I popped down to my local with a mate the other night for a quick drink after a hard day a college. Fake ID in tow we went up to the bar, me with fag in hand feeling confident until I realised, I was in the non-smoking section and had to move otherwise stub out my cigarette (subsequently drawing unnecessary attention to myself either way). All these new rules coming in mean my ways have to change, I hate change. It made me think, soon I might not be able to smoke anywhere and smoking sections might not even exist!

Smoking has been around for centuries, I checked up on the internet (wonderful invention), we have had the right to smoke since 1000BC. And drinking, well that’s been around forever hasn’t it. Drinking and smoking go hand in hand, like a more adult version of jelly and ice-cream (though I am inclined to consume both). But with everything changing people seem to be forgetting where we started with this. Smoking is bad for you and we know that. We have been told time and time again but perhaps that’s what makes it so damn good.

In the past smoking has been questioned, researched and opposed, but it was never abolished because we as human beings have the right to smoke. Up till now we have had that right along with when and where we wanted. As it is, smokers go to smoking sections in airports, pubs and workplaces. But as smokers we have accepted that not everyone cares to be subject to smoke inhalation, therefore we respect the boundaries to not smoke on buses, trains, in shops, theatres or in cinemas. I believe this is the way it should be, respectful boundaries but not a total abolishment. Non-smokers have rights to walk without smoke inhalation and we have the right to smoke, you wouldn’t ban cars on the way to work because they are giving out toxic fumes and smoke, while causing pollution which is not just bad for the people but also for our environment. Restaurants have separate sections and in some cases separate floors for the non-smoking and smoking/normal and abnormal population. You can go to family friendly pubs where smoking is only permitted in the back, if at all. The only thing banning smoking will do is force the group into a smaller corner of the world and continue to de-normalise smokers. This will not, in my opinion, be regarded as a positive outcome.

Already no-smoking policies are taking hold in parts of Ireland and in New York. What does this mean for us? Are we being turned into a colder version of the big apple? I for one am against this development. We are a different country, what makes people think we would work better as a community if we follow rules only copied from other places? We are not Americans; we do not have the cheap shopping people love to go on holiday for and we do not have the obesity rates, why should we have their policies?

So what exactly will no smoking mean? Will it mean we can’t smoke in public or in public buildings? If the answer is the latter then we will have to stand outside to smoke. Whilst this may be fine in summer, what happens in the long winter months, come rain or snow? Will there be shelters at the entrance to every building? I don’t think so. Will there be breaks in long haul meetings and such? I don’t think so. Is there a more practical solution? I think so. We were given the option to smoke so many years ago; no one should be able to just decide to boycott it.

The government make so much money off the smokers trade wouldn’t it be better to invest in some form of contraption like, let’s say ventilators to filter out the air and allow the smoking trade to continue at its peak? Surely this would be favourable to losing a significant amount of tax on each packet of cigarettes? If they do ban cigarettes they lose the tax but knowing the government they will already have a crafty plan of how to make it back, for example raising the road tax on 4 by 4 trucks and cars to £900 a year as opposed to the £160 I know people to pay for a ford escort saloon. This will affect not just smokers but non-smokers too. Other products to disappear would be smoker’s toothpaste, breath freshener, mouthwash, body spray sales bould diminish and even smoker’s vitamins. Would non-smokers really rather pay out on an extensive raise in tax just to be better able to walk the streets without the threat of ingesting a small amount of smoke from cigarette smokers all the while getting into their cars and forcing others to ingest the toxic fumes from their exhaust pipes and be killing the environment to boot.

The newest question on a job application form is ‘Do you smoke?’ the reason for this is that many employers feel that if they employ a smoker then that employee will take more time away from their desk for cigarette breaks and therefore lose the company money and time. In fact people that will go outside for a cigarette break will take less time off than non-smokers who gather by the water cooler discussing the latest office gossip. My guess is that if you are a smoker you may feel you owe the company for allowing you those five minutes outside and will get back to work, whereas non-smokers feel they are doing nothing wrong and are less likely to be checking their watch on their breaks.

Tonight, I got a chance to hear Andy Summers, former guitarist for The Police read from his book, One Train Later, at Powell's Books. It was an interesting reading: Andy Summers had, on one hand, the dry, self-depreciating wit of a literary man, and, on the other, the flair of energy that you would expect from a guitar god. So his reading was both nuanced and showmanlike.

I wasn't planning on asking any questions, since I am not too much of an expert on The Police, and I hadn't read his book. But a question that someone else asked prompted me into asking a question that I have asked many people of Mr. Summer's generation. The question before mine was an obvious question to ask someone who was involved in music across so many years: what Mr. Summers thought of today's music. His response, in brief, was that he had turned his interest more to the specific genres of classical and jazz music he was interested in, and didn't hear many of the modern rock bands, except in passing.

My question flowed out from that quickly: why is it, that in an era when many people in the US and in the UK were very unhappy with the general direction of the politics and culture, was there not the type of confrontation in popular music that there was in the late 60s? I would have liked to transcribe his answer, although it would have perhaps not been anymore clear. He spoke words to the effect that while the utopian ideals of the era were nice, they never really quite worked out as well as people had hoped, and that therefore people weren't even trying any more. Or words to that effect.

This is one of the most important questions of our decade. That the US government is somewhere between stupid, corrupt and insane is not a secret. That is kind of what happens to those in power, and it isn't even political. It is not surprising. What is surprising is that such a situation has not produced any kind of sizable discontent in the culture. It is a surprise that Mr. Summers couldn't explain tonight, but that to his credit, many many other people have also been unable to do anything about.

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