A tourist beach, on an island in Thailand, three years ago. Paradise: warm water, clear sky, a flattering exchange rate. (I'm not just mentioning it here to make the trip deductible.)
My vivid memory is this: cigarette butts, all over the sand. Used filters, lots and lots, discarded precisely where each butt was used for its last drag. I bet if you collected DNA from cigarette butts, you could geo-track each smoker's movements more accurately than Google maps.
The smokers don't seem to mind. They look around the beach, and see reminders of conquests.
I don't like butts, I cannot lie.
So I like the idea that smoking should be banned on beaches. I'm not talking about the health of smokers: their choice, etc. And now that smoking's not an indoor problem, I'm not even that fundamentalist about not being smoked around.
To me, the problem isn't the smoke: it's the butt. Smokers, in my experience, don't take ashtrays to the beach. Nor is the smoker mindset known for impulse control. So until filters are banned, it only makes sense to ban smoking on the beach. (If a smoker wants a filter, they should have to buy one of those pipe devices, like they're a 1950's actress in long satin gloves.)
I welcome smoking being banned in the outdoor areas of bars and restaurants. At least then I won't have to freeze just because someone I know needs to smoke. And put it this way: I bet Adam and Eve didn't smoke in the garden of Eden.
Is outdoor non-smoking the relentless goose-step of the nanny state? Well, maybe, but I think there's a lot to be said for nannies. Imagine if the McCanns had hired one.
Progress happens in steps, and even the indoor ban on smoking was met with all sorts of resistance. Now it makes sense.
Back in Roman times, nobody thought there was anything wrong with gladiators fighting to the death for family entertainment. Nobody was campaigning for gladiators' rights. From bear-baiting to bullfighting, animal cruelty used to be its own sector of showbiz. Then people started talking about animal rights.
Until last week, sexual harassment was A-OK, something to be waved away, but not mentioned, like second-hand smoke. And step by step, the nanny state encroached.
Well, there's the bell. It's closing time for smokers outside cafes and on the beach. Smoking isn't all Don Draper, deep in thought, martini in hand. Other people matter. (Who knows, maybe in future, we'll look back on this as a step in advancing cigarettes' rights.)
In the opposite direction, who's making the decision to prosecute the providers of medicinal cannabis?
The best explanation I can think of, is that police prosecutors are staging advocacy theatre, to demonstrate how absurd it is that cannabis is illegal. What a brilliant campaign.
Or, have all other crimes been solved, and therefore, these cases need to be brought, for fear that courtrooms and judges will grow dusty from disuse?
Do the police think medicinal cannabis is a gateway drug? Are the cops concerned that sufferers of cancer or multiple sclerosis, will develop a taste for even stronger illnesses?
What gateway are we talking about: Stage Four? After medicinal cannabis, the gateway tends to be Heaven. They're already in hell. Who could begrudge them some alleviation of discomfort?
Has there been a spate of violent dairy hold-ups, or liquor store robberies, committed by gangs of patients, all with various inoperable conditions, from epilepsy upwards, all jacked up on medicinal cannabis? Note to police: cancer patients may be skinheads, but a different kind.
The government has been dragging the chain on medicinal cannabis. No doubt there are powerful industries threatened by cannabis in general: alcohol, cigarettes. And medicinal cannabis products, in the fancy pharmaceutical packaging, with the fancy FDA price, are in turn threatened by cannabis being a plant (some would say weed) that can be grown at home.
But to prosecute a mother, Rose Renton, who was trying to help her son, who died?
There's a point where tone-deaf crosses the line to being a form of torture.
We know the police could be doing something else with their time. They complain about their resources. But in this case, the police rearranged their to-do list, to deliberately get on the wrong side of history.