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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working my way through the early series of The Bill (1984-2010). As well as the luxury of wallowing in drama which is every bit as sharp and well written as it seemed at the time, it also acts as a reminder of how much the world has changed – everything from dial-up telephones to casual racism. One of the most striking things is how much people smoked.

I remember it well. Working next to a chain-smoker (and getting a cough from breathing in the smoke); people smoking in restaurants and on the top decks of buses; people stinking of stale tobacco. In those days, I was classified as a “non-smoker” and, like the rest of my kind, had to put up with the unthinking self-indulgence of the nicotine junkies.

One of the best things that’s happened in my lifetime is the way in which smoking has been driven out of the workplace and the public space – the fact that not smoking is considered normal and you don’t have to explain yourself or exclude yourself or identify yourself with a special label.

I was reminded of this by an email I received this morning. In a small but important legal victory against the City of Nelson, Georgia (which passed an ordinance making it compulsory for heads of households to own a gun*), the constitutional right of US citizens to be non-gun owners has been established.

Let’s take hope from the history of smoking and pray that one day, improbable as it may seem, Americans will live in a society where being a “non-gun owner” is as normal and unremarkable as being a “non-smoker”.

* I did not make this up

Read full story: The right NOT to have a gun (Brady Center).