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Smoking’s no different: mind that (power) gap


2:25 pm - November 7th 2007

by DonaldS    


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Blackpool, Blackpool, everywhere, nor any drop to… This time, drinking over here, Hamish Howitt, pub landlord:

“I’m not pro-smoking just pro-freedom. “Having a pint and a cigarette in a pub is one of the last great enjoyments left for the working classes. “

You have to like the cut of his mainsail. It makes you wish he was right, but alas he’s 180 degrees wrong. Calls to liberty – working class or otherwise – are spurious on this one. As much as hard hats on a building site, or breathing apparatus down a mine, smoking legislation is about workplace safety. I suppose any staff who object to a pub pea souper could always work somewhere else. Your average Victorian mill owner would have agreed.

Tell that to the student working off his overdraft, or the single mum who needs employment that fits round school hours, or the 50-something asthmatic roadie who’s plain forgotten how to do anything else. Or any number of other constructs a hack-philosopher might invent. Can any of these make a meaningful choice, a free weighing of the alternatives, before selecting their place and conditions of work? That we don’t always have a real choice is a cornerstone of left thought; it’s all about the power, stupid. Asking: “Who has it; who doesn’t; how does that change things” is what separates liberals from the ‘I want, I want, it’s soooo unfair’ breed of prep-school ‘libertarians’. (That’s a misnomer, of course; these chaps are nowhere near as concerned about liberty as they are about property.)

In any case, there’s nothing special about private property that gets us off our obligations to each other. This is no more a case of liberty at threat than are the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. You’re not allowed to poison your staff, not even minimum-wage workers. There’s an easy, costless way to internalize your externality: get off your backside, take three paces to the door and smoke outside. You could use the exercise.

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About the author
Donald is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is a travel journalist, editor, author and copywriter. In the wake of the 2005 General Election, he co-founded and edited The Sharpener for a couple of years. He writes the occasional book or newspaper article for money, as well as sharing his thoughts here for free. Also at: hackneye donaldstrachan.com
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Reader comments


Erm, when is an actual liberal going to contribute to this conspiracy?

>>>I suppose any staff who object to a pub pea souper could always work somewhere else. Your average Victorian mill owner would have agreed.>>>

This is rubbish for two reasons:

1) This doesn’t deal with a case where all the workers might happily consent to working in a smoking bar but presently cannot. It’s legal paternalism. Might have a number of benefits, I dare say, but expanding liberty isn’t one of them.

2) I dare say ‘mill owners’ would have said this but where, pray tell, in Britain today is there a town dominated by one pub as the main employer as mines or mills did in small towns throughout Britain in the 19th century?

I simply don’t believe that the working conditions of bar staff was the controlling factor in the decision to pass the smoking bans north and south of the Border. Yes, they were used as justification in some quarters, but the overarching theme is and has always been to ‘denormalise’ smoking and make it less socially acceptable. Banning smoking in public settings is a crucial part of that process.

Example: in Scotland you are now forbidden from smoking in any ‘substantially enclosed public place’, even when that is a football stadium with a roof some hundred feet above your head. Where’s the ‘safety to staff’ angle in that? Yet the Scottish Executive refused all representations to the contrary and certain stadia are now smoke-free, depending on their design.

I’m sure that the health and safety of staff in pubs was a factor but you’ll not convince me that the anti-smoking lobby were solely or even primarily motivated by this.

As for the comment that “these chaps are nowhere near as concerned about liberty as they are about property”, that’s an interesting throwaway line that might repay a longer discussion some time – but speaking as a libertarian (or at least someone with libertarian tendencies) it’s not true. Certainly I believe in the right to private property and a framework of laws to protect that right – but opposition to the smoking ban isn’t, fundamentally, about property, it is about liberty – in my case, the liberty of others, not myself (I am a non-smoker and asthmatic).

3. Paul Linford

I’m afraid I’m one of the “smoking is healthier than fascism” mob.

I can firmly get behind the ban of smoking in pubs. I smoke, but understand that when I remove the choice of other people in an enclosed area, then my ‘freedom’ has to restricted to an extent. I can’t agree with Shuggy’s:

— ‘This doesn’t deal with a case where all the workers might happily consent to working in a smoking bar but presently cannot.’

