Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Smoking bans snuffed out?

There’s encouraging news from the USA that the recession is leading individual states to defer plans for smoking bans or even in some cases to reverse them. This underlines the point that such measures should never be regarded as inevitable or irreversible, and if opposed vigorously and tenaciously enough can be defeated. Sometimes if proposals can be put off for long enough they tend to disappear off the official radar as attention is turned to other things.

Now this blog is certainly not a cheerleader for any particular political party and I am under no illusions that a change of government would lead to a dramatic reversal of the illiberal tendencies of the past twelve years. However, the Conservatives have at least said they will review the policy and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some concessions may be made, so it is crucial to keep the issue in the public eye and never to accept the ban as a fait accompli. It could even be that in future Labour realises that its joyless, ban-everything policies have led to a serious loss of working-class votes, as a number of its back-benchers have pointed out.

Hopefully when drinks industry representatives meet Alastair Darling they will make the point strongly that the smoking ban is a major factor behind the current difficulties being faced by the pub trade. Whether they will get a sympathetic reception on this or any other issue is of course extremely doubtful, given that New Labour just does not seem to “get” pubs at all.


  1. Yeah
    Labour eh?
    Avsolutely useless
    That is the truth

  2. A very good point TPC. One of the planks of the anti-smoking movement is that bans are irreversible. The general remark is "Debate is over, you lost". All intended to convince that there is no way back.

    The truth is that bans, especially in the US, are constantly in a state of flux. One minute there's a ban, the next it is reversed or amended. It's been the same for over a decade.

  3. You are both indulging in wishful thinking, This isn't the US or indeed Germany. the ban is here to stay, so live with it. And it is a good thing long term, but painful to some short term for sure.

  4. No doubt the supporters of US Prohibition felt it was "here to stay" in 1919, but it was eventually repealed. And even if the smoking ban does remain in place, that doesn't make it any less wrong. As I have repeatedly argued, the campaigns against tobacco and alcohol are essentially two sides of the same coin, and to professes to defend the right to consume alcoholic drinks and yet support the smoking ban is a distinctly hypocritical attitude. "First, they came for the smokers, but I was not a smoker, so I was not concerned."

  5. Nice link, but surely selective reading? The article makes clear that the health lobby can also play the "economic" card to support their position. Although, I think they are right to dismiss it as nonsense.

    You are right to state that it's possible that it could be repealed. However, I don't think the comparison with the USA is a fair one. That was a massively unpopular and (crucially) very difficult law to enforce. Also, England has always been cautious with repealing laws, with the obvious exception of blatantly partisan legislation-which this isn't. With all the other problems to deal with, I can't see any government rushing to revise this law.

    As to its merits, that's a matter of opinion. In my view it was long overdue as the trade simply refused to shape itself. Smokers had a good run of several hundred years ignoring non smokers, so I think they should accept the winds of change.

  6. Why does it have to be 100% one way or the other Tyson?

    The only argument ever put up against a tiered approach, or separate smoking/non-smoking pubs, is the 'level playing field' one.

    What is level about the situation now? Landlocked pubs with no scope for accommodating smokers, plus rich pubcos with more money to throw at the problem. It's distinctly not a level playing field.

    Don't be sucked into believing that the choice is a blanket smoking ban or no restrictions at all, because it's not.

    After all, the ban as it stands, wasn't the one voted for by the public in 2005. Only 646 people were actually given a vote on the matter.

  7. Tyson,

    You see to be implying that smokers and non-smokers are two mutually antagonistic camps, whereas in reality most non-smokers who went to pubs weren't really that bothered about tobacco smoke, as shown by the very small number of totally non-smoking pubs that sprung up before the ban and the limited success enjoyed by many of them. If people had felt strongly about the issue they would have voted with their feet, but they didn't. And the idea that smoke was deterring large numbers of people from visiting pubs has been proved over the past nineteen months to have been a complete pipedream.

  8. As a non-smoker, I only really noticed smoke on a handful of occasions, on rare occasions when everyone in a small pub seemed to be smoking (often darts nights !). In contrast, I've really noticed an unpleasant whiff in a few pubs recently that would have been nicely obscured by a bit of smoke in the past. No chance of a reprieve under Labour though.

  9. Good point, Martin, raised in this column from 2007.

    "Tobacco smoke had been concealing a multitude of sins, and an offputting mixture of sweat, urine, flatulence, stale beer and stale food now held sway."

  10. I think that in a nation that is supposedly free, the owner of the pubs should have the right to decide for themselves whether or not smoking is allowed in their establishment. If the Owner's patrons overwhelmingly agree with the ban, he will keep his pub smoke free, if not he will reverse it. The key here is that a business man (a small business owner) should have the right to run his company as he sees fit.

    Another way that you could combat this is that since smokers are a minority, accuse labour of being predjudice against minorities. They have incurred taxation without representation, alienated and ostracized smokers, and demonized them. It is time that we oust labour and elect a party that believes in the rights of the individual and the right that individual has to freedom of choice and how to run his own business.


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