Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Smoking Ban

Smugness is abundant amongst the non-smoking, regarding the surprise outcome on banning smoking in most enclosed public places, including pubs, bars, clubs, social clubs and restaurants. Their main argument [sic] is "I don't smoke, so I'm really pleased". But that's not an argument.

Now let me be clear on this one: I fully accept passive smoking isn't something that should be imposed on non-smokers and to that effect smoking had already been banned in public places the general public cannot avoiding visiting.

Nor have I ever had any problems respecting the wishes of non-smokers to not smoke in their vicinity, even if that vicinity is in my own home.

But to extend this ban in such a draconian way to places people can choose to visit or not, is an insult to civility. It smacks of Puritanism and Big Nanny.

There were strong indications that the market was already starting to self-regulate with many establishments adapting to demands from their non-smoking customers for smoke-free dining areas and better segregation between smoking and non-smoking areas, as well as better ventilation. Others have really taken the bull by the horns by making their non-smoking policies part of their marketing strategy, often successfully and why shouldn't they [be successful]?

The previously proposed legal compromise of allowing smoking only in pubs that don't serve food might have been messy but compromises always are and we embrace many of them. At least a compromise held the promise of satisfying more people and antagonising fewer. I have no problem going to a smoke-free restaurant (I do already), even if it means having the occasional fag in the rain. I also know non-smokers that don't mind coming out to the pub with me even if there are plenty of smokers around. Would this compromise solution really have displeased so many non-smokers? Yet this ban doesn't leave anyone any choice but was voted in nonetheless.

"Good, serves all of you right" say the majority of non-smokers, "smoking is bad for your health and even more importantly bad for our health". But there are plenty of human activities that are dangerous not just to the person in question but also those who are in his immediate vicinity.

Drinking is the most striking example. How many people in Britain die as a result of drink-related violence? How many sustain injuries as a result of it? How many still die or suffer injuries resulting from drink-drive accidents? Drink-driving is illegal you say? No, it's not. A person of average BMI can consume up to one and a half pints of beer and be perfectly within the legal limit, albeit slightly pissed (whether he accepts that or not). And on Friday and Saturday nights our town and city centres are morphed into drunken battle zones with scenes we generally speaking tolerate, no matter how abhorrent, in the name of freedom.

And drink-driving or not, a car driven by even by a tee totalling driver produces pollution and rather lots of it too. Should we ban idiots who take their SUVs on half mile trips to Bargain Booze, thereby contributing to traffic congestion, green house gases and the generally unpleasant smell of unburned hydrocarbons in the air? In the name of freedom we don't...

Then there's the argument that the ban will eventually cause Britain to stub out the last ciggy for good. Dream on: antagonising people rarely leads them to conform to anything.

Basically, the ban forces smokers to commit slow suicide within the confines of their homes, now that must be a real health break-through. Only a prissy c*nt like Patricia Hewitt could believe that.

The papers have generally joined the chorus of jubilating self-righteousness.
Apart from one or two perhaps:
A dissenting voice can be heard from the paper's columnist, Simon Jenkins, though. He agrees that the vote was simple and clean. It was also, he says, illiberal. "I dislike smoking as much as I dislike swearing, drunkenness, blaspheming and race-hate cartooning," Jenkins comments, but laws to curb what citizens find unpleasant should be exceptional in an otherwise free society. The Telegraph agrees with him. "The most draconian infringement of personal liberty yet imposed by the government," says the paper in its leader, arguing that the "nanny state" has failed to distinguish what should not be encouraged from what should be banned.

No, all this ban proves is that humans remain forever incapable of collective thinking: here we have basically one part of society giving another part the finger; very civil indeed...

I give it no more than a decade before discussions on making smoking illegal will begin in earnest.

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At 9:36 PM, Blogger Richard said...

Yet another law which will in practice prove to be impossible to enforce properly.

Has the relevant don't phone while you drive law worked ? Like hell it has.

Where I live, the police can not even cope with the flagrant flouting of 'bus only' lanes. Nor for that matter illegal parking.

Perhaps even more to the point, if the police truly wanted to enforce ALL laws, the ruddy law courts couldn't cope.

Incidentally, did you hear that the members bar in the Commons is to be exempt from this law ?

Sort of saying "stuff you" to the staff serving their 'special-superior' selves, as far as the health risk is concerned, eh?

Y'know, sometimes I honestly do not know whether to laugh or cry.

At 1:17 AM, Anonymous jultra said...

It's astonishing to me that not one of these votes this week has gone the right way. This country is in some real peril.

As for a smoking ban, it's ridiculous and the thing is it shows how a country that so valued it's basic freedoms can be pushed backwards into a kind of Stalinist government-worshipping box. That is incredible to me, and I don't know what planet these MPs think they are living on.

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Thanks both of you for your comments. This country excells at least at one thing: legislative diarrhea...


"Incidentally, did you hear that the members bar in the Commons is to be exempt from this law ?"

I heard this too and if it is true it should cause an outrage!!How could they justify this when even Private Clubs need to ban smoking?


Welcome back!

"It's astonishing to me that not one of these votes this week has gone the right way. This country is in some real peril."

Sorry, but I told you so: this HMG ain't finished yet. With Cameblairon seeming increasingly to find his feet our Project PukeLabor will start closing ranks again, you see...

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous graniab said...

I visit here all the time but have not as yet commented. In San Francisco we have had a ban on smoking in public places for a couple of years at least. Although not a smoker I thought that banning smoking in pubs was excessive - after all people like to go to pubs to drink and smoke. Most establishments (especially Irish bars) have now built patios outdoors to facilitate smokers. Although it might be a little cold for this in the UK. However since this ban I have noticed that more and more young people seem to be smoking than before. Could it be that since the crack down on smoking we have made cigarettes more exotic?

At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Phil said...

I followed a link to this blog from a rant that Gert left as a comment about the smoking ban on another blog.

I wanted to see why he was so angry as the personal nature of his post struck me as a little uncalled for.

You might be interested to know that the members bar is exempt from the ban because it is in a Royal Palace but they will ban smoking there anyway in line with the rest of the country.

As for my opinion on the ban, I support it. Yes, I am non-smoker so fell free to lump me in with those you regard as self-righteous and puritanical as you please.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Gert said...


I have no problem with increasingly, even totally, protecting non-smokers from passive smoking but that objective could have been achieved in a much fairer but equally effective way. As per usual the majority of people can't prioritise and instead adopt a knee-jerk reaction.


Smoking in the Houses of Parliament is apparently confined now to one small area. It's been banned from all bars e.g. some time ago.


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