As it only encapsulates a snapshot of time. It presupposes that staff then have to consent in the future, and places real pressure on them to do so.

However, I’ll also agree with Mr E, in that ‘enclosed’ is way too open for interpretation. Where I work, we had the ‘sides’ removed from our outdoor smoking shelters, in order to prevent them from breaking legislation. That’s nonsense.

Finally, I agree that not all private property can have total freedom, but when it comes to *my* private property, nobody is going to tell me not to smoke. Nobody is going to prevent me from lighting up at home or in my car. Smoking whilst a vehicle is moving is a whole different kettle of fish, but I’d see having people banned from adjusting their car stereo whilst driving first.

It’s legal paternalism. Might have a number of benefits, I dare say, but expanding liberty isn’t one of them.

I find this too simplistic a view.

What we’re talking about here is rights… and sometimes the rights overlap. So you want to maintain your right to smoke but I want the right not to have to inhale your harmful smoke. Who wins? If smoking did not have a negative externality (economics speak) then I wouldn’t care but it does and I hate the damn stench.

So the first issue is about employees who do want the freedom not to have to smell the smoke and not jeapordise their employment.

Yes it IS legal paternalism, but as Donald points out, the law should protect the less powerful from the more powerful especially if it’s in their health interests.

Indeed. It’s probably worth pointing out that the German government of the 1930s was the first in the world to invoke a state wide smoking ban, also justified on the basis that it would “protect” public health, and look what heppened to them……
Leaving the unpleasant, social engineering overtones at aside, the smoking ban is, I think, a nasty piece of old fashioned class warfare, if you ignore the intent and concentrate on the effect, it’s fairly obvious that the pubs which will struggle and eventually probably close are the smaller, local ones, that don’t sell food, don’t have a huge amount of passing trade, and are not part of what nu lab calls “the night time economy”. They have a particular demographic, mostly male, low to middle income, middle aged and to whom “going to the pub” is their only, or primary social activity. In other words pubs that serve old fashioned, working class, urban communities.
Contrast this with the types of pubs that will be largely unaffected, or will prosper. They are mostly patronised by a younger, trendier clientele, situated in town centres or fashionable post codes, selling food and designer drinks to affluent 20 and 30 somethings and the after work suits.
I think there is room in the market for both, and grew up having that choice, this piece of legislation has, however, destroyed the traditional pub, denying me that choice. If there really was a big demand for non-smoking pubs, then legislation would have been unnecesary as the market would have supplied them, thus providing the choice that non-smokers claim they were denied (despite visting pubs having never been compulsory).
Pubs are effectively being being forced to turn into restaurants or close, leaving the clientele of the traditional pub with no where to go. The ban was not really about banning smoking, but banning the old fashioned pub, and removing their clientele from the public domain. It’s a vile piece of legislation, one in a string of attacks on working class lifestyles which have alienated many traditional labour voters.

You’re making out there’s no conflict here, Shuggy. Of course this is about liberty – you’re only allowed to poison me under pretty strenuous circumstances. 3 solutions:

1. I let you poison me, or by proxy I let my boss poison me. Unsatisfactory.
2. I take a risk, leave work and try to find a job elsewhere. Possible but unsatisfactory.
3. You take 4 paces out the door and indulge yourself at liberty. Also unsatisfactory, but of the 3 much the least strenuous.

You’ve no way of judging what ‘consent’ means in such an unequal arena as the employment relationship. You know that.

It’s not about ‘legal paternalism’; for once, a NuLab law provides a short-hand, if imperfect, solution to our little liberal puzzle.

And, Mr E, motives don’t really matter here (though I dare say you’re right). The Man doesn’t pay me because he loves my kids; but I don’t turn down the cash.

I think people should be allowed to smoke where they want, and when they want, and it should be defined as a right and a freedom.

Then again, I also think smokers should pay three times the National Insurance premium, like they do with Life Insurance.

It’s not smokers in a pub I worry about, its the queue of smoking related ailments ahead of me in the GP and hospital queue.

