Those amongst you who have been around for a very long time may well remember that there was once a brand of cigarettes called ‘Strand’. The advertisements had the strap-line, “You’re never alone with a Strand”. The standing joke was that total strangers would come up and try and mump a snout from you. Presumably if you happened to be in the City of Westminster, on the Strand, with a Strand, you may have been absolutely mobbed by people, possibly politicians. The point was, smoking made you popular.
Smoking was once considered glamorous too. We knew this because American tobacco giants told us so. If you smoked you had charm and personality and instantly attracted the opposite sex. It was also a health-giving activity. American advertising showed ridiculously good looking specimens smoking, outdoors, with rugged five o’clock shadows and bulging biceps; and that was just the women.
It seems amazing now that the public were so naïve as to believe all this, even to the point of smoking in cars with children in the back seat. It’s incredible that the general public didn’t catch onto the thought that maybe smoking a dangerous drug in a confined space with kids gulping down the noxious output was a bad thing to do. Parents basically helped children to eventually exchange the tin box for a wooden one.
We know better now, as indeed does parliament. Our grand collection of free-lunching, expenses gathering law-makers last year made smoking in cars with under 18s present in the vehicle illegal. Having done that they then presumably went off for some more free lunch believing that once again they had saved us from ourselves.
Sadly, they didn’t quite think it through. It has been reported that the car smoking ban is ‘not being enforced’ in the South East of England (England being the part of Great Britain plc that doesn’t get to handle its own affairs). Drivers in the South East are escaping penalties under the new law because there is nobody out there to enforce it.
No driver was stopped, cautioned, fined or arrested in the first three months according to Freedom of Information figures from Surrey and Sussex. The Kent cops said they were following guidelines that only warnings should be issued but did not have any records to show for it. At a guess I would say this probably applies to the whole country.
The RAC said it was not surprised drivers had not been penalised. A spokesman avered, “This isn’t a debate about the law itself – it’s about the ability of our police forces to actually enforce some of these new motoring laws when their officer numbers are down 23%”.
The fact is there just aren’t enough police officers to enforce those proudly debated laws against undertaking, middle-lane hogging, mobile phone using and smoking in cars when kids are present. Needless to say the usual trite evasions are trotted out. For example, Sussex Police are reported as saying that the legislation was still only a few months old and police had been advised by the Department of Health to take a non-confrontational and educational approach while members of the public became more aware of it. “Should a police officer come across it I am confident that they will deal with it as they see fit in the circumstances,” said one top cop.
I don’t believe that. We know that – at a time when our country is in great peril from terrorism – there are not nearly enough police to service our needs. The ones that are left are run off their feet. You can’t blame the rank and file for this; the blame lies squarely at the pen-pushing top where budget is king.
There isn’t enough money, we are told, when in fact there could be. Call me simplistic, but it seems to me that if Google coughed up the full outstanding wedge, instead of tipping us like waiters, that might help. It is also reported that at least six of the top ten companies in the UK paid no Corporation Tax AT ALL in 2014. Instead of hunkering up to these people for some sort of bizarre mutual, big business love-in perhaps it is time the Westminster shower, whose wages we pay, got off their over-stuffed arses and demanded that the Chancellor start trousering some of this outstanding cash. In turn, we might then have enough to pay for a proper police service that could actually enforce the law of the land. Then, in turn again, we might save a few kids from being poisoned by their brainless parents. Rant over. For now. Geoff Maxted