BRENDAN O’Neill believes the success of the Irish smoking ban is more to do with what he calls ‘Post-Traditional Stress Disorder’ than anything else. This new Irish politically correct agenda, he explains, is why the anniversary of the smoking ban was celebrated more than the 1916 rebellion this year.
This helps explain why it [Ireland] has embraced – more fervently than any other state in Europe and perhaps the world, as Irish ministers keep reminding us – the new PC health agenda. The war on smoking allows Ireland’s scandalised ruling class to appear serious and concerned; it is a national campaign through which they can present themselves as altruistic, as having the Irish people’s best interests at heart. And crucially, they instinctively recognise that lifestyle politics, the regulation of people’s eating, drinking and other habits, is one area where they might win some public consensus.
The reorientation of Irish politics and society around anti-smoking (seriously) is a sober reminder for why we should oppose the public smoking bans creeping into effect across Europe and the USA. Not only because they are illiberal and intrusive measures that set a dangerous precedent for other government clampdowns on various ‘lifestyles’, but far more importantly because of what they reveal about our political culture more broadly. When outlawing the evil weed can become the stuff of national politics, and can be accepted by an increasingly conformist public mood, it doesn’t bode well for anyone who thinks politics and change should be about more than whether and when individuals can puff on a Silk Cut. The Easter 1916 rebels summoned all Irish people to the flag, to ‘strike for freedom’ against British rule; all Ahern can promise ‘future generations’ is that pubs and restaurants will be smoke-free.
Ireland’s smoking ban has allowed a corrupt and decadent establishment to reinforce its grip over an atomised public. If an official in a town or city near you proposes a similar ban, be sure to blow smoke up his arse.