My railway station is now a non-smoking place, and it’s open air!

As a non-smoker who actually quite likes the smell, I found to my surprise that I also liked smoke-free pubs. But isn’t it possible to strike a balance so that some pubs could be allowed to have smoking if employees are happy with it (I realise it’s not straightforward to ensure this, but I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of impossibility) so that visitors and employees can make their own choices about which to frequent / work for?

Yes, it’s good to protect people against harmful smoke, but legal paternalism in employment is applied inconsistently: we allow people to work nightshifts or to do manual labour, which can also be harmful, but we’re not going to ban either of them. And I suspect that, in general, those who could be described as less powerful are more likely to do these jobs.

I agree with #2 that the desire to make smoking socially unacceptable is at least partly driving the ban. While this isn’t a particularly urgent or noble cause to rally round, I guess that’s not the point.

As much as hard hats on a building site, or breathing apparatus down a mine, smoking legislation is about workplace safety.

Absolute nonsense. It’s about social engineering and setting up more and more restrictions on our behaviour. I suppose next you’ll be telling us that detention without trial is about keeping us safe from terrorists! I’m afraid I can’t see much evidence of the liberal part of this conspiracy. Why not have 25% of pubs for smokers to reflect the percentage of the population who do smoke? How about not legislating against perfectly legal though perhaps unpleasant habits? How about realising that it’s a bloody pub and it’s where people go to unwind and indulge in substances that are not necessarily good for them but that they enjoy nonetheless? The only good thing about this ban is it’s stopped me drinking.

Did you know that people who suffer from seasickness find working on the ferries unbearable? Don’t you think that breaches their employment rights?

11. Stephen Rouse

The whole focus of the anti-smoking drive has been in the wrong place. The Government has concentrated its energies on hounding the poor smokers, who are the victims here, and will have plenty of other problems to contend with in later life. There is absolutely no reason why we could not have designated smokers’ pubs – instead of forcing the poor blighters to drink out in the cold. Both smokers and employees then know they will be walking into a blue fug when they step through the door.
The true villains are the tobacco companies, who have lied, covered up and equivocated about the consequences of their products for decades, using “freedom to choose” as a smokescreen (sorry). Their punishment? They’re not allowed to sponsor the snooker any more. Banning from public buildings anyone who has ever derived profit from this, the real conspiracy against the working classes – that I could live with.

I think DonaldS has got it spot on. Comparisons with the smoking ban a fascism or pre-war Germany are so fatuous they are unbelievable. Presumably if the Germans had introduced 20mph speed limits near schools in 1933 we wouldn’t oppose it now on that basis, would we? As for preferring smoking to fascism, I would prefer the re-introduction of capital punishment to fascism… does that mean capital punishment is a good idea? Love a bloody duck!

Ian – Smokers already pay more tax than you (as in a smoker with an identical income & lifestyle to you is already paying more tax than you) The whole NHS costs about the same to run as the total revenue collected from tobacco tax, so you could argue that non-smokers are actually getting a free ride on the NHS at the moment.
Why do you think all these new green taxes are necessary, to plug the revenue gap when that revenue declines maybe ?

Bob – You’ve missed the point. Repressive regimes always present some sort of “improvement to society” as justification for illiberal social engineering. You cite some rather obvious reductio ad absurdum examples, but I have a feeling smoking is not the only thing that is planned to be made socially unnaceptable. How many missives have come recently from government sponsored research into healthy eating, obesity, binge drinking and other lifestyle issues ? One of the ideas being pressed by the BMA (who put their full weight behind the smoking ban) is for pubs to refuse anyone more than three drinks. Sounds barmy, but so would the idea of a non-smoking pub 20 years ago.
Exactly how many restrictions, and how much micro management is acceptable to protect health, reduce risk or improve society, who benefits and who pays ?
I don’t know about you but I don’t elect politicians to tell me what, where and when I can eat/drink/smoke.

Mr E’s comment sets the tone for the debate.

