BLAISE TAPP: The smoking ban was a great idea '“ can we take it further?

Do you ever feel that life is passing you by at a rate of knots, that each day goes slightly more quickly than the one before?

Wednesday, 5th July 2017, 8:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:41 am
Should the smoking ban be extended to other public places?

Well join the club: a non-exclusive organisation where the only requirement for entry is crow’s feet and a desire to get to bed the moment Lucy Verasamy has done the weather. The membership still struggles to get its head around the fact that 1996 – the height of the Britpop era – happened more than two decades ago.

But it is the landmark which was celebrated at the weekend which will have had people everywhere scratching their heads in disbelief, as it is now 10 years since smoking was banned from public buildings in England.

It seems just like yesterday that we would return from a night on the tiles stinking like Bet Lynch’s ashtray, even though a Marlboro Light hadn’t been within a foot of our lips.

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When the Labour government of the day introduced the ban on sparking up indoors, there were cries from millions that this was the nanny state at its worst.

But the nation hasn’t looked back since, and I would go as far as saying the country is a better place for the ban. There will be those who argue that the smoke-free legislation has led to the closure of many local pubs, but I would counter that if a business was so reliant on smokers that it went out of business following the ban, then it probably wasn’t worth visiting in the first place.

Pubs and bars are far more pleasant places to visit in 2017 than they were up until the legislation came into effect on July 1, 2007. My children don’t know what it is like to enter a smoky room, which is a fact I am very proud of, but I do think we can go further.

After initially dismissing it as a step too far, I have now come to the opinion that people should no longer be allowed to light up in public parks and open spaces such as squares.

Forest, the pro-smoking lobby group, has previously described such suggestions as outrageous, saying that anybody who objected to the smell could simply walk away. But why should we? Smoking is a bad habit, one which many smokers I know apologise for – usually seconds before they spark up.

It would help their case if most of those addicted to nicotine could be bothered to pick up their fag ends but rather than see this as littering, they regard it as their human right.

I realise that some reading this will regard me as a hysterical anti-smoking zealot, but I believe I reflect the view of a large majority of the population, who simply can’t understand why 7.5 million Brits still want to do that to their body, especially now that we have access to the medical evidence.

I packed in the fags more than 16 years ago and while I have plenty of vices such as real ale and pies, I have never been seriously tempted to take it up again.

I am a staunch believer in freedom of choice but when those choices impact on others – such as what it costs to treat smoking-related illness – then we need to think of other ways to stub out fags altogether.

I honestly believe that future generations will look back on 20th and 21st Century society and ask how anybody thought lighting up was a good idea. That would be a development which won’t come soon enough.