Monday, 3 April 2017

Time is not a healer

Last week saw the tenth anniversary of the introduction of the blanket smoking ban in Wales, three months before a similar law became effective in England. Now, if you were to listen to the antismoking lobby, you would think that the debate was over, the world had moved on, and the ban now enjoyed near-universal support.

It certainly commands a high level of adherence, but that’s because penalties fall on the owners of premises for “permitting smoking”, not on individual smokers, and customers understandably don’t want to deprive the landlord of their local of his livelihood. But there are plenty of reports of things like this happening:

And, when you actually ask people for their opinions, a very different picture emerges. In a poll to mark the anniversary of the ban in Wales, 60% of respondents said that they would like to see separate smoking rooms allowed in pubs. Predictably, antismoking pressure group ASH dismissed the finding, saying that “health was not a matter of public opinion”, but this clearly demonstrates that the claimed “acceptance” simply doesn’t exist. In fact, I’m not aware that any polls have ever shown majority agreement with the blanket ban as it stands.

If something is wrong, it doesn’t become any less wrong with the passage of time. People recognise the ban for what it is – an unjust, draconian piece of legislation that has been highly damaging both to businesses and individual rights. The whole thing has been thoroughly filleted by Dick Puddlecote.

And it’s becoming abundantly clear that, far from smoking being treated as a special case, the tactics of tobacco control are increasingly being applied to alcohol, soft drinks and so-called “unhealthy” food. If you supported the smoking ban, but enjoy a pint, or a can of Coke, or a bacon butty, the Public Health lobby now have you firmly in their sights.

48 comments:

  1. I was thinking only about an hour ago that at the 10th year of the ban, I'm still as angry and still feel the sense of injustice that I felt on `1st July 2017. Ten miserable, unhappy years of being aware that I'm regarded as an unwelcome, socially irresponsible undesirable. I simply stopped going out.

    Jay

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  2. A YouGov poll of 2060 adults conducted on the 21st and 22nd February 2017 asked people: "Do you think the following things should be brought back once Britain leave the European Union?"
    In the category "Smoking in pubs and restaurants", 9% said it should be brought back. Broken down by EU referendum votes: 11% of Leavers said it should be brought back and 3% of Remainers.

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  3. That 9% figure is no doubt support for a return to allowing smoking in pubs in general: it is not incompatible with 60% wanting to allow separate smoking rooms. They are different questions.

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    1. I merely quoted the poll accurately, and obviously they are different questions. But if stating the 'bleeding obvious' is your bag, you carry on.

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    2. KJP makes a valid point, not to be dismissed summarily as you have done. By "merely quoting the poll accurately" you employ the same deception as ASH and their stooges, giving the false impression that there is very little support for allowing smoking in pubs, full stop. Which is of course far from the truth.

      When asked the more nuanced question of whether smoking areas should be allowed in pubs, then the overwhelming majority agree that there should indeed be smoking allowed in pubs. And given that only about 20% or less of those asked would have been smokers, that means that a large proportion of non-smokers agree with having smoking areas in pubs also.

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    3. I merely quoted the poll as it was published. I have stated no opinion about it and don't do now. If you choose, without knowing me, to accuse me of deception when all I did was accurately quote something that actually took place, then I suggest you look up deception in the dictionary.

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    4. But you wouldn't have posted it in the first place if you didn't think it made the case that there was little public support for amending the smoking ban, which, for the reasons given, it plainly fails to do. Do you have a link to this poll, by the way?

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    5. "The poll was commissioned by pro-tobacco group Forest"...

      Anyone with the faintest knowledge/experience of PR or press knows that this sort of stuff is just voodoo polling and not to be trusted. RedNev's YouGov poll will be objective.

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    6. RedNev's YouGov poll will be objective.
      No it will not (sadly). Peter Kellner is president of YouGov and a trustee of the smokerphobic hate group ASH

      What happens with surveys of this nature is that if you ask a binary question like
      Should smoking be banned in all pubs? Then people will say yes.
      But if you give people a range of options they will go for choice - just like before the smoking ban.

      YouGov to my knowledge only ask the binary question because we assume they know what the answer will be. And it is worth remembering that polls are about influencing opinion not just measuring opinion. YouGov can not be trusted on the subject of smoking because they have a president with a clear conflict of interest.

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    7. RedNev hasn't been back to give us a link to this poll. But I suspect it involved a long list of things that people *might* want to be brought back after Brexit, some more serious than others. It wasn't asking a specific question about the smoking ban that required some thought, and it was offering a simple either-or option rather than asking about some relaxation of the ban. So it can't be regarded as a reliable indicator of public opinion.

