Constance Watson in the Spectator posted a rather sombre piece last week as she all but conceded defeat to the creeping invasion of the nanny state into our personal lives.

Watson, by her own admission, is (or certainly was) an avid smoker and one assumes has had the odd tipple or two in her time. But she cites plummeting household expenditure on alcohol and tobacco, now standing at £11.40 a week, 41 per cent lower than at the turn of the century, as evidence that the busybodies in government and the myriad of health lobbies, watchdogs and charities that do their level best to scour society of its most virtuous vices, are winning the war.

Older people, especially smokers, are less likely to give up a habit they’ve become quite so readily accustomed to, even taking into account the rapidly increasing prices of both alcohol and, even more extremely, cigarettes. Yet the young, in that age group when hedonism and experimenting is supposed to take centre stage, are apparently espousing an ascetic lifestyle these days.

Gone are the days of quick fags behind the sheds and a hip flask in class, or even the odd bottle of cider in a park. Successive governments’ long campaigns – of plain packaging, televised warnings and authoritarian education – seem to have succeeded, if moulding a generation of the supremely dull can be deemed a success. ‘The British nation,’ she concludes, ‘are duly scared.’

To which we can only reply: there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

by Edward Baer