I simply don’t believe that the working conditions of bar staff was the controlling factor in the decision to pass the smoking bans north and south of the Border. Yes, they were used as justification in some quarters

See the problem? Mr E simply doesn’t believe the Left’s motives on this one. Antipholus and Matt share his cynicism. I’m no legislator, but I supported the policy in Scotland and then in England for precisely the reasons they discounts. How to convince them that I’m genuine?

Or, is there no need? Regardless of the cynicism, I think that the smoking regulations played well with most people, who saw that the government was genuine. (Compare the lack of infringement on the new regulations, with the flaunting of the hunting ban). I mentioned rhetoric earlier today, and smoking in public places is one instance where public opinion is already quite progressive, I feel.

Matt, I doubt smokers pay the equivalent of 3x NI rate through fag tax, and this increase would also encompass all lifestyle related illnesses; booze, weight through overeating, not just smoking.

Regarding “costs”, there are other considerations, the NHS has absolute resources and these are being taken up by lifestyle illnesses.

The idea is not to punish through taxation, but reduce impact on health services. The problem is a kind of “tragedy of the commons”, people smoke, overeat and drink more precisely because they always know the NHS is there and someone else is paying for it.

Repressive regimes always present some sort of “improvement to society” as justification for illiberal social engineering

We saw the same arguments during the debate on seat belts and speed limits too, as Bob Piper points out.

And I don’t know why people bring class into everything. Is every piece of legislation a attack on the working classes?

<<>>

I have had this sort of argument with uber lefties before, (Neil Harding for instance), but I never expected to see it played out by people describing themselves in any way as Libertarian. The ban is clearly authoritarian, clear as the nose on your face.

By all means argue for this restriction on freedom on tenuous health or ‘don’t like the smell’ grounds but don’t pretend that this ban has in any way expanded freedom.

Before the ban, you had a choice of going to / working in a smoking or non smoking environment. We no longer have that choice. That is the freedom that has been taken from us.

If you’re going to take a freedom away and say that it was done to make you free then you may as well join the Labour party.

Apart from a generalised mistrust of politicians, the reason they aren’t believed is that protecting health is a long term aim. The damage from smoking is inflicted in the 20s-30s, but the negative health impact (lung cancer, heart attacks and the rest) do not usually manifest until the 40s-60s. Governments don’t generally take actions for which the supposed benefits accrue long after they’ve left office. The same logic is, I suspect, responsible for much of the cynicism around “climate change”.

but I never expected to see it played out by people describing themselves in any way as Libertarian.

Our aim is not to define ourselves, but rather put forward ideas and discuss policies with the view of discussing what is the most progressive view. It doesn’t mean we are all obsessed with libertarianism. It depends on the context.

In this context, I’ve been VERY pleased with the ban on smoking in enclosed spaces because it means I don’t have to come back after a night out at a club or bar stinking of smoke and having to deal with other people’s smoke. What about my liberties as a non-smoker?

Before the ban, you had a choice of going to / working in a smoking or non smoking environment. We no longer have that choice

I think that strikes to the nub of the argument. The framers of the policy, and supporters of it such as myself, contend that that freedom did not exist, in any meaningful sense. In the reality there was one choice – work in a smoky place, and recieve no extra renumeration for doing so. Had the power structures been different – more compensation to workers; or more compensations from drug companies, say – we might have had a different view.

Also, surely its a ban on smoking in any workplace, not just pubs.

but before the ban where were the non-smoking pubs?

a small non-smoking area which was no more ventilated than the rest of the pub and the ‘no smoking’ rule not enforced meant there was no real non-smoking choice.

Why is the right to smoke more worthy than the right to clean air.

I support your right to smoke, drink, be fat etc. but not to force them onto me.

If there had been a compromise law passed I would have supported that of course, but none was offered.

It seems that the main objection to the libertarian viewpoints here is based on the assumption that there is/will be an overlap of rights. That need not be the case. Certainly, the rights of the non-smoker should take the upper hand if he occupies a space that, should a smoker also be present, would leave him vulnerable to the effects of that smoker’s actions. However, if said smoker frequents a local pub that clearly and specifically describes itself as a smoker’s, pub run by smokers for smokers, in a space far removed from non-smokers (or children), I fail to see where any overlap of rights can occur. Let them get on with it, I say.

