For quite a long time, here in the UK, you’ve had to be at least 16 years old to buy cigarettes. But from today, you have to be 18 or older.
The government have blandly commented that this just “harmonizes” the laws about alcohol and tobacco. But that isn’t the point at all. This Labour government, first under Tony Blair and now George Brown, has been consistently eroding our rights on what we can do to ourselves. Anti-smoking legislation has been progressively more authoritarian – first of all, places that sold food had to provide “non-smoking” areas; then smoking was banned in all rtestaurants, cafes, and pubs that served food; next all places owned by the government or local authorities became no-smoking zones; and that was followed by a ban on smoking in all premises that were “open to the public”… including, I believe, private, members-only clubs! Pubs can’t even offer a seperate room for smokers. If you want to have a ciggie, you have to leave the pub and light up outside. Many publicans realize that when the cold winter weather comes, a lot of smokers are not going to bother going out for a drink. Having a cigarette with your pint is very pleasurable to smokers – indeed, when I have a drink, I really want a ciggie too. I really really want a ciggie.
Pub landlords are talking of providing a “sheltered area” with porch heaters for smokers in the winter – but they have to be very careful what they provide, as the law is very strict: any “enclosed” area is by law a no-smoking zone. So anything set up outside the pub must be unenclosed – open and exposed to the elements… the rain, the cold…
So this latest move must be viewed in this light. There are many teenagers who have legally been smoking from the age of 16, who are suddenly barred from buying cigarettes! The government will cite “health reasons”, will say it’s for the youngsters’ “own good” – the kind of patronizing cant that often accompanies this kind of authoritarianism. And these teenagers aren’t going to quit smoking just because of this law change. Youths are rebellious by nature. This legislation is going to criminalize thousands of 16 and 17 year olds, who will either try to buy cigarettes anyway, or who will loiter outside shops asking older customers to get them.
The UK government is getting more and more authoritarian… even totalitarian. In the 10 years that they’ve ruled, we have lost countless rights. And if we vote them out at the next general election… well, the Tories are dictatorial too.
I won’t vote for either party. But my single vote isn’t going to make any difference anyway…
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