Alex Massie

Today’s menace to society: smoking in cars

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Will Saletan has a reasonable column today pointing out just how absurd the War on Smoking has become. Saletan hits some of the right notes, observing, for instance, that alcohol has greater social costs than tobacco etc etc. Fair enough. But this is a lost - or at least doomed - battle.

You want to see the future? Well, according to this Newsday story there's currently a bill coming before New York City Council that would prohibit smoking in cars if anyone under the age of 18 was present. Never mind the fact that (even in NYC traffic) cars come equipped with a remarkably efficient ventilation system - windows - rendering the alleged problems of "exposing" children to second-hand smoke entirely irrelevant - the more pressing concern here is privacy. Surprisingly, Nurse Bloomberg has yet to endorse the bill. But even if this particular bill does not pass, others like it will eventually.

So, if you may not smoke in your car if children are present, then there seems little reason for supposing that the state will not - eventually - legislate to prohibit smoking in your own home. Logic might even demand that it did. Once that happens, of course, then the nannies will consider themselves free to interfere in any aspect of your lives that they see fit. It's all for your own good.

And why wouldn't they? After all, as the smoking bans in "public spaces" have already demonstrated, the anti-smoking zealots have no respect for private property, so why should you expect your house to be treated differently?

Generally speaking it's pleasing to be proven correct; this is not one of those occasions*. But where's Big Tobacco when you need them? Then again, Big Tobacco has let everyone down so consistently that it's hardly a surprise they've slunked off to peddle fags to the Chinese rather than defend our way of life.

*Disclosure: I enjoy smoking, and have done for more than half my life. I've been doing my best Cassandra impression on these things ever since I was an undergraduate. Still not making any sodding difference. But though a dedicated puffer, the issue really has little to do with tobacco: it's privacy and property rights that are at stake. And, yes, I was disappointed by Thank You For Smoking because it didn't contain any smoking...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietysmoking