Belfast Telegraph

Smoking's out but shooting up is ok ...?

By Linda McDowell

In a bar in England a customer, aggrieved that staff have turned off the cricket on the telly, protests by indulging in what is currently regarded as the ultimate in outrageous behaviour.

He lights up a fag.

Result? The riot squad are called in. The riot squad!

Your man is then escorted from the premises.

Over here a local businessman wishing to challenge what he sees as the shortcomings of anti-smoking rules, lights up in a local council office. Ok, so they didn't call in the SWAT team. But he, too, will have his day in court.

You might argue that all citizens will by now be well aware of the law about smoking in public places and the dangers of infringement thereof. But here's the thing.

There may come a time - and sooner rather than later if one police chief gets his way - when smokers being led from public bars by the riot cops will pass on their way out other patrons perfectly legally shooting up heroin.

Richard Brunstrom, the chief constable for North Wales, wants to see all drugs - from cannabis to cocaine - legalised and, as he puts it, controlled in the same way that the authorities currently control alcohol and tobacco.

Er, "controlled"?

This is the bit that makes me laugh.

Not just that the chief constable of North Wales appears to think that the authorities control consumption of fags and booze. But that the authorities have anything approaching a consistent and logical approach to health legislation in general.

The reality is that the mixed messages being sent out to ordinary punters with regard to their own health and the toll this takes on the NHS have neither rhyme nor reason.

If the Government wanted to do something serious about smoking it would ban cigarettes. Full stop. But that would mean foregoing the lucrative tax it raises from ciggies. So the legislation instead is about where you can smoke, not whether you can smoke. The Government merely moved the ashtrays.

But while the weed is being re-routed to the 'outdoor smoking area', we're now, thanks to Mr Brunstrom, debating whether Class A drugs should be brought in from the cold.

In future when you say you're going down to the pub for a bit of crack it might have a different meaning entirely.

The damage and misery wrought by drugs is enormous as it is. Can you imagine how much worse it could get?

Especially with "the authorities in control".

Consider the meal they're currently making of obesity in the young.

Obesity in general, we're warned, is a crisis on a par with global warming.

It's an odd equation this. Fat kids = melting polar ice caps. Next they'll be telling us that obesity is actually causing global warming ? (all that wind apparently.)

The thing is that given the junk children have been served via school dinners surely the "authorities" themselves must share some blame for the plumping of our youth.

A generation ago the authorities were obsessing about children's teeth. The nation's dental health was the global warming of the day. All those kids have since grown up and discovered - guess what?

Thanks to lack of forward planning by the authorities such is the cost of a dentist these days that a shocking six per cent of the population is reportedly reaching for the pliers to do it themselves.

Official advice is everywhere ...

Smoking in a public place is out. Drink adverts must carry 'go-easy' warnings. Millions have been spent on telling us we should be getting our five a day. (Veg not vodka.) And we are consistently bombarded with shock reports.

But where is the long-term strategy in any of this?

Is the proposed legalisation of cocaine, for example, a question about controlling drugs? Or saving on police resources?

A difficult one that to ask of a government that bleats about the health costs of smoking - while making a packet from taxes on cigarettes.

Lib Dems should lead with 21st century girl

Sir Menzies Campbell has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats. Was he pushed or did he jump? Who really cares? Ming may once have been seen as a reassuringly sober replacement for Charles Kennedy.

But a mite too sober it turned out. Old Ming was just not 21st century enough for politics in 2007.

It's generally acknowledged that what the party needs now is a fresh young face to lead it. Someone who will attract media interest.

Someone who's not just close to the party thinking but is in touch with a new generation.

Another bloke in a grey suit? Or a female leader with attitude who would offer a genuine alternative to interchangeable Dave and Gord?

The Lib Dems could do worse than take their cue from Lembit Opik.

Get themselves a cheeky girl.

Tap on the wrist is not real justice

A Chinese man who killed another Chinese national and is currently serving a sentence for manslaughter in Northern Ireland has mounted a legal battle against deportation on completion of his sentence.

The man fears that if he is sent back to China he may face the penalty there for killing a fellow citizen - execution.

Here he is currently serving a five-year sentence.

While we may be shocked at the severity of the Chinese courts, they must surely be appalled at the relative leniency of ours. And that's even without the remission.

Remission means that what seems like a soft enough sentence is cut further still.

We may (rightly) baulk at the thought of a man being executed with a bullet in the head. But sometimes our own legal system's tap on the wrist for the taking of another human life - that doesn't seem so much like justice either.

Jonny be bad, please

What's the difference between an All Black and an arsonist? An arsonist wouldn't waste five matches.

That's just one of the jokes of dubious taste currently doing the rugby rounds after the legendary Kiwis got dumped out of the World Cup.

Can we expect similar black humour from the England fans if Jonny Wilkinson fails to deliver on Saturday? It's unlikely.

But if they win, we'll never hear the end of it from the English media.

If they're calling him "Jonny Be God" at the semi final stage, imagine what it's going to be like if they beat South Africa ?

It's going to be Wembley 1966 all over. Again.

Come on the Springboks!

  • Police swoops are made against alleged dissident republicans. a loyalist feud sparks street violence and gun attacks. sectarian incidents ranging from assaults to arson continue to be reported ? how long do we have to continue to tolerate the existence of the paramilitary gangs we seem to have accepted as part of the fabric of our flaky society here? There is apparently no short answer to that one. The official line seems to be - we'll sit them out and someday they'll just all disappear of their own accord. Fingers crossed, eyes on the horizon, pretend the dodgy stuff isn't happening ? The Chuckle Brothers may be running the show up at Stormont. But sometimes you can't help feeling that in this place, we are still just one dreadful headline away from the bad old days.

Belfast Telegraph


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