I can’t help but feel deeply unsettled by the revelation that thousands of council workers across the UK are to be trained in order to “police” the smoking ban in bars, shops and restaurants.

As a confirmed non-smoker all my life I have no love of tobacco. But I disapprove of this draconian ban.

I am concerned about passive smoking, but equally I’m concerned that freedom of choice and expression is being almost completely eroded in this case.

The Government has prospered from the revenue imposed on tobacco for long enough, to now adopt such a po-faced attitude is deeply hypocritical.

But what I do find particularly alarming about this latest development is where such “policing” could eventually lead us.

The Government has provided local authorities with £29.5m to pay for staff, who will be able to give on-the-spot £50 fines to individuals and take court action against premises. Council employees will also be able to enter premises under-cover, interact with drinkers, shoppers and restaurant-goers and will even be able to photograph and film people (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6346435.stm).

It is nothing short of a licence to snoop.

Others have protested about the emergence of a “nanny state” and the bulk of their arguments have largely fallen flat as far as I’m concerned. But this is a prime example of just such a cosseted, restrictive and authoritarian society.

It is also a massive waste of money and resources at a time when pavements are crumbling, street lights are not working and services like waste disposal in some parts of the country are in a state of utter chaos.

But let’s ignore those fundamental problems for now, shall we?

Let’s spend money that could be channeled elsewhere on giving a few people the opportunity to act as enforcers and voyeurs instead.

Once again, our decision-makers seem to have got their priorities badly wrong.

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