From today, we are smoke-free. Yay!
Smoke is just nasty: I suffer from it at home when the neighbours smoke, in the street when it’s too crowded or narrow to get past the smoker, at the railway station when three or four smokers spaced out along the platform can leave nowhere free of it, or in the bus shelter where it only takes one to drive me out into the rain.
But wait a minute! The smoking ban doesn’t affect any of those smokers. They’re all in their own homes or outdoors. It might even make it worse, if smokers who would otherwise be indoors are instead fouling the street.
Is there anywhere it will help? Smokers have been a major blight on my life, from the misery of the school bus, to the three of my jobs that they’ve made a misery (one involved smokers in the same open-plan office, the other two involved it drifting from the smokers’ own). A pub or restaurant meal can be ruined by them. And I haven’t been to the cinema in a quarter century, after a very nasty experience in my teens.
But that’s really a battle that’s already won, in the UK at least. Some pubs and restaurants are still foul, but others are smoke-free and perfectly pleasant. The station or bus stop may still be grotty, but where it really matters, on the bus or train itself, isn’t. Places of entertainment are free of it. Whereas in my youth, avoiding smokers meant severely cramping the social life, nowadays there are ample choices to accommodate both smokers and decent people.
On the other hand, I really would like to get rid of some of the other pollution that afflicts our air. It was back in the ’80s – when smoking was still a very serious problem in many places – that I first concluded that motor vehicle emissions were actually a worse problem than tobacco smoke. In the intervening 20 years, that’s just got worse while smokers have retreated. It seems absurd to ban the minor problem of tobacco smoke while leaving drivers free to pollute on a global scale. And don’t get me started on bonfires and wood smoke, which in afflicted places are an order of magnitude worse than any of the other nuisances.
Now, if they’d ban it from the home, that would be much more useful. If I could sue the neighbours every time they make my flat stink, I’d …. lead a life blighted by petty conflict. Yeah, great. Smokers rights are not something I’m about to make a stand for, but this ban seems to lack a sense of proportion, as well as being near-useless.