The rest of the time [Chiswick Railway Station]’s as open to the elements as the bus stop next to it. Presumably it’s illegal to smoke there, too, as occasionally a bus turns up and it becomes a place of work.
I don’t mind deriding unenforceable law as much as the next man, but deriding law because in certain circumstances it might be beyond reasonable manpower to enforce it is tired and weak; two qualities which, coincidentally, habitual smokers exhibit in exemplary fashion.
The argument, fatuous and thin as it is, can be applied to anything, oddly to the very political footballs, the kicking of which by the current administration avid Blairwatchers have gazed upon in horror and disgust. The NHS can’t combat all diseases? Privatise it. Rich folk dodging tax? Ah, let the offences slide. A dunce in your local comprehensive? Knock it down. On the outskirts of Witney there are yellow-lined streets on which shitheads squat their fat metallic farmyard animals with depressing frequency; in the centre, however, the streets are well-patrolled, and traffic wardens respond to complaints about out-of-centre traffic, case by case, depending on their workload. Should we scrap them, though, because of chancers they don’t catch? Is that in itself sufficient bathwater to throw out baby too?
The “open to the elements” canard, too, always raises eyebrows when it passes out of the tarstained, stinking holes of the pro-smoking lobby. Frequently those eyebrows ascend on the faces of whoever at that time has the misfortune to stand unavoidably downwind of them, but that’s only because if you react to someone forcing upon you clouds of demonstrable carcinogens with anything of the temerity of a cough then it’s easy to deride you as a whiner who should just grow a pair: not, as you might expect, a pair of healthy pink lungs.
The clash of rights against rights—real or perceived—is always vexing to the polit-crit crowd. It’s easy, when rights are being curbed in an obvious and reprehensible manner, for them to criticise the government and, if the spirit is upon them, suggest alternatives. But more complex moral situations seem to utterly confound them.
The life expectancy of the lowest-income members of society is, on average, eight years below that of the highest-income members. It’s believed that around four of those are directly attributable to cigarettes. Four years fewer smelling the grass, enjoying your family, listening to music, petting cats: that’s the price of cigarettes. Not only that, but the lowest-income group is the one with the least social mobility, the least amount of choice about where they can work, and one of the most likely to end up in circumstances where other people’s smoke is forced upon them by selfish sacks of cigs hooting about their right to a fag.
The perceived right of smokers to smoke, with all the concomitant excuses that make it sound more worth fighting for, have threatened the basic human rights of others for years and years: the right to be well, or at any rate not to have debilitating illness wished upon you by long-term libertarian neglect. When an otherwise despised administration tackles such a vast, unfathomable inequality that has ground already unfortunate individuals down for centuries—albeit tackling it in a slightly fumbling and uneven manner (the fumbling, incidentally, a result of appeasing smokers rather than any innate legislative problem)—then it’s easy to recoil from the heavy-handedness innate in everything these chaps in power seem to attempt. Apart from anything else, though, the uncompromising nature of this law is a result of cross-party and old-Labour support, and is an aspect that the nu-Labour coterie tried and failed to water down.
Ethical decisions are never guaranteed to be easy. Accepting the smoking ban is harder than reacting against it. It’s harder in the sense that it cannot merely be expressed as a reaction to authority, political meat and drink on which the whole “Blair’s Britian” campaign has grown fat and seen itself sidling up to such as Guido Fawkes. It’s harder because it demands courage from the individual chatterato, for him to stand up for the politically and socially weaker demographic, against the prevailing narrative of simplistic anti-authoritarianism and received political opinion.