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Phoenix Feathers is updated on Tuesday and Friday

Before I start off on a big long thought (no, it doesn't happen very often. My brain cell is chained to the thesis at the moment), Looking for the Sun 5, subtitled 'The Gravity of Ideas', is finished.

There was an article in the New Scientist today (not available online, alas) talking about the horrendous effects of tobacco upon pretty much every system in your body. It also mentioned the effective ways of prevention - stopping advertising (*all* advertising), imposing bans on smoking in public places, and raising prices. This seems to make sense to me - I'm not a smoker and have no intention of becoming one, and although I shouldn't have a problem with people poisoning themselves in their own space, I dislike people doing it around me - even in the open air. So, I have no problem with these measures being imposed to 'encourage' people to quit something which is known to be harmful (and costs the NHS a fortune, and yes, I know the taxes help pay for that) and to prevent people starting. Of course, it doesn't affect me in any major way.

The related issue is that of petrol costs. Apparently there are some places in England - and not remote places either - where petrol costs more than a pound per litre (this is expensive, I'm told ;). People have grumbled about it. There are rumours about another petrol strike. And even if you don't drive, it will affect you - things that are brought by lorries to local shops will cost more if the petrol is more expensive , for example. And yet the pollution produced by cars is bad for the atmosphere and bad for us, in multiple ways (asthma, smog, etc). I found that, like with the smoking prevention measures, I don't really mind petrol prices going up, especially if it makes lazy people like me not take the car on unessential trips. Now I know that for some people, the cost becomes prohibitive to the point of not being able to own a car - and thus, possibly, losing a job - but on the whole, I think those two viewpoints are roughly consistent.

Are they consistent? Is it acceptable to enforce measures that dissuade people from smoking - an activity that, while incredibly harmful, is not illegal (a bit like some extreme sports, maybe ;) ? Is it acceptable to enforce measures that dissuade people from using cars - an activity that, while damaging to both people and environment, is not illegal and may even be a bit necessary, in some cases? Should the government just give up and let us all smoke/drive ourselves into oblivion? And if anyone approves of the one measure but not the other - why/why not?

- Sun Kitten, 4th June '04

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