John Reid, the Health Secretary, yesterday dismissed the demand for a blanket ban on smoking as "an obsession of the learned middle class".
Speaking at a Labour Party event, he said he was reluctant to use compulsion to outlaw something that was a source of pleasure, particularly to working class people.
Mr Reid, a former chain smoker who has now given up, said it was best to provide people with information and let them decide what to do for themselves.
A NuLabour apparachick advocating that people think for themselves rather than being legislated into "thinking" the right way? This man is so far off message that he can't possibly last for long!
"You have to be very careful that you do not end up saying to a 75-year-old that you will be better off if you are not going to be able to go to a working men's club to smoke," Mr Reid told the group.
"I just don't think the worst problem in our sink estates by any means is smoking. But it's an obsession of the learned middle class."
In a reference to New York's smoking ban, he said: "In New York it's very unhealthy to smoke. No one is allowed to do it. But everyone is allowed to have two machineguns."
One participant objected quite strongly, telling Mr Reid her mother died of lung cancer.
Would this lady like a medal? Who cares if her mother died of lung cancer, seriously? If, as she implies, her mother died through smoking, then her mother made that choice: it was an informed choice. Because, really, how can sucking hot smoke into your lungs seriously be good for you in any way? It's a fucking stupid habit, but then so is homeopathy.
If this woman's mother died of lung cancer, but did not smoke, then prove that it was second-hand smoke as opposed to *yawn* car exhaust fumes that triggered the cancerous mutation.
I am impressed with Reid though. He's making an arse of the NHS (ha! As if anyone believes that he has any say in the running of the behemoth at all!) but I like his policy of letting people decide for themselves. That is, after all, the essence of freedom...