It was a sunny day yesterday and, on an impulse, I stopped off at a local pub for my first drink of the year in its garden.
The pub was quite busy, and I had to wait to be served, and I only noticed when she passed me my beer that the bargirl had a heavy cold.
That rather spoiled the occasion, as I sat outside wondering how likely it was that I’d catch her cold. In addition, while it was sunny, it was still quite chilly. I wished I’d just gone home. And I wished the bargirl had stayed home too.
And sure enough, this morning I woke with a blocked nose, and a growing sense throughout the day of my head being squeezed in a slowly tightening vice.
A couple of things occurred to me as a result.
Firstly, smoking is banned because secondhand smoke is supposed to pose a threat to other people’s health. But don’t people who are coughing and sneezing in pubs pose a far greater viral health threat to the people around them than any threat from cigarette smoke? There’s a very real threat that if such people go into pubs and sneeze over everyone, they’ll infect them with a cold or flu virus that will have immediate and lasting effects. It might even kill them.
If anything is going to be banned in public places, shouldn’t persistent coughing and sneezing be the very first thing to be banned? Shouldn’t people who do that be required by law to be asked to leave immediately? And shouldn’t people who are coughing and sneezing be required by law to stay home rather than go to work?
I once showed up on the doorstep of some good friends of mine with a full blown cold. As soon as they heard my nasal voice, they threw me straight out. It was a salutary lesson: since then I never go visit anyone if I have cold or flu symptoms. It’s thoughtless and inconsiderate.
In addition I’m reminded of a nursery rhyme,
Ring-a-ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down
It dates from the time of the plague. One of the early symptoms was sneezing: “A-tishoo! A-tishoo!”
If nothing else, it goes to show, once again, that the smoking ban has nothing whatsoever to do with health. If these ‘public health’ experts really were interested in public health, they have begun by wanting to keep highly infectious people in isolation, rather than smokers, who aren’t at all infectious. But they didn’t, and they aren’t.
But I had the further thought that those smokers who stay away from pubs now that smoking is banned in them are probably catching a lot fewer bugs than the people who still frequent them. New studies may show that smoking offers protection against many common infections. And the social exclusion of smokers will prove to have at least one benefit.
Unfortunately, it looks like it’s a benefit that I won’t be seeing.