In America, smoking is now a defeated habit. All those who still smoke must sit inside a glass compartment like Adolf Eichmann, on trial for crimes against humanity, to be treated like pariahs- anti-social beasts who can be viewed in a human Zoo, admonished and pitied. They are a minority. I was one of those creatures recently during a flight stop between Denver and London at Washington Dulles Airport, Concourse C.
I had 4 hours to wait. Not long enough to leave the Airport vicinity without causing a security infringement, but too long between two six hour flights not to feel the need for a reflective puff or two- bearing in mind that when someone tells you that you can't do something, you want to do it more than ever. That is the nature of freedom, and that is its spur. The spur is the uneasy sense of incarceration. You are in effect, in custody, though you have done nothing wrong and neither are you about to, though you are sorely tempted, because a new rule has been created.
But what of those who do not smoke- those who sit outside and watch us- gloat even, our jailers! What are their secret habits? Should we not insist as smokers that those who claim that they do not smoke have in fact got other habits- habits far more anti-social that cannot possibly be put on view inside a glass box for all to see? Would not that give us all a level playing field so that a balance can be redressed?
Self-righteousness is now in full flood and especially in America. The reactionary new puritanism has a stranglehold so tight on our hopes and fears that secret safety valves are sought- must be sought- through other forms of gratification. Dark practices take the place of common forms of smoking and drinking which had until this quite recent aversion fever been absorbed into our social fabric in a way that no acknowledged illegal drugs ever achieved except perhaps in Peru, Morocco, Egypt and other ethnically concentrated communities.
New drugs in the form of Health and Fitness clubs, inane exercise machinery, rarefied and carefully studied diet programs are systematically robbing the spirit of freedom won so lustily in the 60's, soured in the 70's, atrophied in the 80's, finally stomped in the early 90's, and now struggling to re-emerge again, gasping, against a society that has perniciously encroached on our natural common sense whilst implanting the notion that the persecution of minority habits is an acceptable form of democracy.
We have lost much of what was clawed and fought for and new causes are really now merely frontal activity that aim to curb our basic pleasure principle whilst regulations are invented, legislated for, and put in place. All measures of persecution are relative and in America the growing isolationism attempts to augment the intention of government to appear to be doing something constructive, whilst in reality failing to solve the real problems of crime epidemics, urban decay, police frustration, unemployment and homelessness- and most particularly the rescuing of a disinherited underclass from miserable obscurity.
The smoking lobby is nothing more than a smoke screen and will reveal in time the empty rhetoric of which modern government is guilty in the face of the awful realisation that the problems in our present system are virtually insoluble. Smoking is at least the honest alternative to hypocrisy.