Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Smoking Ban

I have ranted on about this sort of thing before, but with recent news stories it bears repetition. I confess that I am a smoker, that I chuff away on Old Holborn roll-ups . But y’know, I don’t like being a smoker. I try to give it up but with nicotine being more addictive than heroin this is no easy task. Now obviously, in today’s society, this means that I get less help than a heroin addict, despite the fact that I don’t steal to support my habit, and am more evil than a rapist and a murderer and should be pilloried for my offence. Why? I’m baffled.

Apparently the Government now intends to ban smoking in places like bus shelters and hopes to extend the ban to everywhere outside. They are coming up with this only a few weeks after admitting (in very small articles in the anti-smoking media) to ‘exaggerating’ the effects of passive smoking. Let me illustrate some of that exaggeration:

Apparently, breathing secondhand cigarette smoke increases your chances of getting lung cancer by 25%. Most people, whose acquaintance with mathematics was an unhappy affair from childhood to teens and quickly forgotten, will illogically look at that percentage and think breathing secondhand smoke gives them a one in four chance of getting lung cancer. They don’t seem to realise that to understand the statement you need to first know what your chances are without breathing that smoke. They are about 1% – one in a hundred. A 25% increase in your chances of getting lung cancer means these odds rise by a quarter per cent – giving odds substantially less than those of being killed in a car accident, of committing suicide or being gunned down. But how much passive smoking are we talking about: a lifetime serving behind a bar or a whiff of cigar smoke in your high street? Well, you can guarantee those odds are predicated on the first instance and not the second.

I know that many non-smokers out there will not blink an eye at this. But think about it: apparently the owners of pubs and clubs cannot be trusted with deciding themselves whether or not to allow smoking, and those who work in such places are not adult enough to decide what to tolerate in their working environment. More power to the government, more nanny statism, more of our freedoms eroded. How long before this government, in its wisdom, then decides to limit how much we are allowed to drink or eat, since excess of either is unhealthy? The initial smoking ban in pubs and clubs came on the recommendation of the BMA, who at the same time wanted to limit customers of those same establishments to three drinks an evening. The Government said they could not enforce that one; they didn’t say it would be wrong to enforce it (and you can be damned sure it wouldn’t apply to the House of Commons bar)… How long, I wonder, will it be before you have to buy a permit and fill in a risk-assessment form for farting in public?

It's funny, isn’t it, how on the one hand the government tells us we're living too long and our country won't be able to support us, and on the other, it wants to keep us all healthy and long-lived. The politicians should really make up their minds about this.


Bob Lock said...


I think this is one of those things that can never have a satisfactory solution.

Personally, I distrust a governing body's opinion on the benefit/downside of smoking when that said body gains 80% of the value of a cigarette through tax. Somehow it doesn't smack of impartiality. Same can be said for the tobacco industry.

I'm a non-smoker and recently have had chest problems which have now been diagnosed as COPD. After hospital results confirmed this I asked my doctor what the probable cause was, he said smoking. I've never smoked in my life, but my wife of over thirty-five years has always smoked and has a pair of lungs that would burst your ear-drums (she's Italian and feisty) so that leaves me slightly confused.

I can't say I enjoy other people's smoke but that can be said about many things, drinking habits, general attitude, bad language, etc etc.(no, not talking about the wife now).

It's all part of the rich tapestry of life. I can always sit in a non-smoking part of a bar or restaurant, for example.

Perhaps subjects like this are best put to a referendum and not left to governments, because as you've hinted, what would be next?

If people are that much up in arms over the pros and cons and the stripping of rights to smoke or not, then I wonder what the results would be if a ballot was done on whether there should be designated no-smoking areas etc?

Surely that would be the fair way to go? And abide by the majority?

I have no idea what the present percentage is of smokers versus non-smokers in the UK but didn't it use to be about 50/50?

Weird thing is, what exactly do non-smokers object to? The actual smoke itself, i.e. the smell and taste, or the fact that it's possibly dangerous through inhaling what the smoker as exhaled, or from the 'sidestream' off the cigarette's tip?

Primarily, I don't like the smell etc, then comes the risk factor.

So, if the tobacco industry invented a smokeless and odourless cigarette that would still give the smoker a buzz from the nicotine hit, would non-smokers be placated?
As the saying goes, 'What you don't know or see won't hurt you' could possibly apply in this case?

On a lighter note, just had an email from Emma Giacon in Macmillan saying I'm runner up in The Sable Keech Competiton and I have got 4 of your backlist titles as a prize! :-)

I hope they are some of your early ones as I've read the rest!

Kirby Uber said...

i've been fighting the smoking thing for years. problem being i really enjoy smoking.
i mean, *really*

i consider myself a non-smoker currently, though i cheat several times a month, but i've lived briefly in northern california for a year or so, where smoking is considered right up there with forced sodomy of your fellow citizen.

recently, the same sort of attitude has spread to seattle, where i have lived most of the past dozen years, producing the same pub/bar smoking ban.

what is the driving factor that gets these laws passed? in my view, guilt. being constantly told how evil smoking is by every source of media for the past few decades. there certainly isn't enough people who frequent bars and do not smoke to provide the numbers to pass these laws, so clealry something is driving this.

perhaps i'll open a chain of under-ground smokeeasies. retire early.

another interesting angle, is the tax revenue from smokers. surely the answer to this 'terrible' health risk isn't taxing the people addicted to smoking? why stop there indeed. cocaine and heroin tax should solve our budget problems fairly quickly.

maybe it's in the works.

