Have you heard? The government, in its eternal quest to improve our lives by grappling fearlessly with the key issues of today, is thinking of banning smoking whilst you are driving.
Now I don't smoke. I don't like people smoking in my car or my house. I don't like people smoking whilst I am eating and I must say I think the 'smoking clubs' which congregate around the rear entrances of hospitals or the front entrances of schools do little for the professional image of the establishments in question. I can also sympathise with the non-smokers amongst you who find themselves minding a desk for a colleague while they nip out for a fag, and who only manage 50 minutes work per hour as a result.
So, do we want smoking and driving banned? I don't think so. I have friends who smoke, and they invariably indulge their habit with the utmost consideration.
Smoking is not an illegal act and what business is it of ours what people do in their own cars? The car is after all one of the last places left to smoke. But it's a distraction you may say. Well yes, but not much of one. Smoking is after all second nature to most smokers. Arguing with your wife is a distraction. Stopping the children fighting in the back seat is another. So is fumbling in the glove box for a CD. A glance at the majestic scenery of the Cairngorms (or even the South Downs on a good day) can be mildly diverting. So where do you want to stop?
We already have some (widely ignored) laws on the use of mobile phones. Now clearly, texting your girlfriend whilst driving at 70 mph along an urban motorway is indicative of terminal brain fade. However, phoning your wife to say you will be late for dinner whilst in a stationary traffic jam on the same motorway is hardly the same thing. Use a hands-free? OK, but what if you're driving someone else's car, or if you just don't have one?
Anyway, my point is that we will soon be getting another piece of legislation, trivial, unenforceable (unless they put a community support officer in every car) and of doubtful benefit.
So why is it happening? Two reasons I think.
1. Most of the big decisions are taken in Brussels (or Washington) leaving our esteemed politicians to wrestle with issues such as 'pay as you throw' or 'the right to roam' (personally I would settle for the right to roam around a town centre at night.)
2. Most of this legislation is aimed at minority activities which can, from time to time, irritate the rest of us. Littering, foxhunting, taking the kids to school in a Toyota Landcruiser for example. And we think to ourselves 'what's wrong with banning that?'
Well I'll tell you.
The great unwashed will still drop litter. People who can afford a Porsche Cayenne can also afford the congestion charge and the road tax. The moron in the Transit who pulled out in front of you whilst chatting on his mobile will still be a moron and foxhunting has enjoyed a massive surge of support since being banned.
And one day they'll ban something you want to do!
The trouble with this creeping blight of low-level legislation is that eventually it will criminalize all of us
So next time you shake your head in despair at the sight of a hoodie with a hammer lurking in a bus shelter, remember, you're a criminal too!