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    8. RedNev is the only person commenting on this topic who posted information that may have an objective source. I asked you about the science of second hand smoke. You replied "my opinion is." He isn't the one only spouting opinion. I think it wrong for you to call him out.

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    9. Dave, YouGov is a client of ASH and Peter Kellner is president of YouGov and a trustee of ASH. It is therefore the absolute opposite of an objective source when it comes to do with anything about smoking.

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    10. You're missing my point. Almost all the thoughts on this posting are personal opinions based on little fact. Yet one person's view is questioned because he too wrote an opinion. I have yet to see anything really convincing about smoking killing pubs. The ban went in on this date and pubs continued to close. Prove it was cause and affect. In other parts of the world the same result was not seen when smoking was banned. (For the record, I am not against smoking.) I also see a lot of opinion on second hand smoke that doesn't have any support behind it. The assumption seems to be it is a conspiracy between government and science. (I consider the ACSH a very questionable source.) It's okay to rant, but you have to let other rant too.

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    11. Dave, I was not questioning the poll that RedNev refered to. Like all polls so long as the people were picked at random then the answers will probably be accurate for the question. I am just pointing out that YouGov are not in anyway more objective than a polling company working for the opposite side of the argument. I have no idea why you consider ACSH a very questionable source as they have never taken money from the tobacco control industry or the tobacco industry to my knowledge. I did post a study by the IARC which was commissioned by the WHO (a smokerphobic organisation that will not even employ smokers) which shows no increased risk for lung cancer in both the home and the workplace. The point being that this was the series of studies that the WHO was going to use to justify banning smoking in the home and workplace but even though these studies failed to show there was any risk the WHO went ahead anyway. Yes , I have my opinions but I am backing them up with evidence. As for pub closures, pubs fell off a cliff after the smoking ban regardless on economic cycles. But after years of pointing at this I have come to the conclusion that whether people believe it or not is more dependent of where they stand on the issue of smoking in pubs, which is I suppose no surprise. People believe what they want to believe. Sorry, if I came across as ranting in other posts, it was not my intention!
      Best Fredrik

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    12. Here is YouGovs Anthony Wells also making the point about binary/verses choice

      "The simple picture is this – if you conduct polls that ask a straight yes or no question about whether people would approve of a complete smoking ban in pubs, about two-thirds say yes.
      If, on the other hand, you ask people what they would like done about smoking in pubs, and give them a list of options such as a complete ban, or making all pubs have a no-smoking area, or better ventilation or so on, then most people opt for making pubs have no smoking sections (or making pubs no smoking with special smoking sections, which amounts to much the same thing) and against having an overall ban." - here

      See I am not making it up!!!

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    13. LOL. I think tone is often seemingly rougher in blog comments than it should be. I know mine is. I would agree I see no reason not to permit a separate room that is well ventilated.

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  4. Ten years of no longer being able to enjoy sitting in the beer garden without being subject to tobacco smoke. Ten years of wading through knee deep tab ends as you walk past a pub. Ten years of having to run the gauntlet of a crowd of tattooed skinhead smokers to get to the front door of the pub. Bring smoking back indoors where it belongs!

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  5. The Blocked Dwarf3 April 2017 at 19:08

    I am angry with the quislings of the Pub Trade, not just the Tobacco Control Industry. In what reality does terminally pissing off a third of customers make for good business planning? Did they really believe all the soap about millions of non-smokers returning to pubs desperate to part with great wads of money?

    Let me break it down for any passing publican: You say you don't want my money, my custom, then that's fine. Your gaff, your rules. I will stay away 'cos I was brought up to never force money on people what don't wants it-that'd be horribly impolite. But don't then come grizzling to me when you finally realise that your drum wasn't a 'community asset' nor a 'village amenity' but an actual real business...and they mean someone, somewhere, sometime has to make a profit.


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    1. They pissed off more than a third of their customers, BD. I seem to remember reading that nearly 60% of regular pub-goers were smokers before the ban.

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  6. Oh I don't know. I never used to go in pubs when smokers were there. I've been in a pub at least 3 times this year. Though they were all Spoons.

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  7. I am many times MORE likely to visit a pub post-ban, not being a smoker and not wishing to stink of smoke. Nice to be able to wear the same trousers two days in a row. But that's just me.

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    1. You and about three other people. But far more people have either stopped going to pubs entirely, or go less, than have started or go more.

