Probably the last thing you need, having lit up a Silk Cut at the end of another eight hours of cubicle-bound wage slavery, is some rubicund, preachy do-gooder accosting you on the street and sneering at your God-given right to smoke like a Victorian chimneystack.
Yet such "direct action" is the latest weapon wielded by health Nazis campaigning to dictate how you can live your life. A trust in Ealing is employing people to confront smokers in the street and engage them in conversation about the best ways to give up. During the six week trial, a marketing team hired by the local PCT will approach smokers in a "polite and friendly" way and "put them in touch" with services to help them quit. Already, eyewitness statements attest to the popularity of this re-education initiative that wouldn't have been out of place in the Cultural Revolution. "This is going to make a big difference!", said one ex-puffer, the scales newly scrubbed from his eyes.
Yet this attempt to further demonise the cigarette-lover is based on a mistaken assumption: that every smoker is in fact trying to quit. It's a ridiculous fallacy. While many are indeed actively engaged in the battle to give up, countless more are quite satisfied with their habit, thank you very much, and indeed see it as a highly enjoyable ritual, albeit one that has become increasingly taboo over the years.
Smokers have been banned from virtually every sphere of public life, with the home and the outdoors the only habitats fit for a crafty fag. Yet now the streets are not safe from the finger-wagging crowd. Sadly, this is quite in keeping with the current government's demagogic approach to controlling its citizens, with spurious medical evidence used to advance wide-ranging and stentorian new laws. Civil life in modern Britain is becoming a witch hunt where people can cross that ephemeral line between RIGHT and WRONG without knowing how or why.
The non-smoker may scoff, but just you wait - it'll be your guilty little foible they'll try to ban next.
Image courtesy of zakgollop's Flickrstream