At first, I wasn’t to bothered about the whole smoking-ban madness that has been sweeping the US and Britain (I’m not a smoker). However, there are already signs that there is more to this than simply trying to make it difficult for people to smoke tobacco. Already, we’re starting to see a similar level of government intrusion regarding our waste
sizes. Next, it will probably be our cholesterol levels. Then our drinking behaviour. The smoking ban thing seems to be setting a worrisome precedent, and the slope has clearly been greased for more “father-knows-best” policies from the Big G.

The same Big G that doesn’t think twice about littering the lands of the earth with depleted uranium whenever it feels vaguely threatened. Go figure!

{ahem} by which I mean “waist” sizes. Our “waste size” is clearly much more important, but that’s an environmental discussion for another time.

It is clear this argument has devolved into a skirmish over workers rights and social responsibilities. It is no longer about liberty, it is about what requirements are acceptable to impose prohibitions.

For me, I can quite happily exclude smoking as an acceptable behaviour in circumstances where it comes into conflict with the primary pupose for being in a place, such as eating, because smoking is an entertainment. However, and therefore, in places of entertainment, where that is the first and only purpose for being there (rather than business) it is perverse to have a blanket ban.

Public houses (yer local) offer a different setting from many of the more family-friendly fancy eateries and alcohol merchants that have sprung up in converted banks and industrial shopping centres of late – proper pubs are places where most people know each other, are regulars and actually exercise consideration and responsibility for each other without requirement for any heavy-handed imposition by law or policeman. Pubs are well-springs and preserves of liberty (in a similar way to the French brothel), which is why they were (and still are) the targets of persecution by puritans and prohibitionists.

On this basis a ban in theatres is acceptable (although with exemptions for the stage space), likewise cinemas (with a similar principle for what goes on screen). Open-air sports stadia offer an interesting quandary, as they are essentially temples to health, so smoking must automatically be frowned upon (like debating a homily during sunday service), but still not banned. Smoking at transport interchanges (eg railway stations) indicates an engineering and timetabling inefficiency, as why would anyone have time to waste in making their connection?

Ultimately, any ban is distinctly illiberal and cannot continue to be justified, despite the fact that society may come to accept it. To impose restrictions is to admit structural failure within our institutions – where individual behaviour is sanctioned it is an indicator of the failure of education in that society.

If we continue to accept these kinds of bans then we are accepting schools, teaching methods and a curriculum that do not satisfy all of our individual requirements.

The smoking ban is a wonderful thing, as far as I’m concerned, because it supports and affirms my right to breathe clean air.

I like breathing clean air; I often rather look forward to it after walking down the polluted, dirty city street to the pub; and I get really annoyed when someone else blithely assumes their right to smoke is more important, or (more often) doesn’t even notice that there are conflicting rights.

I have no problems at all with smokers’ right to indulge in their habit and kill their lungs anywhere they want, and I’ll happily defend that – but that right ends where my nose begins. The only reason I want to make sure they don’t smoke in public spaces I want to inhabit is because they can’t keep it to themselves.

It’s equivalent to dog walking – you can (mostly) walk your dog anywhere you please, but you can’t leave dogshit anywhere you please.

This is an interesting thread because it highlights the dilemma that this sort of site will face. There are those social liberals who believe in freedom and liberty, but not if it infringes other peoples’ freedoms and liberties… and then there are the free market libertarians who also see themselves as the guardians of everyones right to do whatever they like, whenever they like and if you don’t like it ‘choose liberty’ somewhere else, and anyone who attempts to regulate their liberty is clearly a fascist.

thomaskust puts their case in a nutshell: If we continue to accept these kinds of bans then we are accepting schools, teaching methods and a curriculum that do not satisfy all of our individual requirements.

It is why I said I would watch the site with interest…

28. Innocent Abroad

All public health initiatives are, of their nature, paternalist. It’s a matter of fact that alcohol and nicotine are as damaging to health as cocaine and cannabis respectively, and no one – least of all the Government – pretends that policy on the issue has any logic whatsoever.

