Plans are afoot, at least in London, to ban smoking in outdoor public areas like parks, sports grounds and even the capital’s main squares.
The idea, at least in the first two instances, is that parks and recreation grounds must be temples to good health where rosy cheeked children can romp in gay abandon while their doting parents look on. The logic underlying a similar ban in Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus is harder to fathom.
The brain behind the proposal is a surgeon by the name of Darzi, one that sounds vaguely familiar. It’s almost as if he’d been responsible for some other hair brained scheme in the past that eventually proved unworkable.
I think it’s fair to say that neither idea would go down too well around these parts.
Take the nearest public open space to my surgery as an example. What the Town Planners must have envisaged to be a bright cheerful meeting place for bright cheerful families surrounded by bright cheerful shops is now a grey windblown monument to the worst of mid-1960s brutalist architecture. A vortex of discarded kebab wrappers circles overhead the downmarket fast food joints, downmarket food stores and downmarket local residents.
It’s hard to imagine them giving up their twenty a day habit without a fight. In fact it’s difficult to imagine them doing anything without a fight. Even if they did, the threatening behaviour, alcohol fuelled foul language and significant chance of injury at the hands, claws and teeth of a cross-bred status dog would far outweigh the marginal health benefit to passers-by.
The local park isn’t much better. Gay (and heterosexual) abandon leaves its mark in the form of discarded condoms and while you’re watching your step to avoid those you’ll catch a glimpse of the occasional contaminated sharp.
Et in Arcadia ego? Not bloody likely.
So let the children play, and let the grown-ups puff away. I’d even go so far as to divert the local COPD walking group via the bowling green, flower beds and playground so the kids could see and hear the grey and wrinkled-faced shuffle wheezily along, dragging their portable oxygen cylinders behind them on converted shopping trolleys, pausing only to hawk up huge gobs of vile coloured phlegm before taking a crafty drag on a dog end held sniper style.
It would be real time, High Definition, 4-D, with Surround Sound.
And as health warnings go it would beat the hell out of plain packaging or photos of innards.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield.