‘No Smoking beyond this point’.

I stared at the new sign, impressed by its authoritarianness.

“How excitingly 2006!!!” I remarked to the Well-Spoken Barman.

“We’re trying to get ahead of legislation,” he replied.

I took my usual seat at the bar. The Village Pub (smoking side) was packed. The Village Pub (non-smoking side) was sparsely populated. I sipped my pint, reflecting on the momentous import of the new sign. It was just like being in Germany after the war. An accident of residency had found my seat in the freedom-loving smoking quarter; I could just have easily been trapped under the authoritarian jackboot of Communism (except with smoking rules).

“I think it’s good,” said Big A, puffing on a Marlboro contentedly. “It’ll definitely help me to stop.”

I am a non-smoker myself apart from occasionally when I am drunk and want to look cool, but I am uneasy about these new rules. The Village Pub is a private building, owned by the landlord. If he wants to let people smoke then it is should be his business. Nobody ever suggests that he shouldn’t serve pints in non-standard measures, block the fire exits, mix up the chopping boards or hire a twelve-piece folk band to sing in the corner. I don’t see why people should single out smoking.