Thursday, July 16, 2009

Letters to Athens News

Here's some I've letters sent to Athens News, a paper in English focusing mainly on Greek news:

Dear Sir,

A previous writer to this paper expressed disappointment at the ‘windows’ in the coming smoking ban here in Greece. This person was apparently looking forward ‘with bated breath’ to the time when he or she could go into a taverna, bar or club without the result of ‘stinging eyes, my clothes and hair stinking and the air suffocating me’. I have to say I read and heard much of the same sort of hysterical nonsense prior to the British smoking ban: many non-smokers shouting about their ‘right’ not to have these dirty, evil smokers inflicted upon them. These vocal anti-smokers also happily repeated the propaganda of the government and organizations it funds, like ASH, which stated that there would be no loss of trade to pubs and clubs because the smokers leaving such establishments would be replaced the non-smokers flocking back. However, we see the true results of the British ban now.

Prior to that ban, in 2007, the rate of pub closure across Britain was four every week. After the ban it rose to twenty-seven every week as all those belligerent anti-smokers failed to return to the pubs. Many bingo halls and working men’s clubs have also gone to the wall, and tens of thousands of those previously employed in all such places lost their jobs. Many pubs even lost non-smoker customers because they didn’t want to go to places now empty of their smoker friends. For those who have hung on we even have the ridiculous situation of non-smokers following smokers outside so they will still have someone to talk to. And perhaps they are right to go outside because, as many discovered, the smells from the toilets and the stale beer are now no longer disguised by the smell of cigarette smoke.

Outside, of course, they might also spot the owner of the pub who, having paid hundreds of thousands for the place, now cannot smoke a cigarette on his own premises. Such blanket bans are totalitarian – the bar owners should be the ones to decide whether or not they will allow smoking. The justification, of course, is ‘health’ and the lies about passive smoking. The reality is that only politicized ‘science’ came up with any figures on passive smoking and, as has already been proven by bans elsewhere, they in no way reduce the number of smokers. And those inflicting such bans are utterly two-faced, as we know by the smoking room at the London G7 Conference, and the failure to enforce non-smoking in the European Parliament.

The smoking ban in Britain was an unmitigated disaster for the pub trade and, if enforced in the same way here, it will kill tavernas, clubs, kafenions and restaurants. No arguments: people will go out of business, jobs will be lost, the government will lose revenue and more freedom will be destroyed by an autocratic state.


Neal Asher


Dear Sir,

A blossom from a hot pink bourgainvilla blew in through the front window and settled in my lap. It was dried out like ricepaper and it almost seemed to me that Crete was saying, “Sorry, this is the only consolation I have to offer.” Before considering that this might be a keepsake – something as insubstantial to remember this restaurant by as the promise of a politician – I ground it to dust on the tablecloth. None of the owners or waiters saw or complained, since they were sitting at one of the few outside tables smoking cigarettes they weren’t allowed to smoke on their own property.

Yes, the smoking ban has arrived in Greece, and the bansturbators have won another battle for totalitarianism. I wrote a letter to this paper before about it and there they were, whingeing about their clothes smelling of cigarette smoke after they’ve been in a bar, totally ignoring the point that in many cases their choice is likely to be a bar that allows smoking or no bar at all.
So, there you have it: until such a time as I see ashtrays back on the tables of this restaurant I have enjoyed for a couple of years, I won’t be eating there. It’s a shame but what can I do? Just as so many pub owners (or rather, erstwhile pub owners) have discovered in Britain, a lot of people don’t protest loudly enough, but given the opportunity always vote with their feet.
I wish I was living in a British or a Greek democracy but, really, in Europe democracy drew its last terminal-smoker asthmatic breath about twenty years ago as the EU project built up momentum.

Understand this, Cretans, in five years time there will be no smoking licences and there will be no exceptions, and the bansturbators will be after your raki next. Do you for one moment think all those stills, all that unregistered, unmonitored and most importantly, untaxed fun is in any way part of the EU plan?


Neal Asher


CorpseZor said...

Hi Neal, first time poster but have read all your books and consider myself a huge fan. Also a huge fan of Greek islands, so much so that I got married on Paros 2 years ago. I also agree that the smoking ban will be a horrible thing for the Greeks. I know from experience that it fucked up my favourite pub in Sheffield and A friend of ours who owns a place in Skiathos has said that the Greeks (especially the Elders) will not go along with this shit.

From what iv'e been told, and from what iv'e experienced, the Greeks will not go along with this bullshit. Most Islands that I have been to have very few Police and their time is mostly taken up with sorting out the pissed-up English yobs.

I was told a funny hypothetical story about how an elderly Greek resident may or may not have gone over the speed limit, the fact that their scooter was woefully underpowered and they couldn't rub 2 Euros together to save their life was irrelevant. The fact that smoking and Tavernas are a staple diet of the Greeks just does not seem to gel with central Europe astounds me.

I rant forth. Basically, in my semi sober state. :) Myself and my Wife have and always will enjoy the Greek Islands. Unfortunately the pathetic Euro rules are going to spoil everything, as they did with the currency.

Scott said...

It's all well and good to decry the nanny-law bans. I feel the same about helmet and seatbelt laws.