Alex Cull said...

It's the same kind of divided mentality which applies to spending/saving.

On the one hand we have worrying news about pension black holes and runaway debt. The message: be sensible, prudent and look after your finances.

Then there's other bad news about the high street and consumer confidence. The message: be happy, splash out on luxuries you don't need, help the economy.

But hang on, you said...

Jose said...

I'm a rollie addict myself currently chewing on the gum trying to kick the ugly habit.

I agree with you halfway here. Banning smoking in public spaces, paticularly ones that are outdoors seems stupid to me. But smoking in places where people are earning their living is a different story.

It's too easy to say, if you don't like these conditions don't work here. That's a very slippery slope and easier said than done for a lot of people who don't have a lot of employment options. Personaly I'd like to see the bar set as high as possible in that regard.

But I agree with your sentiments about the UKs veering towards the nanny state. It's not a worrying trend made all the worse by the fact that Blair makes for a rather incompetent and ham handed nanny. The impending smoking ban you're mention here is small change compared to some of the things he's done to this country.

Although I do give them credit for progressing UKs liqour laws to something approaching what you'd expect in the mid 20th century.

Colin said...

Well, I've always been a non-smoker but really, this is all political correctness gone feral, as far as I can see. I'm more concerned about Big Tobacco's marketing activities in third world countries than I am about having to walk through the smokers gathered outside my office building.

But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. :)

Neal Asher said...

Regarding those who work in smoky atmospheres. Did anyone ask them about this? In Dublin 2000 jobs have been lost as a direct result of the ban there, and pub trade across Ireland has dropped by 10 to 15%. If offered the choice between working in a smoky pub and not working at all, I wonder what the bar staff would have choosen?
No chance to choose since this crap is imposed from above by our commissars.

Of course you don't hear much about the bad effects of the ban in the anti-smoking press. For example the nightclubs in Peterborough that became no-smoking before the ban here, then recently changed back again because of a massive drop in trade.
And in the end: whether a place smoking or non-smoking should be left up to the owner of that place, not an interfering government.

Daniel said...

Welcome to my world. In Toronto, there's been no smoking in bars/coffee shops or anywhere indoors unless there's an enclosed smoking room with an expensive ventilation system. That's been going for two years now. Then a month ago they changed it so there's no smoking on patios if there's any kind of covering. Bus shelters? Old news here. In cars? Nope, not if you're working (cab, delivery trucks, etc.)

Second hand smoke stories driving you batty, Neal? There's been an anit smoking commercial running here for years. It had a woman who contracted lung cancer from being a waitress in a bar. She happenned to die a month ago, the day before the new laws went into effect.

I do all my writing at a coffee shop that had a smoking room. I've been trying to quit, and now I have more of a reason, as if I needed one. Winters here tend to be a bitch.

Neal Asher said...

Daniel, they simply cannot say she contracted cancer by working in a smoky bar. I mean, did they have a camera studying the internal workings of her cells at the time?

Anyway, having recently been to New Zealand I have seen all this before. Yup, every bar has patio heaters outside. Of course here the health fascists are trying to ban those heaters too, on the grounds of them contributing to global warming.


n.fonseca said...

Hi Neal, hi everyone. Portuguesa greetings. Being new here, I won't have harsh words on the subject.
I think what we should be wondering about is when is smoking going to stop being a public sector restricion fad. We all could show a hundred substances more dangerous and actually lethal to humans and other non-humans (some politicians come to mind). Who is gaining with this does not explain the "fad" (though it gives us some good insights). My guess is everyone is caught in a marketing trap, a conceptual loop that either is abandoned or will destroy some vital parts (social and individual ones) of the system. I'm afraid that directly or indirectly this subject will be of massive importance in the near future, as well as everything that keeps pushing us to a baffling nanny state. Let's just hope social forces get out of the trap. I hate to be squeezed or squashed. (Going to the terrace now, to smoke a nice cigarrette - hoping not to be caught by any lung police through google earth).

A.R.Yngve said...

I know what it was like GROWING UP in a smoky environment: both my parents smoked. (Dad lived to be 49.)

So if you asked me: should a law prohibit parents from smoking in spaces where their own children cannot escape it -- such as the home, the car or such -- then I'd say YES. Smokers obviously are too addicted to show common sense even to their own offspring.

And isn't there a lot of rather adolescent romanticism surrounding smoking as a "rebellious", Stick-It-To-The-Man activity?

Well, it ain't rebellious or libertarian. Smoking supported the slave plantations where tobacco was grown, and perpetuated a backward agrarian South.

In my humble opinion, a man addicted isn't truly free -- he wears invisible shackles.