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    2. The Blocked Dwarf5 April 2017 at 18:26

      "Nice to be able to wear the same trousers two days in a row"
      Back in Great Grandma Dwarf's day, Laundry was still done by hand and mangle. The women would joke when washing the mens' strides about "Eau de Man" , it wasn't a compliment. Particularly when their men had been drinking beer (so pretty much all of them all the time).

      This morning I visited someone in hospital dying of cancer. The first thing she said to me was 'you smell wonderfully of cigarette smoke' (despite my having showered and put on fresh clothes before setting off but I smoke one a mile when driving it was a 12 mile run). It takes all sorts. Although I agree that really stale cigarette smoke clinging to clothes can be unpleasant but that's why science came up with washing machines so we wouldn't all continue to be dirty little tinkers whiffing of stale beery piss from the night before when the bloody pub urinal moved again...they is sneaky like that.

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    3. "You and about three other people"
      That's exactly how I perceive your position. I don't know anyone who would go to the pub more if you were allowed to smoke and I know lots of drinkers. Even most of the smokers I know are perversely grateful for the smoking ban, as it slows down their intake.

      Even your key piece of evidence, biased research from a biased group, could only find a slim majority in favour of a bodged compromise. There simply aren't hordes of people champing at the bit to get back in pubs and smoke, but there are vastly more people (who may have only just started going to pubs) who would just quietly stop going. Of course, a lot of those are the 'Only a half, I've got an early start'-types who's contributions you were a touch scathing of earlier, but pubs are more likely to survive on their input than a dwindling and dying group of combative smokers.

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    4. The Blocked Dwarf6 April 2017 at 06:05

      "Even your key piece of evidence, biased research from a biased group"
      One thing anyone with any sense notices very quickly in this game is that there is only biased research from biased groups. Science left the building decades back.

      "slim majority" You missed, for example, the recent 60% majority survey in Wales?

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    5. "there is only biased research from biased groups"

      I refute that. For most research a huge amount of time, effort and work goes into identifying and eliminating bias, both subconscious and overt. It's a fascinating subject, if you're interested.

      The answer to the problem of bias in research is not to shrug and say it's all biased, it's to identify the bias. This can be difficult but, since it's been the stated aim of tobacco companies for decades to distort the scientific record and create confusion by funding false studies, we shouldn't have to look too far in this case.

      And, yes, that was the survey I was referring to. If we dispense with the naive notion that Forest were fair-mindedly attempting to answer a genuine research question then if they could /only/ get people to back smoking rooms by /only/ 60% then, yes, I'd say that's pretty slim.

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    6. "I don't know anyone who would go to the pub more if you were allowed to smoke and I know lots of drinkers."

      Everyone tends to be self-selecting in their choice of friends and acquaintances. How many smokers do you actually know? Or how many Leave voters, for that matter?

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    7. I know loads of smokers (and ex-smokers), and loads of leave voters as it happens. Not that either factor really defines them in my mind. Suspect my POV applies to more than three people (speaking idiomatically or otherwise) though; leave/remain doesn't come into it except maybe for that small minority of people who genuinely think deeply about the philosophy of either position and didn't just vote with their gut.

      Incidentally, most of the smokers I know voted (as far as I'm aware) to remain. Most leavers I know don't smoke. What does that mean? I have no idea.

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    8. "Everyone tends to be self-selecting in their choice of friends and acquaintances"

      Of course, but I suspect the beam may be in your eye with this. I also suspect I know the stereotype you're trying to manoeuvre on to me, and I can assure you that cap doesn't fit.

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  8. Syd Differential4 April 2017 at 18:43

    Put simply,if the Government wishes to avail of the vast amount of revenue it receives from smokers it should at least allow them a modicum of comfort in which to indulge their habit.Anything else is hypocrisy.
    This notion that outside smoking areas shouldn't be completely protected from the elements and have the same level of comfort as those inside is ridiculous.
    I see little enthusiasm for a return to smoking throughout pubs but where premises that have a well-ventilated area in which staff are willing to work it seems fair and proper as a compromise.
    Not a cat in hell's chance,though.
    The Guardian-wearing,sandal-eating,mung-bean twats wouldn't allow it.

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  9. If it were in your power, would you repeal the smoking ban? And do you think it would help pubs if you did?

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    1. Of course I would. Completely. It should be a matter for business owners, not the State. Having said that, any relaxation, however slight, would be better than nothing.

