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« Dinner date from heaven, or hell? | Main | We're all tobacco control officers now »

Another little loss of liberty

Handcig451.jpg An early start to my day in Cardiff. Smoking in enclosed public places was officially outlawed at 6.00am. Shortly after seven I'm on Radio Wales, broadcasting from the old Welsh Assembly building which is still used by the BBC. It's not a studio as such - just a spartan office with an ISDN machine on the desk. Apart from three security guards, the building seems to be empty. Mid morning (after a FULL Welsh breakfast) I'm back in Cardiff Bay for a live outside broadcast on News 24 plus a pre-record for the local lunchtime news. Channel 4 News want an interview this afternoon and I've been invited to appear on Wales Today in another live OB - this time from the Miskin Arms in Miskin, near Pontyclun, a few miles outside Cardiff.

The point I try to make - as reasonably as possible - is that we're not against smoke-free environments. In this day and age, when the majority of people are non-smokers, smoke-free should be the norm. But why does smoking have to be banned in EVERY pub, club and bar? What's wrong with smoking and non-smoking pubs, or separate, well-ventilated designated smoking rooms, or private smokers' clubs, all of which are now illegal.

Evidence from Ireland and Scotland suggests that most people will adapt and accept the ban (while continuing to smoke!!). But that doesn't make the law RIGHT. Legislation based on dubious research and inconclusive evidence (about passive smoking, for example), legislation that is out of all proportion to the actual (rather than the perceived) risk, is WRONG. Likewise, legislation designed to force people to give up a legal product is social engineering. Unjust laws weaken society because they bring the law in general into disrepute.

It's only smoking, some might say, it's no big deal. But they'd be wrong. Look at the bigger picture. After tobacco politicians and campaigners will target something else. They've already started. Little by little, bit by bit, the noose controlling our public and private behaviour will get tighter until we are all clones of Big Government. They can't help themselves. That's what they do. It has to stop.

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Reader Comments (14)

I support Simon Clark on this.I accept that most people want some smoking restrictions, and in some places complete bans, but when it comes to pubs and clubs, polls suggest some kind of compromise is the most popular answer.

Perhaps the system in Italy, and possibly to be adopted in France, provides the answer. There are completely separate smoking areas allowed in certain pubs/bars there but no smoking is the norm in most places?

This would give the no smokers their 'right' to smoke-free air but also give smokers some degree of freedom.

April 2, 2007 at 22:32 | Unregistered CommenterSchabbs

I'm willing to put money on a 'smoking ban whilst driving a car' within 5 years. Do you reckon William Hill would give me good odds?


April 2, 2007 at 23:39 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Lang

I never seem to hear this (Simon Clark's) point in the mainstream media.

BBC 24 news coverage of the smoking ban in Wales story showed a smug looking Dr chap sitting in a posh bar and trotting out the line that goes something like, "Your right to smoke ends at my nose". In the interests of unbiased reporting (presumably) we were then shown inside a working men's club where the counter argument (not from a PHD) we get goes something like, "We like smoking and drinking".

They must have edited out the bit where someone said we want to protect your right NOT to stick your nose inside our pub.

Smokers pubs were, and still would be, economically viable in a free market. On the other hand, pre ban non-smoking venues did not fare particularly well.

We now have a 'level playing field' (or so we are told) enforced by legislation.

Presumably market forces and freedom of choice aren't good enough to provide a 'level playing field'.

How does this work in Italy? Who decides which venues are allowed to have smoking areas? Do these venues have an advantage over their competitors? Could something similar work in the UK?

April 3, 2007 at 2:05 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Shepley

It is the question MOST avoided by the anti-side of the fence; "Why does EVERYWHERE need to be non-smoking?"

I too have no problem with non smoking venues, in fact I've advocated it for years, But the general downturn in business whenever a place went non-smoking discouraged many pubs from doing so (and shot holes in the argument about legions of non-smokers who wanted to go to the pub but stayed at home because of the smoke) and so here we are.

The problem is, even IF say, 1/2 of pubs had went non-smoking it wouldn't have been enough for the likes of ASH. Every battle they win is just a new line from which to begin the next one. Smoking in cars, beer gardens, parks and beaches are all on the hit list.

Once they reach the stage where smoking is banned virtually everywhere (including your home if you have children, live in rented accomodation or even a flat or non-detached home you yourself actually own) THEN they will begin the final assault to have tobacco outlawed completely.

THAT is their ultimate goal and it should never be forgotten.

April 3, 2007 at 9:55 | Unregistered CommenterRob Simpson

It won't be too long before we are being told how many times a day we can take a breath! Of course, they will tax that too, they just cant seem to help themselves.

What is really needed is a government with common sense AND brains. Unfortunately it seems to be a pre-requisite that government ministers have neither!

April 3, 2007 at 15:14 | Unregistered CommenterLyn Ladds

Re Paul's question about the Italian system for smoking areas in bars: any bar can have a smoking area subject to meeting certain conditions. They need to have a completely sealed area with its own extraction system and a door that closes by itself after opening. The extraction system when purchased is not subject to VAT. I think Malta also has a similar system.

Re Rob's letter, I agree with every word. One has only to look at what's happening in parts of Canada, the USA and Australia to see what is coming next.

April 3, 2007 at 18:05 | Unregistered CommenterSchabbs

It's already clear that alcohol is the next target. I always found it hard to accept that anybody seriously alarmed about passive smoking could then down a glass or two of hooch, whether at home or in a smoke-free pub.

