Slowly, but surely, the freedom to smoke when and where we like has been withdrawn. The days of watching a movie at the cinema through a haze, requesting a non-smoking seat on a flight, or heading upstairs on the bus for a puff, seem a very long time ago.
Tomorrow, the restrictions tighten further, when Scotland outlaws smoking in vehicles where there are children aged under 18 years. This may seem less revolutionary than the ban on smoking in enclosed public places, but the new legislation has additional significance for Scotland: it is the first time that smoking has been banned in a private space.
Is it possible that smoking could eventually be banned outright? It would require the prohibition of the sale of tobacco to try to stop people lighting up in their own homes, so a blanket ban on smoking still looks unlikely, even when taking into account the introduction of anti-smoking legislation which we could not have imagined just 20 or 30 years ago.
But it is the Scottish Government’s stated intention to achieve a tobacco-free generation by 2034, and this latest milestone marks another stage on that journey.
Enforcing the law will not be easy. As well as catching the driver in the act, a police officer will also have to be confident that the relevant passenger is under the age of 18 before stopping a car. At a glance, that won’t be easy.
The hope, however, is that society recognises that harming the health of children is unacceptable, and the practice becomes taboo. Until such a thing as a tobacco-free generation exists – if indeed that ever happens – smokers should be allowed to enjoy their pleasure provided this does not impact negatively on others.
But it is because people continue to abuse that responsibility that tomorrow’s new legislation is necessary, and welcome.