The present smoking regulations represent just one messy compromise among many. It’s worth recalling the ban is in fact wider than that promised in Labour’s 2005 manifesto, the Government having accepted a back-bench amendment. Presumably MPs took a rational decision that the votes of anti-smokers now outnumber those of smokers.

It is of course possible to suffer the effects of passive smoking in the open air, and I would expect (alas) that the ban will be extended to open spaces around pubs and cafés (forecourts, gardens) within a few years (in fact local authorities already have the power to do this).

>>>You’re making out there’s no conflict here, Shuggy.>>>

Really? And where do I do this? Here’s the problem: where there is a conflict, the role of government is to prevent collisions. This it can do by compromising between two parties whose interests conflict. But those of you who support the smoking ban don’t believe this – rather you think the role of government is to decide who is right, support them and criminalise any opposition. Call this anything you want but don’t you dare call this liberalism. I wish you well in this enterprise, I really do – but to have two posts in a row celebrating restrictions to liberty doesn’t really bode well for the conspiracy, does it?

rather you think the role of government is to decide who is right, support them and criminalise any opposition.

Erm, no. As Donald points out, this is also about power. Employees who are not allowed to make the choice to avoid smoke-filled workplaces don’t have choice. People like myself who hate smoke filled bars/clubs etc don’t have much choice either. So the govt has moved along with public opinion…. and rather like the seatbelt debate this one will soon be dead too.

but to have two posts in a row celebrating restrictions to liberty doesn’t really bode well for the conspiracy, does it?

I think you’re mixing up liberalism with libertarianism. I don’t know about others but I support govt intervention when it is justified (including abroad). I’m not against govt intervention for its own sakes.

Shuggy: Here’s the problem: where there is a conflict, the role of government is to prevent collisions. This it can do by compromising between two parties whose interests conflict. But those of you who support the smoking ban don’t believe this – rather you think the role of government is to decide who is right, support them and criminalise any opposition.

That’s a false dichotomy. Sometimes pure arbitration and compromise are good, sometimes someone is just wrong – and sometimes people are well-intentioned but are heading into a morass anyway.

The role of government is to prevent collisions -and- to introduce other relevant data – to internalize the externalities, to make sure the books add up and all useful factors have been taken into consideration, and to stop the three legged race that most conflict-of-interest situations turn into from lurching into a local minimum and staying there.

To give a voice to the voiceless, without our having to buy it or riot for it.

Sunny Hundal wants the right not to inhale tobacco smoke. I want the right not to inhale car exhaust fumes. Before the ban Sunny could visit smoke-free bars, clubs, restaurants etc. I had no option but to breathe in pollution. Now you can still visit smoke-free bars etc and I still have to breathe in pollution. But I have lost the right to visit establishments where I could enjoy a smoke.

Sunny has gained no additional rights from the smoking ban – merely an increase in choice. I have lost the rights I previously enjoyed and have no choice whatsoever.

In an age when – thankfully – discrimination on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation is illegal it appears that smokers are the only group the rest of society is able – in fact actively encouraged – to discriminate against.

What was the harm in having – as they do in several European countries – separate smoking and non-smoking areas or some establishments smoke-free and others pro-smoking?

And please don’t tell me it is a staff issue. Vegetarians usually don’t work in slaughterhouses. Teetotallers are thin on the ground in breweries.

Sam Kelly’s point is a good one. Today, after a two-hour journey in a non-smoking train in which I had to endure aural pollution from people who apparently are unaware their mp3 players have a volume control which goes down as well as up, I lit up a fag in the open air at the other end. My colleague – also a smoker – told me that if the fag end was stubbed out on the ground we were subject to instant £80 fines. The only alternative I could see was a litter bin. So to avoid an £80 fine we had to run the risk of setting a bin on fire!

I find it slightly disheartening to find this subject being discussed on this site so soon after its inception. This is a subject where opinion will never divide along left/liberal, right/conservative lines. As such, any site whose objective is to help set a left wing agenda should avoid it like the plague. The smoking ban will always divide rather than unite left/liberal opinion, and cause us to waste time endlessly going round in circles when there are more important issues to discuss. I do have strong views on the subject, but really don’t think this is the place.

