Lifestyle Politics

Freedom is a four letter word with three extra letters.

An Expression

In July last year when the smoking ban came into effect in the UK, I was fairly upset. I loved the smoke-cafe-ale culture that existed then, in the UK. I had my last smoke “in”, in the Tabard. So obviously, The Tabard has a special place for me.

After a recent trip to Kerala and I was convinced I would go to hell. I made a complacent assumption that this was an aberration state in India.

From today, the country imposes yet another western derivative. Henceforth, we will celebrate this day as the anniversary of the ban. October 2nd, 2009 will carry reports of the success of the ban rather than remember the birth of a great soul.

The smoking ban makes sense in any country where medical welfare is a state burden. In the UK, for example, the NHS, in spite of the flak it receives from the public, offers free medical service to all its citizens. Given the argument that smokers cause damage to themselves and apparently to the people around them and end up becoming a burden for care on the system, a smoking ban has some semblance of reason and logic.

Where basic care is lacking, where bigger health problems loom, importing propaganda bans without context makes no sense to me. The phrase, Red Herring takes on an amazingly clear meaning.

Avoid, if you can, any arguments about the demerits of smoking or the merits of the ban. They have been done to death. (Pardon the irony). There is a purpose to this post and it is *not* about glorifying smoking.

I have watched the nasty yet strategic build-up to implementing this ban. The carrier was Bollywood and personal attacks on Bollywood icons. There was no other way the health minister could have got his name on front pages. Not much to his credit, at least not front-page-worthy. See, if those attacks didn’t happen, this ban would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to implement.

Governments across the world have learned one thing — to good advantage: Legislate and they shall follow; ignore the initial complaints. (Corporations are learning that too — how many of you think some of the low-cost carriers in the US will reverse their ‘temporary’ policy of charging for check-in baggage? And how many, do you think will follow suit?) Other governments are learning from that. If they can do it, so can we! (Reminds me of the gleeful and seemingly dense pilot in Die Hard 2?). Logic, reason, objectivity and inclusion aren’t the basis of an act; propaganda is.

People tend to get used to things. They tire of complaining. They resign and adapt. They have done consistently that for a billion years.


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