Lighten up on smokers please

I was disturbed to read Justin Kelly’s well-written letter of March 19 about the ‘smoking gun’.

Did I get a whiff of totalitarianism? We must always oppose such solutions before they gain traction.

Justin’s description of smokers’ actions belongs more in the realm of theory. It does not accord with my experience of reality. It would be just as illogical to say that listening to a car radio or talking to passengers distracts drivers. Excessive speed is the real killer on our roads.

Experienced drivers who smoke generally do so with due care. They tend to light up mainly when the road is clear or when stopped at traffic lights. They usually drive with extra care, courtesy and vigilance. Driving skills improve with practice.

I have yet to see anyone use their mouth to turn a steering wheel. Voice-controlled steering has not yet taken off on the market. Thought-controlled driving is a futuristic dream. It may not be practical. Human beings do not have one-track minds.

Smokers are still a significant sector of the population in all democratic countries. In recent years, there has been a steadily creeping campaign to criminalise them. The smug majority treat them like modern-day lepers.

We must stop going down the road of persecuting minorities. Otherwise, it will not be long before we ban fat (or thin) people from driving. People under 25 (or over 75) years of age and people with a low IQ could then be next in line for state-sponsored discrimination.

Dictatorship by a fundamentalist majority is a more insidious danger to freedom than absolute power concentrated in one tyrant. All too often, nanny states show little love to those for whom they profess to care. Did Ireland throw out unbearable religion with the mucky bathwater? Has intolerant self-righteousness filled that vacuum? I am now in my sunset years. I do not want to exist in a twilight misery. I have no wish to cower under the shadow of the Fourth Reich. Let us have moderation, good sense, proper perspective and respect in all things. People who never light up should lighten up.

Michael Mernagh

Carrigaline

Co Cork

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