Monday, July 02, 2007

the legendary Nosmo King

Well, we're officially smoke-free in pubs, clubs, etc. now. Which is great. Or.....well, I dunno. I find myself with just a niggling sense of uncomfortableness about the whole thing, probably because I'm finding my own preferences and convenience in conflict with my instinctive social liberalism, and indeed libertarianism, on this particular issue.

Let's deal with the easy issues first. It is a positive pleasure to go to the pub for the evening, stay for several hours, come home, and not wake up the next morning to find your clothes reeking of stage cigarette smoke. Soaked in beer and flecked with blood and vomit, yes, but smoky - no. And as a non-smoker it's an obvious massive improvement to have the atmosphere, while you're in the pub, not choked with other people's fag smoke.

Then there's the health issue. This is simultaneously more and less complicated than some might imagine. It's more complicated because the evidence for the risks associated with passive smoking is less clear-cut than you might think. My view is that the balance of probability is that there is a sufficiently increased level of risk to justify concern, and that I have to treat the protestations of lobby groups like Forest with a certain amount of scepticism. To misquote Mandy Rice-Davies, well, they would, wouldn't they? We're not in an Intelligent Design situation here, in that there really is some debate in the scientific community, but not as much as the lobby groups and the scientific spokesmen for the tobacco industry would have you believe. The motivation of those people is clear enough; what the motivation (if we assume that it isn't just reporting the science) of those who insist it is harmful might be is harder to imagine - unless you're Richard Littlejohn or Garry Bushell you will, I trust, be aware that such concepts as the "nanny state" and the "self-hating liberal elite" don't actually exist. Less complicated because, actually, the health thing is a bit of a red herring, after all. It probably wouldn't do you any lasting physical harm to have the bloke sitting beside you in the pub urinate repeatedly on your trouser-leg, but that wouldn't make it any more pleasant, nor would it make your trousers smell any sweeter in the morning. Unless of course your incontinent neighbour was diabetic.

Smoking is a uniquely tricky one though, in that it is (even if you don't accept the science) almost unique in that it's a drug habit whose practice, in public, affects others by its very nature. Not true of drinking, eating hash flapjacks, nor even of mainlining heroin on the bus next to schoolchildren. The very act of smoking a cigarette impinges on those around you. I'm not going to end up cirrhotic, fat and impotent (or no more than I already am) from sitting next to someone drinking a skinful of lager, any more than I'm going to end up smelling of beer if they spill it over themselves. Sure, drunk drivers kill people, crack-crazed lunatics steal and kill to fund their habit, and these are serious issues, but they are secondary knock-on effects, caused in the case of crack, since I mention it, by its illegality as much as anything. I'll come back to this in a minute.

Now it might sound from all this that I'm right behind the smoking ban, and I mostly am, but....did we really need to legislate it out altogether? Couldn't we have provided an opt-out for establishments to say, right, we're going to remain smoky, and in order to do that we're going to purchase a licence (in the same way as you're required to do to serve alcohol) for a nominal but non-trivial fee (to encourage most places to remain smoke-free), and along with that licence we'll be issued with a few large signs to be displayed in prominent places so no punters can claim ignorance of the rules (the impenetrable smog should be a bit of a giveaway anyway).

That's probably enough about smoking. Just to cast a bit more chum into the water, how about legalising all drugs? A few brief discussion points:
  • Who are the government to be telling me what I can or can't be putting in my body?
  • I'm allowed to purchase and eat fatty food, pork scratchings, Bernard Matthews' Turkey Drummers etc., which are bad for me, so what's the difference?
  • Come to that, I'm allowed to purchase things like Mr. Muscle Drain And Plughole Unblocker which would hollow me out like an apple-corer if I drank them, so what's the difference?
  • People die in the sea all the time, but we don't ban going in the sea, do we? Because, well, it's fun, isn't it?
  • Surely the vast majority of the "war on drugs" budget is spent preventing or following-up crime caused by the drugs in question being illegal in the first place?
Hey, it's never going to happen. But that doesn't mean that focussing for a minute on the rampant hypocrisy and inconsistency of the laws as they stand at the moment shouldn't give us pause for thought once in a while. It's good to question things. Especially when those things prevent me getting a regular supply of da 'erb.

16 comments:

The Black Rabbit said...

No criticism of that post from me mate. Not even on your spelling or grammar!
Very well put throughout - from both sides.
I think I agree with you on this, but I'm a smoker (who like most, wishes to drop the habit I suppose).
I am concerned though (rightly or wrongly - I don't care) about this present government banning everything in sight. Maybe I should emmigrate to France like ma sis. No rules there you see. Everything and anything is allowed.

