Bans on smoking
BRIGHTON, a popular tourist resort on the south coast of England, is taking the first step towards making its beaches and other public spaces non-smoking. Councillors voted yesterday to consult the people of the town the proposal. Opinion, as it always is on this issue, is divided. Even some of those who can see the benefits of banning smoking in indoor workplaces think that stubbing out the pursuit in the open air is bizarre. Others think such bans are long overdue.
There is an inevitability about the march of the smoke-free zone. The mission of those enforcing them has already crept. Originally the ethos for much anti-smoking legislation was that second-hand smoking harmed others. But as the legal antipathy towards e-cigarettes and outdoor smoking shows, now it is rather about trying to stamp out the habit for good. Even countries in which a cough and a drag are an accepted way of life are clamping down. France is adopting some of the most draconian anti-smoking measures in the world, making some locals fume—or, rather, not fume. And new laws in China outlaw smoking not just in workplaces, hotels and public transport, but tourist hotspots too, including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.
Gulliver smoked for a good 20 years. In common with many of those who have given up, I am now among the least tolerant of those who have not. There is much hypocrisy here. In the past, when sparking up, it quite honestly didn’t occur to me to be considerate—I have happily puffed away in restaurants as others were eating, or in station waiting-rooms full of young children. Now that I have quit, I am hypersensitive to the merest whiff. I find myself resentful when a smoker in the local park lights up a few metres upwind from where my family is sitting.
For business travellers keen on the weed, it raises an interesting question: to what extent does your habit inform the choices you make when travelling? Airlines no longer have smoking sections and neither do most trains, so unless you can drive yourself, there is no choice to be made in the mode of transport. But hotels still, for the time being, operate different policies. Many big hotel chains, including Marriott and Starwood, only offer non-smoking rooms. Others still pander to smokers. This seems only right: smoking rooms do not really affect those of us who abstain—unless we are unlucky enough to check in before the staff have had a chance to air it. But, with smoke-free buildings now so accepted, one wonders whether it is still a competitive advantage. Surely, for the hotel it is easier to have all rooms fag-free.
Once the line has been redrawn, there is no dragging it back. I am old enough to remember not only smoking sections on planes, but also on London tube trains. Nobody is seriously suggesting returning to those times. But despite my inner ire when someone lights up close to me on a beach, I don’t think my comfort trumps the rights of others to smoke. Those who discard their butts on the street are another matter, though. Again with righteous hypocrisy on my side, since I have given up I have become astounded that people who wouldn’t dream of throwing an empty crisp packet to the ground are perfectly happy to do so with the dog-end of their cigarette. If only there were a law against that.