Just a day after Christopher Snowdon’s reflections on a decade of the smoking ban, Spiked Editor Brendan O’Neill has had his say on it, also in the Spectator.
O’Neill has a reputation for forthright argument, and here he does not disappoint. “I hate the smoking ban,” he rails. “I hate what it has done to this nation. It has ripped out its soul. It has sterilised it, sanitised it, turned this country of the raucous public house and yellowed fingers wrapped lovingly around glistening, gold pints into one massive gastro hangout in which everything is clean and child-friendly and boring”.
O’Neill cites things that those opposed to the ban have known all this time: that society has not become healthier as a result of bending to the will of the healthists, but has only served to embolden them. Minimum pricing, plain packaging and banning the sales of ten-packs followed, and now they are aiming higher: how long until fast-food and alcohol are on the agenda?
More than that, though, the ban, according to O’Neill, has made us cruel. He has seen first-hand the terminally ill being denied cigarettes in their final days unless they traipse off into the cold. This Stalinist illiberalism is a remnant of New Labour’s wicked ‘politics of behaviour’, which is a short step from policing what people think. It is dangerous Utopianism, decreed by those who believe, as O’Neill states, that the ordinaries should be “more like us: fitter, slimmer, smoke free.”
The meddling British state has overseen this drive towards a more coercive society. The smoking ban was just the first step on the road; mark my words, there are many, many more to come.