My election notes. E-Day – 19

by Pseud O'Nym


Hooray! Let us rejoice! Today is a wonderful day! Henceforth, retailers will no longer be able to sell branded cigarette packets, as a 12-month grace period to allow tobacco firms to phase out old cartons comes to an end. Instead, retailers will only stock plain packets featuring graphic pictures designed to deter smokers. They will also no longer be allowed to stock packets of 10 cigarettes or smaller sizes of rolling tobacco, as part of a package of measures designed to remind us that we are not, as we might foolishly imagine, sentient adults, capable of making rational choices. No we are anything but. And we need to be protected from ourselves.

The problem with this initiative is that it’s indicative of a worrying trend, whereby certain behaviours are deemed to be injurious to health and must be legislated against. But inherent in all this is the fact that received scientific wisdom concerning what is and what isn’t good for us changes. Here’s just a list of some things that were thought bad for us, but are now either not so bad, even good or vice-versa. A comedic example is to be found in Woody Allen’s 1973 film ‘Sleeper’ where Allen plays Miles, the owner of a health food store who is cryogenically frozen in 1973 and defrosted 200 years later in an ineptly led police state. He discovers that foodstuffs considered bad in 1973 are now considered healthy and even cigarettes are seen as healthy

But the here and now, in which we live is fast becoming not so much one where one is able to exercise their own free will, but increasingly obliged to modify one’s bahaviour to appease the will of the state. There are a number of problems with this. Firstly where will it end? A ban on smoking in two places in Bristol was trialled a few years ago, which was after a poll – one of my favourite things – found 61% public support for banning. That poll was of a 1000 people. Hardly justification for banning something that isn’t illegal. Yet. Although Bristol council, emboldened by this ban, is considering issuing contracts for tenants in council houses making it illegal to smoke in them. And not just in Bristol.

And where they have got this idea? Why, in the land of the free, where US public housing agencies have to make all of their properties smoke free by the end of the year. In New York, they’ve already banned it in parks. And might they in turn, get inspired by this guy who this week, according to the Guardian.

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order banning smoking in public across the second-most populous country in south-east Asia, creating one of the region’s strictest anti-tobacco laws.

The ban, which carries a maximum penalty of four months in jail and a fine of 5,000 pesos ($100), covers both indoor and outdoor smoking, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Thursday.

Duterte was himself a heavy smoker but quit when he was diagnosed as suffering from Buerger’s disease, which can cause blockages in the blood vessels.

Which of course makes one think of a former smoker, who led his country on zealous anti-smoking initiative, one of many of his health initiatives. A very successful one, apparently. His name was Adolf Hitler, so when people call those who wish to use the law to promote their own health agenda by banning some things and restricting others ‘health Nazi’s’, they aren’t so wide of the mark.

It’s not that I’m pro-smoking but rather that there are other things that pollute our air and causes deaths as smoking, but it isn’t so easy to legislate against.