However, it is ridiculous to ignore that second- and third-hand smoke have a profound impact on the health of nonsmokers. No, everyone who passes near a lit cigarette isn't falling over dead, but there are substantial numbers for whom the truth is not much different. Passive smoke does, as is easily observable, affect one's health. More immediately, passive smoke can cause serious complications up to and including death for those with weakened lungs. I have seen people suffer serious, life-threatening, difficulties when exposed to cigarette smoke that was barely detectable to my nose, drifting through a door some distance away. The fact that some of those thus afflicted are ex-smokers is ironic.

While I should be able to smoke whatever I wish on private property, the issue is not as simple when that smoke, or the residuals thereof, are in public places.

I am opposed to saloon smoking bans in principle. Similarly, I am opposed to this pretense that smoking does not pose a serious health threat for nonsmokers. Any argument predicated on such a falsehood is not going to succeed.

droid said...

Well said Scott. Strange that Neal seems to be in such a tizzy about his 'right' to smoke wherever he wants whilst not giving two fucks about the rights of bar workers not to get cancer and lung diseases...

Colin Meier said...

Hi Neal

Droid, one has to think, has a point about the staff who work there (although I'm pretty sure most of them smoke anyway). Here in SA we now have separate smoking sections in restaurants, and almost all pubs and bars have an outside section for smoking (of course, our weather is considerably better...).

Apart from that, I just wanted to know, where did you get 'bansturbators' from? It's brilliant! I will pay you the sincerest form of flattery with that one, I'm sure, next time we get smoking news here...

Conor O'Brien said...

So,um, going by your last is more important than health...?

And seriously, you don't think passive smoke would affect visiting children and teenager staff in a bar/restaurant?

I dunno, man, I dunno....


Neal Asher said...

Couple of brief comments.

Yeah, CorpseZor, I agree.

Scott, simple fact, they moved the goal posts on passive smoking. They ignored studies like the one in California that showed children, subject to passive smoke, ended up with a greater resistance to lung cancer. Why did they do this? Because smoking certainly is bad for you and they're aiming to gradually bring in an outright ban. The great-&-the-good have decided.

Regarding property: the bars etc belong to people and it should remain their decision whether or not to allow smoking, just as it should be a customer's decision on whether or not to enter such a place or a potential employee's decision on whether or not to work there.

driod, the barworkers have a choice and, oddly, many of them would rather work in a smoky bar than have no work at all because bars have been closed. Doesn't matter how its spun, the smoking bans screw businesses and puts people out of work.

Colin, Bansturbators comes from this blog

No, Conor, freedom is more important than imposed health, and the passive cigarette smoke is less dangerous than the exhaust fumes outside. A surgeon cannot identify a smoker by looking at said smoker's lungs, but has no problem identifying a city dweller. Go figure.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Great letters, Neal (but for a published author, I suppose that's par for the course). :-)

Scott. You show that you are extremely gullible just by mentioning 'Third Hand Smoke'. There has, quite simply, not been a single scientific study in the world about that. It is a fabrication, no more, no less. No, seriously. If you can find a single scientific study anywhere in the world confirming the health dangers of third hand smoke, I will give you my house. Free. There has been a phone poll asking people what they think (after a prior series of loaded questions), but when did random people telephoned by an anti-smoking nutter become peer-reviewed scientists? (admit it, you read that in the Daily Mail, didn't you)

It's quite clear that you like to believe what the anti-tobacco loonies tell you because you don't like smoke. That's perfectly fine, but don't hector and try to appear knowledgeable about it because, believe me, you're not.

But then, that isn't the object of the exercise. Propaganda is the only tool of these people and they have immense financial backing to bypass the usual scientific channels.

A bit more honesty in the debate would have led to a compromise where discussions such as this would not be occurring and we could all accommodate each other.

Unfortunately, as Neal points out, this isn't going to happen with an authoritarian EU leading the misinformation crusade.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Scott: I almost forgot, my apologies.

You're correct that seat belt laws are a massive fraud, too. For some reasoned stats on this, you might like this site, though I'm surprised that someone who can be rightly sceptical (which I presume you are) about the science/studies behind that, can be the complete opposite when faced with pharmaceutical company-financed anti-tobacco nonsense.

Actually, I'm not that surprised as the anti-smoking agenda has always relied on prejudice (that's not a barb at you, by the way, just the way it is, unfortunately)

Neal Asher said...

At least there's some hope remaining in Greece since it's not a total ban i.e. places less than 70 metres square can get exemptions, licences can be obtained, smoking areas made. Of course the 'bansturbators' are writing to Athens News complaining about that too.

Limited hope, since the hugely socialist Pasok just got elected there...

Scott said...

I simply used the term available to describe "third hand smoke". I do not believe I am gullible, and I spoke from experience and observation. In the absence of convincing scientific argument, I trust reason and experience. I agree that the science used to justify such decisions needs to be sound. I also think that people put too much faith in "studies" without actually analyzing those studies. Many are not sound.

In any case, I was and am opposed to such bans. I took issue with the apparent stance that passive exposure to smoke wasn't a problem. From the evidence to date, and quite a bit of personal experience, I think that it is. It isn't just a smell. I have seen people literally stop breathing when a smoker walked by them after a smoke break. It is easily, though in-advisably, reproducible.

In my opinion, a person should be able to go to their favorite bar and light up a crack rock. I shouldn't be paying for their health care, and they shouldn't be driving, but it's their body and mind. I don't agree that passive exposure to cigarette smoke is harmless, however. Therefore, I do not dismiss concerns over one's right to expose others to it. That isn't gullibility, that is a reasoned opinion based on plenty of experience. When I see such dismissiveness, however, I start looking for faith-based beliefs.