This is a question of choosing one groups rights over another, one groups freedom (to smoke indoors) has been removed and given to another group (to be able to work in a smoke free atmosphere), so the only resonable thing to do is leave the choice with the owner of the property…in which case landlord should be able to make their own choices of whether they want their pub/bar to be smoke free or not, and in doing so they accept that they may loose the business of those that don’t want to be around smoke.

As for the harming of health through passive smoking, the links were never firmly made, as can be seen in an article in the Guardian recently reporting the connection between obesity and cancer. The direct quote read: ‘whilst there is no direct link between smoking and cancer…obesity…’

Does no one else see that ‘Health Reasons’ is being atteched to anything that the government decides that they no longer want us to do…which is usually anything fun.

Meanwhile we have commercial companies bring out ‘scientifc reports’ telling us what we should and should not be doing, which strangely change every five minutes minutes depending on what they want to sell us.

If the government really cared about our health they would have banned drinking….a far more dangerous and destructive pass time than recreational drug taking, either ban them all or non…the inconsistencies can give us no faith that our best interests are being served!!

Now personally I see this issue as something like nudity or public sex. Basically smokers took what was granted as a privilege and treated it as a right. Those who found it distastful took it for a while, and now are fighting back.

If somewhat asks you “Do you mind if I smoke?”, the correct answer is “not as all, as long as you don’t mind if I piss in your beer”.

Smoking should be (like sex) completely unrestricted amongst consenting adults in private. So with respect to #23 you are perfectly right. Set up a private (members and guests only) club for smokers and it should be allowed to operate.

Chem fem # 22 – Exactly – where were the non -smoking pubs ? There weren’t any because the demand wasn’t high enough. Publicans can let in/ban who they like, so there has never been anything to to stop a non smoker opening a non smoking pub, staffed by non smoking staff.
I vistited a new pub, opened as non smoking in around 1995, when I went back a few years later it had reverted to a smoking one. As I said before, if there was genuine demand for non smoking pubs, the market would have provided them, it didn’t, so they were imposed by the state, thats authoritarianism.

Since the ban came in, nightclubs have started smelling of farts and bio. It was more pleasant when they smelled of smoke.

“As much as hard hats on a building site, or breathing apparatus down a mine, smoking legislation is about workplace safety. ”

You contradict your position with your examples. Carrying bricks up ladders is potentially dangerous for people walking about below, but the government hasn’t banned it, it has simply required that employees be given approriate safety equipment to mitigate the risk. Equally, it is not illegal to work down a mine, you just have to have the right gear. If the smoking ban issue were one of employee rights, the law need simply require employers to offer staff safety equipment, as they are required to do (I believe) for staff who work in loud environments such as night clubs. I notice the liberals around here aren’t advocating the banning of live music in ‘public’ places to protect the hearing of bar staff. Quite right too. A pity the liberalism can’t be more principled, though, and extended to things you don’t yourselves like.

It does seem to me that most of the liberals in this conspiracy are actually rather authoritarian.

I also wonder whether this extensive ban is really that necessary. Is there actually any evidence that it is this recent aggressive stance of the authorities against smoking that is responsible for the decrease in the faction of the population that smokes? Or is it simply education and personal choice? That’s a question asked in earnest, because I don’t have a real handle on the data.

Anecdotally, I ‘d say I haven’t met anyone who has confessed to having given up smoking because the feds have made the enterprise so damn difficult. It seems that most people do it for health, and a few people to save money (which I concede is related to the government’s attempts to stamp out smoking, but these folk are few, even on the arse end of the economic ladder). Perhaps more importantly, I imagine there aren’t that many young non-smokers who turned their cheek on that first tab for no other reason than the fact that the government doesn’t condone it. Again, I think the reduced rate of new smokers emerging is down to choice based on education and peer-influence.

So I wonder if, by getting all heavy handed, the authorities aren’t simply stymieing a natural, self-imposed movement of the populace towards a non-smoking environment. If, in fact, the slow removal of smoking culture from our society might actually be a rather fine example of libertarianism in action; people figuring something out for themselves without the need for Daddy to step in and start waving his belt about.

