What a drag

Is the smoking ban a good idea?

Hitchens (C) versus Hoggart (S)
The victory of the control-freaks, and of people who just know they are right, is an old story. Various restraints inhibit me from overusing the word "Nazi" or "fascist", which ought never to be employed except against those who live for violence. But I did notice a wonderful moment in the brilliant German film Downfall, about the last days of the Third Reich. Those in the Führerbunker who found the situation becoming a little too tense, and who wanted a drag to relieve the strain, were required to step outside into the garden, amid the rain of Red Army shells. A good way to prolong your life. And several historians have described the moment, just after the suicide of Hitler, when the surviving occupants could and did gratefully light up out of sheer relief. How amazing that we now have a minister who would quite humourlessly say that it was the latter group that was setting the bad example.

Smokers do not regard the ban as an infringement of their ancient liberties. They think of it as a helpful way to help them help themselves. And if they must, they can always smoke at home, or in the street, or under the patio heater outside the pub. In America I saw this sign in an office: "My pleasure is beer, and this creates urine. Your pleasure is smoking, and this creates poisonous fumes. Don't pollute my air space, and I promise not to piss on your desk." Precisely.


No woman was ever beaten up or raped because some guy had too much to smoke. The pools of vomit I see on Union Street every Sunday morning aren't caused by overindulgence of Lambert and Butlers. And as for pissing. Check out the urine-stained doorways in any major town centre. Almost all the wooden doors in Aberdeen's main street suffer from piss-rot.