      If there was a genuine demand for non-smoking pubs, or non-smoking areas in pubs, then the market would provide it, as indeed it was already doing before the ban. Most food-led pubs were either predominantly non-smoking, or had a substantial non-smoking section, as did a growing proportion of wet-led pubs. But demand always has to be judged by what people actually do, not what they say they want, and it was clear that most nonsmokers weren't too bothered about drinking in areas where smoking was permitted. It was notable that, when Wetherspoon's banned smoking in some of their pubs in advance of the ban, the trade showed a substantial decline compared with those where it was still permitted.

      Would it help pubs? Yes, to some extent, although probably not dramatically as people's habits have changed and there are other reasons for the decline of pubgoing. But, regardless of whether or not it would help pubs, the ban is grossly illiberal and unjust. "I do not like something" is not remotely sufficient reason to ban it everywhere, even in places you are never likely to visit.

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    2. You seem to view this subject only through a political, business or personal choice perspective. Do you also believe that all second hand smoke studies are incorrect?

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    3. My view is that the health risks of environmental tobacco smoke range from negligible to non-existent. As far as I am aware, no study has ever demonstrated a significant risk to accepted standards of scientific proof. Indeed Professor Sir Richard Doll, who first established the link between smoking and lung cancer, has gone on record as saying he personally isn’t concerned about it. Other people’s smoke may be unpleasant and irritating, but it isn’t deadly.

      And, even if you accept there is *some* risk, then it doesn't justify the blanket ban as it currently stands. From the point of view of customers, nobody *has* to go into a pub, and we tolerate plenty of leisure pursuits where the risk of harm is demonstrably much higher. From the point of view of staff, any risk could be minimised by confining smoking to separate rooms where there is no bar counter or table service. Guests are legally allowed to smoke in hotel bedrooms, although in practice few hotels permit it. And, again, we tolerate forms of employment where the risk to health is demonstrably much higher - any kind of shift work, for a start.

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    4. I was drafting a reply, but it got way long on me. It may have to be a blogpost, I'm afraid.

      I do need to correct a gross misapprehension though. Passive smoking is NOT safe. Results do not range from 'negligible to non-existent'. They range from negligible to moderately significant, with most results showing a risk that falls just short of significance. In terms of risk ratio, it's between about 0.8 and 2.4 (where 1 is exactly the same risk as a control group). That's a small risk, and you may well scoff at it, but bear two things in mind: Even by a conservative reading that's thousands of extra deaths and, more importantly, that's not a risk those people chose to take. Furthermore, as little as we know about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, we know that tobacco smoke is major contributor. That's babies dying for no reason, just to be clear.

      So, no. Not safe. There is risk and, small or not, lets not delude ourselves, it's a risk people would be inflicting on others for no other reason than their own comfort and convenience.

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    5. "Although numerous studies seeking to find strong (or any) evidence of a link between SHS (secondhand smoke, or passive smoking) and lung cancer have failed to find such, the popular wisdom (shared by most scientists) is that SHS is indeed a cause of lung cancer. One reason for this widespread mythology is the failure of news media both general and scientific to take note of these studies." - American Council on Science and Health

      Even if it were true that you can get diseases such lung cancer from passive smoking, and it is as the ACSH points out it is just a widespread mythology. There are other higher risks that you would ban first such as working outside of normal office hours which would reduce the risks of heart disease and stroke and this would mean pubs and restaurants only being open from 9 to 5 on weekdays. No one is going to want that , I would guess that even the nasty anti smoking lobby like to eat out at the weekends and couldn't give two hoots about the health of bar staff. Yes passive smoking, while unpleasant for some is none the less is safer that shift work. The smoking ban was unjustified from a public health perspective, has closed thousands of pubs and encourages smokerphobia.

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    6. The Blocked Dwarf6 April 2017 at 06:19

      "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, we know that tobacco smoke is major contributor. That's babies dying for no reason, just to be clear"

      Of all the anti-smoker propaganda that particular one is perhaps the most obnoxious. I can't begin to imagine the pain every NEVER-smoking parent (and you say yourself only a minority of people smoke) of a cot death baby must go through every time that disgusting bit of bigotry is paraded. Even the more frothy mouthed canophobic bigots at ASH et al tend to have the decency to avoid touting that obscenity in public.

      Maybe one day science (not 'research' ie 'voodoo') will establish the cause(s) of SIDS (and I for one pray that day comes soon) but until then common decency demands we be very circumspect about any pronouncements.