I'm due to meet some old pals in London on saturday neet. Guess I'll have to smoke a carrot or something.
That's all folks...

nicola said...

You can come and live here bro: but remember you are taking Elliot to the Olympic Games in 2012 in London, so might as well stay put 'til then.

Also, You say that the French allow everything: well.... in January 2008 the smoking ban comes into force here. I think at least putting it into place in England in July means that if you do get a summer, that people will gradually get into the habit as they'll be smoking outside under dee sun.

Whereas, you can be sure it'll be MUCH more difficult for the French in cold dark January 2008...

The Black Rabbit said...

I get fed all types of stuff from the met office each night at present.
We are NOT getting a summer this year.
At least not until August, and even then probably not.

electrichalibut said...

I'm sure les frogs can tip over a few cars and set fire to some sheep in protest - that'll keep 'em warm while they're sparking up. Liberté, égalité, Gauloisité, ou la mort!

And don't talk to me about the weather. I'm supposed to be playing tennis on Thursday night and going to a cricket match on Friday night. It's not looking promising. And Hazel and I are supposed to be going camping on the North York Moors in mid-August. We're all going to die.

The Black Rabbit said...

Actually bate. Thursday (day time)and friday (to monday) look a bit drier than the past two weeks or the next week. I've timed my 5 days off between shifts (this thursday to next monday) so well. (spawny get - I had bugger all to do with it).
That is is the period where we may only get showers,not biblical monsoons.
So make the most of the "better" weather thursday onwards, coz it aint going to last...

As for mid august, the met office don't know yet. And Foggitt is fruggin deed, so he's no use either.

Be it dry or be it wet (you like these, don't you!) the weather will always pay its debt.

April - no rain.
May and June - constant rain
July - at least 2 weeks of rain
August - death valley, bone-imploding scorchio heat then?

Easy to remember.

electrichalibut said...

Be it wet or be it dry
The weather will be in the sky.


Even if the weather sucks
It still will be OK for ducks.


These are easy!

Be it warm or be it cool
I'll shelter in my vestibule.


What a great word. Vestibule.

The Black Rabbit said...

should it freeze or should it boil
Oily spoily spoily spoil

electrichalibut said...

In any weather, I'll be blunt
You really are a massive....


You started it, anyway.

The Black Rabbit said...

The weather comes.
The weather goes.
Throughout, you wear your panty-hose

electrichalibut said...

When it's chilly, we wear coats
You like doing it with goats

The Black Rabbit said...

Thunder, it does make a noise
You like riding choirboys.

nicola said...

we were supposed to be talking about the smoking ban, but you guys have obviously been sinking a few in your lunch hour..

electrichalibut said...

I think you may have brought us back from the brink in the nick of time.

As for the smoking ban, I would have expected major ructions when they tried to bring it in Ireland back in 2004, what with them being a nation of lovable Guinness-crazed ginger chain-smokers, but it seems to have gone in without a hitch. At least, they weren't rioting when I was over there a year or so ago.

Jann said...

To legislate or not blah blah blah. Nanny state my arse.

Smoking in public is fundamentally a shit thing to force upon other people (smokers or not).

Legislation is absolutely necessary, just as it's necessary to legislate that disabled people get treated equally or that punching a child in the face is altogether different from administering similar refreshment to a drunken pal in an unco-operative state.

The former is completely unjustifiable whereas the latter is often entirely required when trying to make a point. Dja get me?

Oh dear, once upon a time I had some serious point to make known. Now? Who the hell can say but by god let's form a focus group, lobby like we mean it and legislate as if our very lives depended on it.

Is it time for my medicine yet?

electrichalibut said...

Good to have you back! I was a bit concerned you'd fallen in a long-drop toilet at Glastonbury.

"Nanny state my arse" was sort of my point, in at least one of the paragraphs, to be fair. On the other hand I'm not sure about trying to force people to be good citizens by legislating their every move. It'll end up like Minority Report! Or Demolition Man, with, like, the shells in the toilet and all that stuff.

Or you'll get a shoeing from the police for crossing the road in the wrong place.

Jann said...

Yeah, sorry. I was a bit pissed when I wrote that.

Anyway, putting the debate to one side - have you seen the Dramatic Look! chipmunk on Youtube yet?

I think it trumps the goats (not often you'll hear such an utterance, I'll wager)