Cough, cough... what?
As expected, Jack McConnell's plans to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces were shooed through the Scottish Executive today.
Smokers all over the country are, unsurprisingly, tearing their hair out at the thought of not being able to have a fag and a pint and the anti-fag lobby are smugly patting themselves on the back for ridding Scotland of the evil weed. To hell, of course, with all those stuck in the middle who, quite reasonably, would prefer not to have fag ash flicked over their pasta, but really don't object all that much to the idea of smokers lighting up in clubs and bars.
The First Minister's argument is that not only will the ban improve the general health of Scots, but it will also encourage smokers to quit.
Really? Not according to statistics in countries across the world that have already limited or banned smoking.
Tobacco advertising has been banned in Norway for more than 30 years, smoking in public was banned in June, yet one in three people smoke - and there has been a recent rise in tobacco-related deaths. A packet of cigarettes in Norway, incidentally, costs £6.
The Australians made the decision to ban smoking on some of the country's beaches - out of doors, for heaven's sake - yet have made no effort to tackle the population's ever-increasing alcohol-related problems.
Even France - home of the stinkiest fags known to man - made no dent on their smoking statistics by raising the price of fags by 20%.
Ireland is the closest comparison to the Scottish situation - publicans admit that they've seen a heavy dent in trade. Yes, everyone goes outside to smoke - but that also means they drink more slowly and they're further away from the bar.*
While no-one could legitimately argue that smoking is a good, clean, healthy family past-time, isn't it time the government were honest about these bans? If politicians are really going to get tough on health issues, let's ban booze, cars, fireworks, E-numbers and those fizzy sweets with every chemical ever invented bunged in.
McConnell's on record about how hard he found it to quit - which makes Scotland's ban look like the ultimate revenge of the ex-smoker.
Smoking prohibitions have very little to do with public health - and a whole lot to do with getting the powerful medical lobby on board.
* Update in response to comment:
The Irish Brewers’ Association (IBA) claims sales of pints have dropped by 23 million in the last year.
According to industry figures revealed after an IBA survey, the number of pints sold between March and September this year stood at 339 million compared to 362 million in the same period in 2003.
The IBA has blamed the smoking ban for the decline of six per cent in sales.
“The harsh fact of the matter is the figures are down,” said Paddy Jordan, the director of IBA, which represents beer producers such as Heineken and Diageo. “The trend is likely to be 10 percent down for the year.”