Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Satisfying but untrue

A couple of months ago Christopher Booker wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that Patricia Hewitt, with regard to the Iranian hostage crisis, had said:
"It was deplorable that the woman hostage should be shown smoking. This sends completely the wrong message to our young people."
Christopher Hitchens picks this up as encapsulating the mimsy, tedious nannying intrinsic to the anti-smoking lobby. It has, in fact, really done the rounds this one - a veritable plastic turkey de nos jours, with the same little drawback. As Booker himself said a week later, people ought really to have noticed the date of his piece: April 1st. That said, it fits so perfectly with what we know of Ms Hewitt that people can be forgiven for not picking that up at the time. However, journos as erudite and august as Hitchens and Danny Finkelstein really ought to drop it now...
With regard to the substance of the debate, as one who considers himself at least tending towards the libertarian (of which more later), I find myself deeply conflicted over the coming smoking ban. Intellectually I condemn it as a scandalous imposition of state power over what should be the private sphere. What right, what possible right, does the government have in reaching into my life in such a way? What the hell is it to do with them? Um. On the other hand, it will be nice (as a non-smoker) to go to a pub and wake up the next morning only stinking of stale beer, rather than stale beer and stale cigarettes. So if it's OK, can I sit this one out?

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