If you think of the Public Health lobby as a box of chocolates, people were never going to be allowed to stop at the Turkish Delight of a smoking ban. They were always going to be forced to take the lark's vomit surprise of prohibition, the crunchy frog cluster of a ban on red meat (apparently it's been linked to breast cancer) and so on ad infinitum.

What really galls me is that ASH and Alcohol Concern are state-funded, and the "medical charities" have become little more than fronts for them.

April 3, 2007 at 22:02 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Anderson

What do people think about the news that more CCTV cameras are to be fitted with loudspeakers to allow security staff to chastise people who, for example, litter? Is it just coincidental that the Government has announced this ahead of the smoking ban?

April 6, 2007 at 13:20 | Unregistered CommenterCaty Crawford

I am totally against this smoking ban legislation, which must rank as the most draconian law ever introduced by a British government.

By all means provide choice for non-smokers and smokers at different venues, but not a law that effectively demonises one section of society and will prove to be very divisive. All that will happen is that smokers will vote with their feet and smoke and drink at home, especially during the winter months. Businesses will suffer and this will further add to the demise of the British pub. It will not, I repeat, reduce the exposure to SHS, when even the government's own research shows 95% of this exposure occurs in the home. There is absolutely no logic in this law - it is all about control not health.

Government has no business to tell us how and where we spend our leisure time and I am sick to death of being treated like a child. Unfortunately, this government will yet again embark on another round of wasting our taxation on badly thought out legislation.

April 8, 2007 at 21:22 | Unregistered CommenterBill Carlyle

The marginalisation and scapegoting of smokers smacks of the sort of fascist authoritarianism promoted by the Nazis. The smoking ban is being inplimented in a way that is socially divisive and discriminatory. The dangers of passive smoking have been exaggerated enormously, and the State is reacting in a disproportionate way. I accept that many non-smokers find the smell of tobacco smoke offensive, and I have no problems with smoke free work places and public buildings. There are, however, extremely efficient ventilation systems available to remove smoke particles from enclosed spaces. This option, and the creation of a minimum air quality standard has not been considered by the Government.Approximately one third of people in the UK smoke tobacco and enjoy doing so. That is a large minority of people whose needs could and should be met along with non-smokers. I feel it is dangerous to marginalise this large propotion of society, and label us as undesireable, inferior and dangerous people who deserve no rights. There is enough misery,hatred and violence in this society already.

April 10, 2007 at 7:44 | Unregistered CommenterTony G

I have been reading a lot of the comments on this page. I really think its utter madness having a total smokiing Ban. Many pubs will cease trading and also many people will simply stay at home rather go out. What ever happened to proper ventilation? I suppose they will attack the drinkers next and label all drink as bad for ones health !! Then they will attack the fat people. Talk about No freedom of choice. Yes I smoke , as I suffer from stress but at least I can cut it down and if I choose to not smoke I will not. My Husband also smokes. But what a sad whimpish lot the Government are.

April 10, 2007 at 16:45 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Harrison

Smoking at the Airport. As smokers I feel really annoyed that places inside the Airport will go. Does anyone think about the nervous people? How about a bar for the smokers? Or an outside shed? Once 1 has checked in god forbid it if the flight gets really badly delayed. There will be some very very annoyed customers around. No wonder there is so much temper at the Airports Air rage .

April 10, 2007 at 16:49 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Harrison

I totally agree with Bill Carlyle and Tony G.
My parents, like many other people, fought against Nazis dictatorship to keep Britain free. We as a country have now lost more lives fighting against dictatorship, in Iraq.
Yet our country now has it own brand of dictatorship and they also seem to me to be killing people.
Over the last two years a total of 7 friends (aged between 35 and 55), when to the doctors for - 'high blood pressure; high cholesterol; digestive problems, etc.', they all had loads of blood work done and none had cancer.
Told by their doctor 'stop smoking' - it's the only cure.
They all did and are now all dead.
Not from the problem they went with but from cancer!
If it were a long term drug they were prescribing, they wouldn’t take you off it ‘just like that’ because of the side effects!!!
Dictatorship always causes death in some part of society but it seems that many don't see it that way - 'because it's for your own good!'
But isn't that what dictators always say?

April 11, 2007 at 1:25 | Unregistered CommenterJacqui B

I live in Northern Ireland right on the border with the Republic. Lies are being told about the 'Success' of their ban. Pubs are closing at the rate of 4 week and those that are not are struggling. Many old pubs are now only glorified cafes or restaurants and many other pubs have smoking rooms hidden away from prying eyes.After closing time the ashtrays are brought out and the shutters are pulled down. Smoking rates have increased among the young as they hear that 'The Craic' is better outside with the smokers-which is true. Functions are now soulless affairs as half the guests are outside and not on the dance floor. Drink sales have fallen dramatically in bars but increased in off licences leading to thousands of job losses. The list is endless. People ask why there cannot be smoking pubs with smoking staff, large warning signs on the outside and a ban on children entering. The reason is simple-they would be the busiest bars and nail the myth that people want smoke free bars. Ask anyone smoker or not who they prefer to have in the bar and they would agree that the chattering,smug,self righteous brigade with their Perrier waters and non fat lattes are more annoying and a lot less profitable than us smokers.

April 16, 2007 at 11:30 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Peoples

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