Guest post by JOE JACKSON
Ten reasons why the smoking ban stinks:
(1) It disregards property rights. The air in a pub ‘belongs’ neither to smokers nor nonsmokers, and certainly not to politicians, but to the publican, and it is the publican who should decide the smoking policy on his or her own premises.
(2) It sets a terrible precedent by blurring the boundary between public and private. A law court is a ‘public place’ – a nightclub is not, and neither politicians nor doctors have the right to legislate what people do in it. If we concede to them that right, they will inevitably extend it to our cars (as they are now trying to do) and then to our homes (which has already happened in parts of the US).
(3) It removes freedom of choice – not only the smoker’s freedom to enjoy a legal habit, but everyone’s freedom to work out their own compromises and solutions.
(4) It is anti-democratic. The government’s own Office for National Statistics found 68% opposed to a total ban, but like every other smoking ban in the world, it was imposed regardless. The only opinions which have been heard are those of medical authorities and lobby groups, and directly or indirectly, the pharmaceutical companies which fund them.
(5) It is socially divisive and encourages intolerance. Government is blatantly stigmatising a particular group, who must change their behaviour or be excluded from ‘correct’ society (a recent NHS campaign used the slogan ‘If you smoke, you stink’). Well-intentioned or not, antismoking authorities have created tremendous animosity between friends, neighbours and family members. They have also encouraged people to think that government can, or should, intervene to stop other people doing whatever they personally don’t approve of.
(6) It is hypocritical, since tobacco remains legal and the Treasury makes around £10 billion per year from taxing it. And, incidentally, there is a smoker-friendly bar in the House of Commons.
(7) Despite ever more frantic and contrived efforts to ‘prove’ otherwise, it is bad for business. Pubs and clubs are dying, and although the ban may not be the only factor, few people in the trade would deny that it’s a significant one.
(8) It is technologically backward, since it is not difficult, with decent modern air filtration, to make smoke virtually unnoticeable, and certainly harmless.
(9) It does not stop people smoking. Even if we find it appropriate in the first place to ban smoking in pubs in order to pressure people into quitting, it doesn’t work. In many countries smoking rates have risen since bans have been imposed.
(10) Finally, and most importantly, the government claims to be setting aside all these considerations in order to tackle a deadly health threat: ‘secondhand smoke’. But there is no actual proof that even one person has died from this phantom menace. After 40 years of studies, antismokers can still only produce computer projections based on dubious statistics, and ‘relative risk ratios’ which sound scary but mean nothing in the real world. That’s why we see, for instance, posters telling us that tobacco smoke contains various nasty-sounding chemicals, without mentioning that they are present only at infinitesimal, harmless levels.
If we accept that such feeble evidence justifies a smoking ban, we are setting the level of acceptable risk so low as to justify banning just about everything else, too: cooking (which produces carcinogens), candles, incense, open fires, perfume, etc. Thousands of products, from household cleaners to cosmetics, contain higher levels of toxic chemicals than tobacco – and are still harmless.
Ultimately, the problem here goes way beyond ‘to smoke or not to smoke’. There is a worrying general trend towards more and more intrusive legislation, justified by more and more dishonest and misleading junk science and fearmongering. (Typical of this are recent claims that the continuation of a long-term decline in heart attacks is ‘caused by’ smoking bans, and the invention of a new threat, ‘thirdhand smoke,’ on the basis of no scientific evidence whatsoever).
What’s needed is not just the repeal of the smoking ban and other petty, oppressive laws, but a return to healthy scepticism, fairness, and common sense.