Our Government, should it so long endure, is keen to make smoking illegal in public places. Our Ken is evidently anxious to do it even sooner in London, even if it be theoretically ultra vires - that is, Beyond Our Ken. He seems to think he owns the place.

Our Government, should it so long endure, is keen to make smoking illegal in public places. Our Ken is evidently anxious to do it even sooner in London, even if it be theoretically ultra vires - that is, Beyond Our Ken. He seems to think he owns the place.

His attachment to London goes back a long way. The greatest grandfather of Our Ken was the Welsh mystic Glendour Ken, who arrived at the capital when the pioneer aviator King Bladud had just killed himself trying to fly over the city, which in those days was called Trinovantum. He sought the throne but failed, and it was Bladud's son who became King Lear.

Not until Chaucer's time was another takeover attempted, from a half-concealed site on Hampstead Heath to the north - hence Ken Wood, which in Chaucer's Middle English meant Mad Ken.

Now, in making his detailed plans for the prevention of smoking in public places, Our Ken has found that motorists are a source of difficulty. How can the inside of a private car be a public place?

Well, BMW, most public-spirited of all makers of private cars, has offered an antidote - the non-smoking car. They volunteered to omit all ashtrays and lighters from the interior, without actually charging extra (such generosity). This lead was not followed: lawyers suggested that it implied that the interior of a BMW thus took on the characteristics of a public place, which might lead to it being classed as a public service vehicle, inviting pedestrians to jump in and demand to be taken to a tobacconist.

One has to assume that it is to tobacco that the current anti-smoking campaign is directed. It actually started when the famous newspaper boss William Randolph Hearst had a tiff with one of the Virginian tobacco barons, and ordered all his editors to contrive the wretched fellow's downfall.

The poor man is long dead, but the campaign against tobacco smoking has gathered too much momentum to be stopped, even though (as some medicos admit with embarrassment) it can in some respects be beneficial to health. Certainly, there is no question of forbidding all other kinds of smoking: imagine buses, lorries, taxis and diesel cars being penalised for smoking, not to mention incense.

Manufacturers used to take smoking seriously, as once we all did. Rolls-Royce used to make the most magnificent ashtray, though they put it in the wrong place. Even worse was the placing in the Rover 3500, just in line with a ventilation nozzle on the dash: any attempt to discard the ash of a cigar or a cigarette was foiled by a blast of air that blew ash and embers all over the interior of the car. The only people to do it correctly were, as you might expect, Bristol, who set two ashtrays on top of the coaming above the dashboard, so the driver could reach and locate it without taking his eyes off the road. Now lighter sockets seem meant for charging mobile phones, and ashtrays are tinier than ever. Judge, then, my joy when a Lexus IS300 joined the family, and I discovered that with the gearlever in the usual D position, the hand has but to slide past it for the ashtray to be unerringly located.

Too many car-makers seem to have joined the anti-smoking brigade, villains that they are. When a road-test car is delivered to me bearing a sign telling me not to smoke, I can only assume that there must be something wrong with the ventilation system, and I am obliged to mark the car down accordingly.

It is refreshing to note, however, that there remain stalwarts for whom driving and smoking - two of the greatest pleasures known to man - are not to be separated. One came to collect a test car for its makers (whose sticker merely offered "Thanks for not smoking") and, noting that the ashtray had been used, wrote across the bottom of the discharge sheet: "Car been smoked in." Handing me the carbon copy, he climbed in, lit up a grateful gasper, and drove contentedly away.

Search for used cars

Comments