The Fag-End Of Motoring

As someone who remembers proper quarterlights in cars that enabled smokers (with shame, I admit I was one) to flick their ash out, I am surprised by how anti I have become over the many years of being born again as a non-smoker and generally righteous motorist. So have most people it seems.

Smoking was as much a part of your life with your car as, say, a little loving in the back seat used to be. You’ll notice the use of past tense there. Gentlemen of a certain age will at this point smile wistfully for a moment and remember how important quarterlights used to be. They were an exit point for cigarette ash; they allowed in air in the days before climate control and, crucially, they stopped the car from completely steaming up during moments of passion.

Sadly though we live in a different world now. We have no need to open windows at all except to reach out for a drive-through (I refuse as a matter of principle to type ‘drive-thru’) snack. An innocent canoodle now gets you labelled as a serial dogger. We live in the modern world.

This was brought home to me by the news that over 90% of motorists “now support Government plans to ban smoking in cars with children” (sic) according to a new poll by Motorpoint. I think they probably mean smoking in cars whilst children are present but the image of Dad handing round the snout to all the offspring was too good to resist.

Motorpoint’s survey found an overwhelming 92.8% of 1760 people quizzed agreed with the introduction of the new law that would criminalise smoking in cars containing anyone under the age of 18 from this Autumn.

Under new provisions set out in the Children and Families Act, lighting up in a car with children present will become illegal in October. Parents, carers or anyone else caught smoking in a car with children present, or failing to prevent another person from smoking in a car, can expect to receive a fine of £60 and potentially five points on their licence.

No doubt most of the rest of us will probably agree. Once smoking was a hugely enjoyable and relaxing pastime, especially when motoring, but it has become clear that it also kills us despite the long term obfuscations of the manufacturers. Incidentally, did you know that no fewer than four actors who portrayed the Marlboro Man in adverts died from smoking related diseases? This is not a legacy you want to pass on to your kith and kin.

Whilst banning people from doing the things they want to do on their own time doesn’t sit well with me as a matter of routine, sometimes it makes sense for the greater good. The only question now is who is going to catch these smoking fiends? We hear that police numbers are to reduced even further despite hundreds of missing paedophiles, horror stories about abused children and the like. Who amongst the few remaining boys in blue is going to bother themselves with the odd smoker?
Geoff Maxted / Painting by the artist Albert Ortiz