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Coddington’s Liberty Belle

Coddington’s Liberty Belle

I have to confess to a new bad habit. Upon awakening each morning, before I drag myself out of bed for a run, I have an Anzac biscuit with my cup of tea. Well, I hear you say, what's so wrong with that? But once upon a time it was the norm for people to have a cigarette with their wake-up cup of tea. Now that the bossy-boots in the health sector are turning their guns on fat, who knows how long it will be before a bikkie made with golden syrup and lashings of butter will be taxed, then banned?

So yesterday at the supermarket I bought a special brand of Anzac biscuits - made by a company that supports the RSA by sending a portion of my money on to this organisation. I don't know how much money goes to the returned service men and women out of my two dollars something; that's for a curious reporter to chase up. But it seems fair, to me, to give something back to those who gave their name to this famous New Zealand confectionary.

It's the least we can do after the way the Anzacs (not the biscuit kind) have been treated by the passing of the Smoke Free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Act, ostensibly to combat the "effects" of second hand smoke. Just to remind you, this legislation bans smoking indoors, with a few exemptions. One is private homes, where ironically the greatest amount of second hand smoke can be inhaled.

Two other notable exemptions are prison cells and marae. So you can walk down the street, be attacked and mugged, stagger into a bar to recover but don't try and light up a calming cigarette. Just be happy with the thought that at least your assailant - if caught and convicted - will be able to calm his or her nerves when incarcerated. (If not, I suppose he/she could sue for thousands of dollars in compensation because this week Helen Clark repeatedly refused to cooperate with the Opposition in quickly passing a law to stop this nonsense.)

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And while the rest of the population - bar and café owners, clubs - aren't adult enough to decide for themselves whether they wish to ban smoking on their premises or install air purifiers, Maori on marae are able to make such choices - according to this Government.

But it's the non-exemption of RSAs and other service clubs that really worries me, because I think there are wider issues here. We can send young men like my father off in 1939 to fight a horrible war in the desert so his children and grandchildren get to live in a Western democracy but now he can't go down to the RSA and have a beer and a smoke [hypothetical because Dad died of lung cancer just on 19 years ago].

I thought about this last Anzac Day when, after the Dawn Parade at Ohinemutu with Mum, we went into the club for a cuppa. Near the door sat a very old chappie, medals across his chest, enjoying a rollie with his tot of rum. Under the new law, if my 26-year-old son worked in the club, he would have to ask that returned serviceman to go outside, well away from the door, and have his cigarette. What sort of respect does that indicate from youth to elders? What values does that promote? I would be prouder of my son if he said this law is an ass and I will not obey it.

So that's why I'm drafting an amendment to this Smoke Free legislation which will exempt service clubs - about 330 nationwide with some 250,000 members. Of these clubs, 160 have already accepted responsibility for clean air and installed purifiers.

It's a Members Bill so initially relies on being drawn from the ballot. Then it has to go through the House. I'm confident National will support it, and also NZ First and United Future. The Greens won't (though they'd support it, I suppose, if the cigarettes contained cannabis), and some in Labour might. To those who are undecided, I remind them of these words:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn; At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them, We will remember them.

Yours in liberty, Deborah Coddington.

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