The cultural power of the United States is strong, indeed it is almost overwhelming. How likely would it be that the rash of smoking bans now popping up all over Europe had been introduced had it not been for the Americans blazing the trail in advance? Europe is not so anti-American as many like to think.
So it is that all parts of the UK will now ban smoking in all public places. It's not the first time I've touched on this issue. In principle, it saddens me that society now looks more and more to the state to ensure its own wellbeing, as if we as individuals were somehow unable to make good decisions for ourselves without some outside force directing our pathetic hands.
But this concern is, unfortunately, outweighed by experience. Pubs and bars in New York are, for the most part, pale reflections of their British counterparts (at least in the eyes of this exiled Brit). But for one thing. Their smoke-free environment is just a joy. And in this, my selfish needs as a punter trump my principled, or not so principled, belief in personal freedom.
Roll on 2007, when British pubs will become even more magical places to spend an evening. But, now that this ban is in place, can we have no more nannying, please? As they say here: Enough already.