Covering up cigarettes denies the meaning of true tolerance – ‘permitting people to do legitimate things of which you may personally disapprove’
I gave up smoking at the age of 18 when I left home for university. Up until then I’d shared the house with two heavy-duty smokers - my parents - and hated it. Not my parents, you understand, but the cigarettes. Hated the smell, hated the mess, hated the very look and feel of a product that may or may not have been slowly killing them – and may or may not have been slowly killing me. So I hate cigarettes.
But I wonder whether I’m alone in feeling distinctly uneasy at the government’s latest - characteristically blunt-edged - attempt to save people from themselves.
Go into your local supermarket these days and you’ll more than likely see a blank white cabinet where once the cigarette packets stood. Now housed behind a lead-lined, double-locked, bullet- and tsunami-proof protective barrier these entirely legal products are dispensed as if they were controlled substances.
Curious that there now seems to be more moral outrage directed at tobacco than at marijuana or cocaine... but I digress.
Hiding cigarettes from view because, wait for it, children might see them condescends to young people, penalises law-abiding adults, and infantilises us all. Fags are legal or they’re not. And if they are, people must be allowed to smoke them whether smoking hastens disease and a lingering death or (and this is an uncomfortable truth to which smokers will attest) generates well being and happiness. Or then again, a third option, does both.
Smokers, smoke because they like it.
But governments nowadays don’t seem to get that, and seem to be forgetting that true tolerance means permitting people to do legitimate things of which you may personally disapprove.
You see, governments aren’t content any more to build hospitals, schools, roads and houses. Oh, no, they want to regulate our feelings as well. Hence the recent “initiative” to measure the happiness of the population - gauging people’s well- being, according to David Cameron, being one of the, quote, “central political issues of our time.”
But that other old Etonian, George Orwell, in his novel “1984” knew very well where that sort of policy would lead. When a government attempts to get inside your head and police your thoughts, totalitarianism is not far away.
We’re not there yet, but it’s as well to be on our guard. For when the state first defines what happiness is then sets about creating it, entirely foreseeable problems arise. And smokers right now are among the first to be experiencing them.
Put very simply, it means that if the government is there to ensure we’re all happy, it won’t be long before they fine us (or worse) if we’re not.