Thousands of anti-smoking enforcers are being trained by police to enforce Britains upcoming smoking ban, the BBC reported this week, with agents being authorised to operate undercover and to secretly photograph and film smokers.
Westminster council is starting with 40 anti-smoke officials wholl be able to issue individuals caught smoking in clubs and bars with £50 on the spot fines while in Liverpool 200 staff will be trawling the city when the ban begins in July.
"We want to make our presence felt from the start, said Liverpool City Council official Andy Hull, And while we will probably just issue warnings on the first day, we won't be afraid of making an example of people or businesses if they try to make a stand."
The impending ban has attracted little opposition beyond libertarian opinion formers such as Simon Jenkins who attacked the law last year, when MPs formally approved it.
How long before the inspector is knocking at every house door and sniffing the air? Only a hair's breadth separates the nanny state from the police state, the former Times editor warned in the Guardian last year.
Many people will live a little later through stopping smoking. This will doubtless be used to justify extending state control yet further into food, travel, leisure and child-rearing, he predicted.
Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf was equally alarmed suspecting the motives behind the ban rather than its much-vaunted merits.
As a life-long non-smoker, I wonder what is driving these assaults. Is it an attempt to improve public health, as campaigners suggest? he asked in a column headlined the absurdities of a ban on smoking.
Or do smokers serve a need every society seems to have for a group of pariahs that all right-thinking people can condemn? I strongly suspect the latter, he said.
Scottish newspaper the Scotsman was also cautious when authorities introduced similar legislation in 2006.
The smoking ban may save lives, but they will be lived in a climate of reduced freedom, the newspaper pointed out last January,
The delicate equilibrium between life and liberty must always be respected by legislators. Otherwise we may find that politicians' aspirations to make us all live longer end in an unhappy halfway house where, although we do not, it oppressively feels as if we do, the paper said.
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)