We have just come back to Switzerland from a holiday in England. My daughter Tina was shocked by how strong the anti smoking laws and restrictions are there. Technically she is not allowed to smoke at all there, at least, shops are not allowed to sell cigarettes to her. She is sixteen, a few months off seventeen, but in England these days you aren’t allowed to buy cigarettes until you are 18 or over. This is her view of it.
“It is ridiculous! I’ve been smoking regularly for two or three years. I’m old enough to get married in most countries. I have a boyfriend. I have sex. I use birth control.In most places I could leave home, leave school and get a job. In some places I could join the army. In some places I could vote in elections. And here I’m not allowed to buy cigarettes! Please!”
Although Cassie and I already knew that England is much less friendly to smokers than Switzerland is for the moment, even we had forgotten how nasty and inconvenient it is to have to go outside every time you want a cigarette.There are literally no bars, restaurants or cafes where you can smoke inside in Britain. It’s awful. Smoking really is bad for your health there, you could freeze to death!
But I know Britain isn’t the worse place. American laws are stricter still and apparently Russia is even more extreme. In Russia they are planning to make it illegal for anybody born after 2014 to ever buy cigarettes!
So it is getting more and more difficult to smoke all over the world. Even here in Switzerland the laws are gradually getting stricter and within a decade I guess you won’t be able to find public places indoors where you are allowed to smoke and even we will have to go out in the cold and snow just to have a cigarette!
Okay… So I know some people are reading this and thinking ‘That’s great!’ One day there will be no more smoking. Not legally anyway. Nowhere. Smoking will be a thing of the past.
Maybe. Maybe my generation and my daughters generation will be the last ones to smoke. Maybe people will think we are idiots because we still smoke when everyone else is giving up. Maybe we will die of some horrible smoking related disease and people can point at us and say ‘You got what you deserved.’
And of course once people like us have gone, everyone will be healthy and happy, won’t they? There will be no more cancer or heart disease. Everybody will live to be a hundred or more. The economy will automatically adjust and everything will be beautiful.We will all be happy sheep who never dream of enjoying ourselves in any way that might be darker or risky. Perhaps we’ll stop drinking as well. And of course nobody will ever invent anything enjoyable that is as dangerous as smoking or worse, will they?
Sorry but people are people. We are what we are. Part of being a grown up is deciding where and when to take the risks that give life substance and meaning. Smoking cigarettes is a social pleasure that has been part of our culture for a while and I will be sorry when it’s gone.
And in a world without smoking what else will people do? Perhaps there are health risks attached to smoking, but what health risks will be attached to the next big social habit that eventually comes to replace it?
Do you really think that humans are going to stop wanting drugs of some sort? If alcohol didn’t exist we would invent it. The same can be said for all other legal and non legal substances that pepper our social and psychological existence. Always has been. Always will be.
And if smoking were to be completely banned by law in the next few years what should happen to us if we continue to smoke illicitly? Should we be put in prison because we smoke? Just what good would that do anybody?
Prohibition has worked so well before, hasn’t it?? (Well at least it is always a bonus for the criminal fraternity).
Perhaps there really will be a world where people don’t smoke anymore. But there will never be a world where people don’t decide to do things which may be harmful to themselves or which other people don’t approve of. Perhaps we need to learn to live and let live. Perhaps with all advances that are being made in science we could make smoking safer. But you know what, even if smoking was made to be completely harmless there would still be a lot of people who want to stop us from doing it. The truth is “health” is for many people just an excuse to justify forcing their will on others. They are people who want a bland, vanilla world, where everyone is just the same as them.
Some of us are not the same and will resist all pressure to conform. We aim to misbehave.