Originally published in the Essex Chronicle, at some point in 2006.
Smoking is bad for you. Everyone knows that. If you regularly smoke, chances are fairly high that at some point you will contract cancer and die. No-one disputes this, or can, and few people argue against passive smoking being a danger to the people exposed to it, which has prompted the recent attempt to ban smoking in pubs, bars and cafes. However, simply banning smoking in places where it is likely to harm people who would rather not be smoked is one thing, as most places where such a situation is likely to occur already voluntarily operate smoking bans, which makes the proposed law intrusive and pointless anyway.
But banning smoking in a private members’ club, or even a ventilated closed room that no-one but smokers enter, for the reprehensible crime (Shock! Horror!) of simultaneously serving food strikes me as being rather silly. If non-smokers do not object, and are not even present, why can’t smokers be free to do what they do? Why is a law necessary to ban people from the apparently heinous act of smoking a cigarette with their dinner in a public enclosed space if not a soul has a problem with it? Forgive me for being rather geeky, but the unfortunately French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen says: “Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else”. The government cannot possibly criminalising people for smoking, which in itself is perfectly legal, in a pub full of fellow smokers who also happen to be partial to pie and mushy peas. No-one is injured, no-one besides Nanny even cares.
To even consider this law that restricts the freedom of people, and yes, smokers are people, to peaceably enjoy a cigarette which is passively smoked by nobody other than comrades who have congregated in their few remaining safe places, cloistered away behind sealed doors and kept out of the disapproving public eye is folly. If a partial ban i.e. allowing citizens to smoke with other smokers in enclosed public places specifically provided for the purpose of smoking in (such as the mooted “smoking carriages”), and nowhere else is unworkable, as consultation seemingly says it is, then it should not be banned at all. Returning to the Declaration: “Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society.” Smoking, responsibly undertaken, harms none but the self: it should not be banned.