Firstly, health secretary Andrew Lansley has made a speech in which he said:
it was time to move away from hectoring people to lead healthier lives.
He mentioned obesity and smoking. He described how the Jamie Oliver approach to school meals had led to fewer children eating 'healthy' school meals.
But he also said:
"This is a behaviour change programme we are engaging in"
Sounds to me like Lansley is recognising that bullying and hectoring people doesn't work, but that he still wants to change their behaviour.
I don't think it's any business of the government to change people's behaviour.
Still, it can't be bad news when it upsets Jamie Oliver and Professor Alan Maryon-Davis.
Years ago, when I still had a TV, I watched some of Jamie Oliver's programmes. Nothing wrong with showing people how to cook, I thought. I didn't realise, however, that schoolchildren were going to be forced to eat the stuff, and have 'unhealthy' food confiscated. Somehow or other people like Oliver just can't stop themselves from forcing people to behave in the way they want. My approval for Jamie Oliver and for 'healthy eating' collapsed.
Anyway, I'm surprised by what Lansley said. Six months or so ago I read a few comments by him, and concluded that he was going to continue with state bullying, and wrote off any hope that anything would change. Sounds like he's shifted his position slightly though.
I'm also chewing over the Your Freedom website that the government has set up today, to ask people what laws they'd like amended. If it's like the petition facility that 10, Downing Street had during the Labour years, they'll all be ignored, except those which coincide with government policy.
I found 7 or more suggestions there to repeal or amend the smoking ban. But I didn't get to comment or vote on them, because the website seemed entirely unresponsive. Perhaps it was overloaded, with too many people trying to make suggestions?
The third bit of news today was that a new survey had showed that 3 out of 5 smokers wanted the smoking ban relaxed. Funny that. Wasn't there a survey just a few days back saying that smokers welcomed further restrictions on smoking? Goes to show how different surveys can get different results. This latest survey was commissioned by the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, and this will be used to discredit it, of course.
Several commenters on Taking Liberties expressed astonishment that any smokers at all didn't want the ban relaxed. But I'm not entirely surprised. I know one smoker who was looking forward to the smoking ban because he thought it would help him give up smoking (it didn't). And I'm sure there are plenty of brainwashed smokers who hate themselves for smoking, and think it's a filthy and antisocial habit. And I'm sure there are also plenty of smokers who never go to pubs anyway, and aren't bothered about the ban.
But I was glad to see the tobacco industry stepping up to the plate for once. We are their customers, after all.
All in all, I'm mildly heartened. It's not often that I hear three bits of good news in one day.
Which reminds me to mention that a smoking ban in Bulgaria, introduced at the beginning of June, lasted for just 3 days before being revoked. But then, 40% of Bulgarians are smokers. Too many for smoking bans to be workable.