The British Medical Association has called for a ban on smoking in cars, and a private member’s bill to this effect will be debated in parliament a couple of days from now. The proposed ban would include drivers on their own in the vehicle and would not simply apply to vehicles with passengers.
Now, I’m in two minds about this. Certainly, anyone who smokes in a car with children is an idiot, and I should know. After all, I was that idiot, many years ago, but what about the lone smoker? If we start legislating to prevent people from harming their own health, where do we stop? And for that matter, why don’t we start prosecuting people for harming their children’s health in different ways?
Yesterday, as I passed a school, I saw a distinctly tubby woman collecting an obese little girl. Should we be prosecuting parents for feeding their children on fat-soaked microwave dinners, sugary drinks and instant snacks? Maybe we should. It’s at least as bad as smoking around them and probably worse since the assault of an unhealthy diet on children is more sustained than sporadic fouling of their air.
I don’t have the answer. I’m just asking the question. How far should we legislate for personal stupidity?
It’s perfectly true that smoking causes illnesses that put people in hospital, draining vital resources and making them a burden on society, but that’s also a futile and illogical argument, since people will eventually get sick anyway and end up costing money. We’re all a burden on society and that’s what society is for. We shoulder a collective burden. What’s more, by encouraging people to lead healthy lives, aren’t we simply creating a huge cohort of sick old people? You could say that smokers are doing the country a favour by dying early. Maybe we should pass a law banning old age. The real trick is not to get rid of old-people sickness, but instead to deal with the more recent phenomenon of young-people sickness.
People like me might believe that we’ll live forever, but if course, that’s nonsense. It’s the usual fallacy: the idea that medicine saves lives. It does not. It prolongs them. Medicine defers death.
If we followed the logic, what else should we stop people doing?
Certainly. Why not ban drinking at home immediately? It’s bad for us. No more bottles of wine with dinner. We should also ban pubs where unmonitored drinking takes place. Instead, we should set up official government drinking centres where qualified health professionals dispense an approved number of standard units in hygienic surroundings.
I think we’d have to ban mountaineering, an activity that results in fractures, hypothermia and worse. Fortunes are spent deploying helicopters to rescue lost mountaineers and hill-walkers. Sailing is just as bad. Let’s ban it.
Banking. Now there’s a thing that, worldwide, is causing illness and death on a gigantic scale. How about banning banking?
Are we regulating ourselves out of existence? It seems to me that we in Ireland are closing down our businesses due to overly-zealous regulation, and I wonder if our European neighbours — even the supposedly officious Germans — are as uptight as our inspectors.
In this country, perfectly good restaurants are being shut down, not because they’re dirty but because their kitchens don’t have sufficient floor area. Go to Manhattan and you can enjoy top-quality foood in a diner with a kitchen the size of a phone box, but here in Ireland, we’re so paranoid we take no chances. Our envirnmental health officers are there in case somebody, somewhere might throw up. People minding kids in their homes have to send out to delis for the childrens’ lunches because our inspectors won’t let them make sandwiches.
This is madness.
Right now there’s an ad on the radio where an insane woman rants about your knife your spoon your sink your kitchen your children. It’s designed to make us terrified of our own kitchens where we raised and fed our families. Why? Because the hygiene industry is based on fear and lately the government has become complicit.
We don’t know what it is to use intelligent discretion. If we didn’t have a rule book to follow, we’d be paralysed.
One thing we never hear about is stupidity. Stupid drivers cost hundreds of lives every year. Stupid parents don’t bother to teach their children how to behave, resulting in assaults, thefts and general parasitic uselessness. How much does it cost to bring your kids to the library once a week? Nothing, that’s what. Not a penny. How much does it cost to cook your children a nutritious dinner so they don’t turn into fat bastards? A lot less than your crappy instant supermarket shit, but you don’t do it because you’re stupid. Now that you know passive smoking is dangerous, why do you smoke in front of others? That’s right. Because you’re stupid.
If I had my way, the big crime would be stupidity. I’d put it ahead of drunk driving. When the police stop drivers, by all means breathalyse them, but also administer a standard stupidity test.
You failed but I won’t explain why. You’re not drunk but you are under arrest being an idiot.