It is been quite a week for lifestyle health scares. Parents are going to get a nanny-style ticking off if their kids are overweight because it causes diabetes in latter life and by 2050 more than half of us will be obese. (Although it’s not our fault apparently.) Meanwhile, it is the affluent who are drinking too much and they/we should stop it tout de suite.
Food and drink to the anti-nanny state critics, if you’ll pardon the apt cliché. And there are plenty of them, some of which I link to, not because I necessarily agree with their criticism of the nanny state, but mostly because they can be an entertaining read.
I’m ambivalent on this issue because, as a society, we can be a bit hypocritical on the subject. On the one hand we don’t think it’s any business of the state to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do and yet we also demand that something should be done about things that outrage us.
Take the alcohol example above. On the one hand our response is: “Good advice, but I’ll make my own choices thankee very much.” On the other, show us a Daily Mail photo of a young binge-drunken lass incapable in the gutter and flashing her knickers and it’s “The government should act and change the licensing laws,” or whatever.
But where I do get uncomfortable is when government introduces laws to enforce lifestyle changes. Making people wear seatbelts is one thing, but using statute to make people stop smoking, drink less, eat better etc is another, especially when it is the individual who bears the brunt of the legislation.
Anyway, what prompted these thoughts was Piccadilly Station in Manchester. It has been a no smoking building for ages, since it was renovated for the 2002 Commonwealth Games I think, and certainly long before Euston etc. Staff and passengers used to slip out a side door to an area where they could have a fag break.
All that has changed. There is now a sign that says it is now illegal to smoke outside the doors and there is a sign spelling this out and pointing to a smoking area by the car park which, with no sense of irony, is behind the bike sheds.
Okay, so there are the secure bike lockers, but talk about teenage iconography.