NO-ONE was more grateful than this writer when the ban on smoking in public places came in.

The fact that there was ever some imaginary "debate" on whether or not passive smoking was harmful was down to the intransigence of Big Tobacco and their slippery lawyers.

Several times between my late teens and into my thirties I was "rushed", as journalists are wont to put it, to the casualty department as my asthma became critical. Anyone who hasn't had, fully conscious, the big syringe of adrenalin straight into a vein on the back of the hand hasn't lived, or rather, hasn't nearly died.

The cause was always a smoky atmosphere, whether in a pub or at a party. Indeed, my early journalistic days were spent in a newsroom where communication was through a fug of blue smoke which included pipes and cigars.

In my later years better control of asthma meant fewer crises, but the discomfort continued in pubs and parties. Even bus stops, for goodness sake.

When pubs were made smoke free in 2006 the effect on many of us was liberating. A night out no longer meant nipping out for a puff of a blue inhaler.

So why am I so uneasy about the proposal by the Welsh Government to treat e-cigarettes in exactly the same way as tobacco?

For reasons of both practicality and principle. Smoking kills. No-one doubts that anymore except the cartel and its lawyers fighting old legal battles. Passive smoking is harmful. That, surely, is no longer in doubt.

So we are edging towards a defensible and comprehensive philosophical position where well-informed adults are permitted to engage in behaviour which may be harmful to themselves, provided they know the risks, provided they do not harm others.

Where on earth does banning vaping fit into this? Treating the use of e-cigarettes in the same way you treat actual cigarettes is about as stupid a public health position as you could ever reach. The key facts are: smoking is shockingly bad for you, and quite bad for those around you; vaping is less bad for you, and harmless to those around you.

If, as the evidence suggests, vaping is helping people get off actual fags why not support them? Smokers, who feel themselves a beleaguered group, resent having to smoke outside licensed establishments. But many of us resent having to pass through a cloud of smoke at the door, while feeling no great discomfort from those vaping.

My own politics are part social democrat, part libertarian, and the question is always, why is this law necessary? For me the key is third-party harm. Folk should have the right, if they have been given all the facts, to go to hell in their own way.

But no-one should have the right to hurt anyone else along the way. That is why the ban on smoking in public places was the right decision to make. It is also, in my view, why the ban on smoking in cars with children present accords with the principle of no harm to third parties.

And in the same way, it is why we have to agree that limits on the drink-drive limit are necessary. Again, it is about third-party harm, about ways of saying to wider society that harming fellow citizens is wrong.

It is also why the some recent moves by Police Scotland have worried me. Before this centralisation Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh had their different ways of dealing with prostitution. Now we have the Glasgow way for the whole country. But Holyrood didn't pass any new laws. How did this happen?

A shop in Aberdeen is raided and shut down for selling legal highs as part of a new crackdown by Police Scotland. I carry no candle for these substances but I would have thought the key word was legal.

I don't get to vote for who is chief constable, and I struggle to understand why he is in effect changing our laws, and why our MSPs are letting him do this. Our tribunes need to work out what laws can achieve, which ones they should pass, and what swathes of our lives they should avoid meddling in.

Anything that involves potential harm to third parties should be subject to the rule of law. Anything else should be a matter for health education, which should inform citizens of risks and then leave them to work out their own route to salvation, or to hell in a handcart.