When you were at school, you remember the swottish, science sorts who did all their homework, attended the extra revision classes and got top marks in everything? You know the ones who went on to medical school? Turns out they're pretty dumb after all - at least going by the latest utterly bonkers piece of health fascism proposed by the British Medical Association:
Delegates at the British Medical Association (BMA) annual conference voted in favour of a motion to prohibit smoking to anyone born after 2000.
Now the sharp-witted amongst you will have noted that this is a monumentally stupid idea. After all those people born in the 21st century aren't yet of an age to buy and consume tobacco products. Yet we are reminded that most smokers (nearly all of them I reckon) start smoking before they reach the age when they're actually allowed to smoke. And this means that they're getting cigarettes illicitly - either by the time-honoured method of lifting them from Mum's packet, buying them using false ID, asking someone to buy them for you or purchasing them from the bloke in the van who doesn't care about age, ID or much else.
Do these ever-so-clever doctors really think that anything will change? Except that smoking will become even more hidden and illicit than it is at the moment. From a product subject to quality control, regulation and licensing we will have moved to a product sold surreptitiously to young people in dark alleys - or else simply passed on by grandpa, mum and assorted aunts.
This is health fascism on speed - a sort of frantic, desperate, headline-grabbing proposal designed to give the impression of action rather than actually respond to the question (why do young people start smoking). And as Ian Dunt points out, this policy isn't about children at all:
...this policy, which is targeted at adults by definition, is being defended on the basis of what it would do to help children - the one group who would find themselves outside its remit.
But at least the lobby is finally daring to state its objective: the criminalisation of smoking. From now on, the debate is not about public health. It is about the rights of the individual against the frenzied paternalism of those who would interfere in other people's lives.
Everyone who smokes knows the risks. The health message has been banged into children almost from the day they walked into school - smoking kills you. That some people decide to smoke regardless of this risk says something about people but is a reminder that we all have choice in our lives. And if we choose - for hedonistic reasons - to do something dangerous that is, in the end, entirely our business.
Yet again we are reminded that the debate isn't about health but about control, about prohibition about other people deciding they know better how we should live our lives. This is the agenda of nannying fussbucketry, the manifesto of health fascism.