The smoking ban springs from elite rather than popular concerns. It’s not because the Spanish elite doesn’t like smoking: prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was recently caught smoking on his presidential jet.
Yes, it's another political leader who (whisper it) smokes cigarettes. Another do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do politico to line up alongside Barack Obama and Nick Clegg. Reading the Dubai edition of The Sunday Times yesterday morning as I trailed back to the Sussex Riviera alongside the knackered commuters, I found Nick Clegg's fondness for an occasional tab on the front page. Even if this wasn't already common knowledge (which I thought it was), who cares?
The answer, as Newsnight found when they asked people on the street yesterday, is nobody. But the fact that the media and the political class think that anyone would, should or could be interested rather proves Josie's point about the divide between the norms of the elite and the norms of, er, normal folk.
The elite view is that smoking is finished, denormalised and is now the preserve of a tiny handful of addicts. This fantasy can just about be maintained by people working in the upper echelons of public health. Very few, if any, of their colleagues smoke and it is hard to imagine them consorting with smokers in their spare time. In their neverland of conferencing and seminars, their Walter Mitty fantasies are rarely challenged by the clunking fist of reality.
Such an option is not open to journalists and politicians. Smoking remains very common amongst hacks, and even politicians are sometimes forced to encounter the general public from time to time. For them to believe that the world changed on July 1 2007 requires a level of self-delusion that approaches cognitive dissonance. It is as if by willing society to change, it will do so, even as one's own colleagues, friends and leaders continue to puff away.
And if smoking is imagined to be no longer normal, then it must therefore be remarkable to find that someone is a smoker, right?
Wrong. For all the nudging and denormalising, it is civil society that ultimately decides what is normal behaviour. Outside of the public health bubble, the conduct of a quarter of the population cannot sensibly be viewed deviant, unusual or even interesting. And so it isn't. As has been the case for five centuries, all but a handful of people are profoundly indifferent to smoking. They are also—as it happens—supremely uninterested in whoever is leader of the Liberal Democrats. It should hardly be surprising, then, that the "revelation" that the leader of the Liberal Democrats occasionally smokes was greeted with a jaw-breaking yawn.