A year to 18 months ago I was a non-smoker who was anti-smoking - not to the extent where I would challenge strangers who were smokers or seek to embarrass them, but certainly someone who supported the evermore restrictive practices placed upon those wishing to smoke.
So it was one of the most unexpected shift in my thinking over the past year to become pro-smoking - or rather pro the right to choose to smoke.
I don't like the smell of cigarette smoke; in fact I find it disgusting. Now, that might be a learnt response, it may be a natural response, whatever, it doesn't matter; I still find it disgusting. And I find the effects disgusting too such as working in clothes that stink of 'secondhand' smoke or (especially) having the aroma of good food masked by drifting smoke and the overall tasting experience ruined by the unwelcome assault on my senses whilst those smoking seek to enhance theirs.
There are also physical reasons. As a non-smoker, I will involuntarily cough/choke if caught directly in an immediate 'smoke stream' - not an over-reactive attempt to embarrass the smoker, but a genuine reaction. Certainly too, the morning after the night before at a smoke filled venue, I will be coughing my guts up until late afternoon as my lungs self-cleanse. This might be because I have mild asthma or might be a physical reaction that would've occurred anyway - who knows. Point is it is real.
Psychologically, there are aspects too. The deluge of one-sided information that has perpetuated throughout my lifetime must have had an effect too. I also recall my mother giving my father a ultimatum to give up smoking or get out of the house - his 40 a day a habit was making it hard for 5 year old me to breath (probably owing in some degree to my mild asthma). In the end, he compromised and never smoked in the house again and I found it easy to breathe again - and yes, these are directly linked, which I attribute to my lungs not having a sufficient respite to self-cleanse. So maybe from this experience, I automatically associate smoke with dirty / poisonous air and it produces a immediate negative reaction.
However, none of these, I repeat NONE of these are reasons for the state to get involved and infringe upon one's right to choose to smoke or not.
I am an adult. I am able to choose restaurants that give me a smoke free option over those that do not. I can even politely ask my fellow patrons if they wouldn't mind holding off lighting that cigarette until I'd finished the course I was on. Never had a problem doing this.
When I used to stand at football matches and was directly down wind of a smoker I moved. When we were then made to sit to watch football and I was directly down wind of a smoker, I would ask if they minded swapping seats while they enjoyed their tobacco of choice. Then when smokers were moved out of the seating arena in to dedicated back of house smoking areas, I avoided going through those areas. Never had a problem.
I stopped going to nightclubs regularly when the inconvenience of the next day's coughing and spluttering outweighed the value of the evening's entertainment. Of course there were other factors, such as everyone was looking much too young for me and I met my wife and soul mate (same lady for avoidance of doubt!) and we prefer to go to other places together. But the point is once the inconvenience / benefit value tips the wrong way, the choice to stop going will be exercised.
And I've no doubt, that most parents would do similar to mine if they saw one of their children being affected by a smoke filled atmosphere. You, as a parent, can see the direct effect it is having (if any) on your child. Some children it doesn't affect all - I have plenty of friends who grew up fine and healthy in such environments - and some are affected like I was. I have faith that most parents seek to do their best by their children and would make the right decision accordingly. It certainly their right and responsibility to make that choice.
Yet we have dehumanised smokers to such an extent that we willing support and impose bans on smoking in public places and now the movement that I once supported is clearly seeking to ban smoking in one's home or ban smoking completely.
You may argue that the medical evidence provides an overwhelming case to introduce such bans but I don't accept this. Having had my eyes opened to all the pseudo-science that currently is awash throughout 'the case for banning / the case for introducing more powers' industry, I have revisited the purported science over the period and much to my surprise (as I thought the smoking science to be irrefutable) the damage to others by second-hand (and the dubious third-hand and extremely dubious fourth-hand) smoking is statistically insignificant. There might be the tiniest evidence that in certain extreme circumstances (i.e. lock someone in a room for a smoker for a number of years without a supply of 'fresh' air) that second hand smoke may have a very small effect - but would be less than exposure to harmful emissions than one would get through regularly using a car. So that only leaves the smokers themselves and whether or not smoking causes the smoker terrible harm or none at all is entirely the smoker's problem. Nothing to do with me or anyone else.
And the dehumanising has another effect: we are ostracising our fellow man. The fact that someone smokes is not an indicator of whether or not they are decent human. Yet many smokers are being talked to and treated like, well, shit, by anti-smokers (and increasingly non-smokers) and when they respond in kind, their attitude is taken by the anti-smokers as validation of the smoker's selfish attitude rather than a reflection of perhaps an understandable reaction to aggressively impolite approaches.
There is, of course, a bigger picture here. First it was the smokers, now the pseudo-science is ramping up the 'evils' of being overweight and of enjoying a tipple or two. Next (I suspect) it will be activities that regularly cause personal harm - so I hope you don't like cycling or playing rugby or football. And don't undertake any home improvements by yourself, as why should you expect the rest of us pay for you dropping that hammer on your foot - especially as you're unqualified. The point is obvious: once we start dehumanising those aspects that make us human we can find any excuse to make our fellow man sub-human and second-class; that's real discrimination.
So whilst, yes, whilst I admit I prefer smoke-free environments and would love it if we had such environments as a result of a genuine desire to have them, the fact is they are at the cost of liberty, and that harms us much more than any smoke could ever do...
To non-smokers I ask you to treat your fellow man with respect. He is not smoking to annoy or harm you, he is smoking to enjoy one of life's pleasures, just as you might when you have a cold beer on a hot day. You'll be surprised how human man is if you treat him as such. To smokers, I ask for your understanding and forgiveness that it has taken so long for me to realise the implications to your liberty and the further liberties of us all.
By way of comfort, I believe that (ahem) the smoke is clearing for more and more people on the pseudo-science and the wider implications for us all. So, by way of repentance - and I urge all who value their liberties to do the same - I've signed the Forest petition (which closes tomorrow).
With special thanks to Leg-Iron. Dick Puddlecote and the Velvet Glove for opening my eyes...