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    7. What's propaganda about it? That's an unarguably true statement. Tobacco smoke contributes to SIDS. I understand if this makes you uncomfortable. If I can be personal for a moment I find the fact that co-sleeping is a risk factor makes me very uncomfortable, as that's something we've done. However, I don't characterise that fact as anti-cosleeping propaganda from the cot industry. We chose, hopefully with our eyes open, what risks make sense for our family, as I'm sure you do.

      Which leads me to other higher risks. Of course there are many, and shift work is an apt analogy because, like passive smoking, it's generally something that is 'inflicted' on someone by others. However, caring about one thing doesn't preclude you caring about others, and one thing being riskier doesn't make the other safer.

      Risks can't, and shouldn't, be eliminated, which I suppose is part of your point, but unless we try to manage them we're derelict in our duty to other people. Managing the risk of shift work is an intriguing question, and one we'll have to contend with. However, it almost doesn't matter that the risk of passive smoking is so low because the management of that risk, in pubs at least, is very very easy.

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    8. The Blocked Dwarf6 April 2017 at 10:08

      "That's an unarguably true statement. Tobacco smoke contributes to SIDS." Ah ok, I see the problem. Thanks for chat and have a nice day.

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    9. Yes, It is very easy to ban smoking in pubs and other places but the point is that there is no reason to from a public health perspective because a "widespread mythology" does not cause lung cancer.

      On the point of SIDS even if it were true that ambient tobacco smoke could cause 20 or so deaths out of 700,000 babies born every year there are other things you would could do first. For example encourage parents to smoke in the home. Take this study
      where the only statistically significant finding was that the children of smokers were 22% less likely to develop lung cancer.

      "ETS exposure during childhood was not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer (odds ratio [OR] for ever exposure = 0.78; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.64-0.96). "

      This would dwarf the number of SIDS deaths as lung cancer is a bigger killer than SIDS.

      Or we could repeal the smoking ban and begin the process of making smokerphobia and lifestyle discrimination socially unacceptable. And formulate public health policy
      that is sensitive to the needs of people and does not to pander to smokerphobic hate groups like ASH and the tobacco control industry in general.

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    10. How many of the babies who die from SIDS actually absorbed side smoke in a public house? They almost invariably inhaled it at home. Why?Because their parent was smoking at home because he couldn't do so in the pub.

      The exhaust gases of motor vehicles, especially diesel engined ones, are a far far bigger cause of toxic air than is. And "it's a risk people would be inflicting on others for no other reason than their own comfort and convenience"

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  10. Maybe a compromise would be to prohibit smoking in any areas of pubs where under-18s are admitted, which would have the effect of killing two birds with one stone ;-)

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    1. There are barely 11 million smokers in the UK and getting less and less every year. There are more than 25 million parents.

      If you genuinely cared about pubs, wouldn't you be encouraging the latter? :-P

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    2. Why does it have to be an either-or choice? Can't pubs, either individually or collectively, accommodate both?

      And a large part of the business of pubs is done after 9 pm, which I hope you will agree is not the time a responsible parent will take children there.

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    3. It doesn't have to be... I've got very fond memories of playing in beer gardens as a youngster. The fact is, though, that the two positions are, at best, antagonistic... as you indicate with your original post. Serving one group inherently excludes the other, and serving both is a messy compromise, so there will always be tension. The question then is, are you forward-looking or backward?

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    4. Life is often a messy compromise.

      And I'd guess that, even now, smokers spend far more money on drinks in pubs than parents accompanied by underage children.

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  11. Bravo Curmudgeon. 'Second-hand smoke' is indeed bollocks, it was essentially 'invented' to stigmatise smokers. The biggest and best studies have shown no danger; antismokers cherry-pick insignificant statistics from dodgy studies, and then do computer projections based on them, until they come up with numbers that sound scary but mean nothing in the real world. Meanwhile we all do, and use, things which have higher associated risks, without batting an eye. And even if there was 'some' tiny risk, there would be many ways to deal with it. When we see antismokers, for instance, denying that upgrading ventilation makes any difference, or refusing to allow smoking rooms that staff doesn't enter, or banning smoking outside, banning people from smoking in their own homes, etc, it's pretty obvious that the desire for an antismoking crusade, and the desire to turn smokers into scapegoats and pariahs, far outweighs any kind of scientific honesty or necessity.

    As for pubs, people need to remember that (a) they are not funded by your taxes, and it's the publican who should decide the policy, not the State; and (b) the Government is not there to pass laws banning whatever you don't happen to like.

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  12. Never been a habitual smoker but dont mind it in the pub at all. Im sick of these university 'educated' toffs telling hard working folk how to live and bringing in these moronic and repressive statutes that ignore the existance of common sense and choice

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