hand, I understand the argument that people should be protected from smoking in their workplace and that, generally speaking, smoking should be discouraged wherever possible. Smokers (and I am one, on and off) are deluding themselves if they think that they have a ‘right’ to smoke – a nonsensical proposition, entirely negated by the ‘right’ of non-smokers not to have to share the secondary effects of their indulgence. You don’t have the ‘right’ to smoke any more than you have the ‘right’ to drink vinegar, cut off your own ears or nail your feet to the ground. These are all choices, not rights. Smoking, however, is a choice that has a deleterious effect on others, which creates an immediate conflict of interest. Speaking as someone who smokes but really wishes he didn’t, it’s probably a good thing that there’s one less place for me to do so now.
Then again, what we’ve got here is yet another example of our government treating its citizens (although technically we’re ‘subjects’, but that’s another rant for another time) like children. It’s the return of the ‘wagging finger’ government, which always knows best, making our decisions for us, which I find particularly nauseating as a liberal. Yes, this will benefit the health of people who work in bars and clubs. But again, these people are quite capable of making an informed choice whether to work in smoke-filled environments or not. Just as claustrophobics would probably not elect to work in a submarine, or people with a fear of heights would decide not to take that wire-walking job at the circus - if you don’t want to work in a smoky bar or restaurant, you don’t have to. And, if you’re a customer, you don’t have to frequent the establishment either. Surely individual choice is preferable to universal legislation?
So there you have it: two equally conflicting arguments and no actual decisive opinion. Maybe I should enter politics myself - I clearly have a thorough understanding of doublethink. And seeing as our government so often resembles Big Brother (see also the result on ID cards this week – I’ll be talking about this at some point soon too) this seems somehow appropriate.