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9:18am on Wednesday, 21st June, 2006:



I don't smoke, having consumed enough second-hand from my parents as a child to last me a (shorter than it would have been otherwise) lifetime, and I wouldn't take up the habit even if it were good for me as I dislike the stink. However, I feel that people who have got themselves hooked on it deserve my sympathy, so if anyone asks if I mind their smoking in my presence I'll almost invariably say that they can go right ahead. It seems, though, that the government's unquenchable thirst for controlling the details of people's lives may bring an end to this: they want to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces, even small ones like bus shelters. It doesn't matter if everyone at the bus shelter is a smoker, or a non-smoker who has said they don't mind: it's an enclosed space, so smoking there gets banned.

Even leaving aside the fact that bus shelters are, by and large, among the windiest places on the planet, and therefore excellent places to stand if you don't want to inhale someone else's smoke, I don't think the government has really thought this idea through. Smoking is legal, but it's addictive, and therefore people who smoke do need (physically) to have a ciggy every once in a while. The proposed legislation will mean they won't be able to stand outside in doorways indulging in their carcinogenic habit. What are they supposed to do, then? Go sit in their car? Stand on the roof?

It's really going to affect places such as hospitals. So many nurses seem to smoke that I suspect it's a prerequisite for the job ("I'm sorry, you got an A+ in clinical care, but only a D in smoking; you're going to have to resit the exam"). Go to any hospital, and there's a permanent haze of nicotine round the entrance. What's going to happen to our system of healthcare if nurses are denied their 20 moments of hypocritical behaviour a day? Even the morgue is an "enclosed space"!

Chewing tobacco and spitoons: it's the only answer.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).