I came up last night to the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Perth. The atmosphere is convivial, the weather spring-like, and it is good to see so many old friends.
Mind you there is something about smoking that brings out the illiberal, even in the most liberal of Liberals. Of course smoking is bad and of course kids should be protected from smoking until they are old enough to make their own choices. However the motion before the conference was to ban cigarette vending machines- a similar policy has already been proposed by the SNP.
I don't like it.
Smoking where it does no harm to others is not illegal. Personally I am pretty libertarian about most vices: everyone is entitled to go to the devil in their own way. However too many doctors get to see over and over again the evils of smoking, and there is no doubt that the morality of the tobacco companies has often been extremely questionable. The result is some pretty strong emotions about the whole issue of smoking.
The result is that we tend to talk about bans on everything short of smoking itself "to protect the children". Personally I think it goes against the fundamental principle of Liberalism:
"The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. "
However, as always, the anti-smokers have their way...