Matt Munro @ 36: I was in Cambridge a few years ago, and there were a number of smoke-free pubs then. They seemed to do alright for themselves.

Sunny Hundal @ 30: “Employees who are not allowed to make the choice to avoid smoke-filled workplaces don’t have choice. ” If the aim was to improve employee _choice_, then the government could have forced workplace ballots amongst bar staff; maybe with some form of locally sponsered job swaps for minority (non-)smoking workers, repeated every few months – or after a certain percent employee turnover – if necessary.

That the ban was done for the benefit of bar staff is surely not (entirely, at least) true, as otherwise the ridiculous smoking shelter rules wouldn’t have been included; whilst it’s funny for me (as a non-smoker) to see smokers suffering through winter hail, it serves no purpose other than to de-normalise smoking. If you regard that as a good thing, then great: say so. Don’t hide behind the bar staff’s lack of ‘choice’ previously, because whilst they _might_ have had a choice previously (as mentioned above, non-smoking pubs did exist), they _certainly_ don’t now. And that includes the 25%(?) who have to nip outside to smoke now, too.

Wouldn’t the ban have been better if bars and pubs were allowed smoking if they provided an adequate non-smoking area that had to be legally upheld and well ventilated. Everyone wins that way….

Either that or you can apply for a limited amount of smoking licenses for your premises. But if the partial ban that was first proposed was seen as unworkable than that would be no different.

Nobody seems to have picked up on my idea – the key word is “public”. Pubs that want to be smoking, could set up as private clubs and nudge-nudge wink-wink have a very liberal signing in policy. That should be allowed. Smokers I think are a bit unaware of the discomfort involved in mixed groups of smokers and non-smokers going to restaurants and pubs. If everybody agrees the smokers can smoke outside, then such arrangements are comfortable for everybody. Otherwise we will end up with di-facto apartheid.

“Is there actually any evidence that it is this recent aggressive stance of the authorities against smoking that is responsible for the decrease in the faction of the population that smokes?”

Yes – that’s why they’re doing it, although this seems to have escaped the attention of all those going on about the rights of bar staff.

Smoking bar staff want to set up a smoking bar co-operative. They can’t, what with this being illegal and all. Thus endeth the debate over whether the smoking ban as presently constituted infringes liberty or not.

Next week on liberal conspiracy: why freedom is really slavery.

Reason – there were 2 exemptions in the original bill, one for pubs that didn’t serve food (abandoned as defining “food” was too complicated) and one for private members clubs. The anti-smoking lobby managed to get it amended to outlaw the private clubs exemption (except in the house of commons, natch), presumably fearing that many pubs would quite legally become private clubs.

On the bar staff point – in my experience bar staff are disproportionately likely to be smokers themselves (why on earth would you apply for that particular low paid menial job from all the others if you didn’t like the atmosphere in a pub ??)

Partial bans have worked well in other countries – in Portugal for example, bars below 100 sq mtres can chose to be smoking or non, larger ones have to be non smoking. It’s only because our legislators made this absurd connection with serving food that the partial ban didn’t happen.

Pace chem-fem and Matt Munro, there were indeed non-smoking bars before the “ban” – more on the misnomer in a moment – not many, but a growing number, and the ones I was aware of seemed to do reasonably well for themselves, as did the places that compromised with better-than-average ventilation, no smoking at the bar, or similar measures. As long as the “ban” remained a chattering point among policy wonks, it was an incentive for all the market to experiment with such things; as soon as it became law, though, of course, all those places lost their USP overnight and promptly went out of business or opened smoking gardens on the pavement just like everywhere else.

That’s why I put inverted commas around the word “ban”. Noone has actually stopped smoking because of this law; all that’s happened is it’s moved out onto the street. So now you can’t walk down the pavement in a straight line anymore, and pubs that were once little boxes of smoky conviviality behind closed doors are now stale-sweaty cenotaphs inhabited by a few lone non-smokers each apathetically minding the pints of another three people standing outside.

It’s made the world uglier, that’s for sure.


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