Letter from Simon Kelner

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I used to be a smoker. I never thought that I would ever be able to write those words, and truly mean it. But a little more than 18 months ago, a surgeon gave me a very good reason to quit, and I took this as my cue to renounce Philip Morris and all his works.

In truth, it had become harder and harder as a habit to sustain, what with the ban in restaurants, pubs and offices. Even as a smoker, I applauded Tony Blair's government for bringing in these laws: I've rarely met a smoker who wasn't convulsed with self-loathing about his or her addiction, and didn't want to give up.

Making it difficult, if not impossible, to smoke anywhere in public has, I'm sure, had a beneficial effect on the nation's health. Now, I don't have the zeal of a convert – I still ask smokers to blow their smoke in my direction, and long for a day when medical experts reject previous advice and claim that smoking has no ill effects – but I must say that the news that the town of Stony Stratford is considering the introduction of a by-law to ban smoking in the streets does not make me feel that life and liberty are under threat (copyright Nigel Farage). I have never been in favour of banning anything that's not illegal, but I now find myself getting annoyed when I see cigarette butts on the pavement – I do accept this may be as a result of turning into Michael Winner in my old age – and you can't blame a town as attractive as Stony Stratford for wanting to keep its streets clean.

I have examined my conscience, and even if I was still a smoker, I would feel the same. Parts of America and Australia already have passed an outdoor ban, and seem to manage perfectly well. There was a time when we found the idea of not being allowed to smoke in a pub unbelievable.