"All things are wearisome, more than one can say." - Ecclesiastes 1:8

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Arguments up in smoke

Smoking bans: like so many things in life, the anticipation of it is worse than the actuality. This was certainly my experience and I sense this will prove to be the case with many of you Englanders. Because some of you are getting so worked up, and using so much hyperbole, it's almost enough to make me defend the damn thing. And I wouldn't want to do that. Here's Neil Clark, for example:
"The death of liberal England has been predicted many times over the past decade. But on Sunday, England, for long regarded (rightly) as one of the freest countries in the world, will finally mark the end of its long history as a liberal country as the government's draconian smoking ban comes into force."
Nothing less than the death of liberal England - wrought not by the erosion of habeas corpus or the right to silence, or restrictions on free speech, but the smoking ban. Clark's reasoning?
"There is no liberal case whatsoever for the ban; if you support it you may be many things, but please, don't have the audacity to call yourself a liberal. The argument for restricting smoking in public on account of the possible health risks caused by passive smoking is an argument for having separate smoking areas in pubs, cafes and restaurants and not for a blanket ban, which will encompass even private clubs where members have assented to a pro-smoking policy."
This is an impeccable liberal argument indeed. No, seriously. Because while smoking in public places might be considered to violate the harm principle, there is indeed no liberal case whatsoever that can be made for disallowing smoking in public places where only consenting adults may be affected, so I entirely agree. But why then doesn't Neil Clark mark the death of liberal England from 1971, when a whole lot of other self-regarding actions were banned? Or from the point where we were obliged to wear car seat-belts?

Clearly feeling a surplus of hot air, Clark then goes on to evoke, yes, the Nazis:
"Comparisons to Nazi Germany are often tedious, but in this instance it speaks volumes that the first country to introduce bans on smoking in public was the Third Reich.

Isn't it sad that 60 years after playing a decisive role in the defeat of the Nazis and their loathsome, intolerant ideology, Britain, in its illiberal attitude towards smoking and smokers, is now aping them?"
When the Scottish Executive did their wanky 'consultation' on the smoking ban, I made the point that while Hitler hated smoking, Martin Luther King was, apparently, a secret smoker. Thing is, I was only being silly, something I often like to do to pass the time when I'm supposed to be working. If I'd been serious, I'd have been committing the genetic fallacy.

I'll stop now because I'm starting to sound like Paul Evans or something. All I'm saying really is relax - it isn't that bad, and I say this as a hardcore smoker.

However, in the interests of balance, I do feel bound to say that the smoking ban sucks a big one - and all of you who support it are complete bastards.

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