Tuesday 13 July 2010

Join the club

One aspect of the smoking ban which always seems particularly unreasonable is the prohibition of private clubs permitting smoking, something brought up the other day in the comments. Even if you take all the arguments about health and the protection of employees at face value (which of course I don’t), why in principle should a group of adult smokers, and tolerant non-smokers, not be allowed to set up a private licensed club where they could socialise, in the full knowledge of the potential risks they were exposing themselves to? Obviously under-18s would be strictly barred, and to prevent it having a wider appeal you could prevent the club selling food beyond crisps and nuts, or charging admission for entertainment. You could also prevent non-members being “signed in”, so nobody could visit on impulse.

Maybe it should also be a condition that such a smoking club could have no paid employees, with all the work done by the members on a voluntary basis – although, realistically, given that there are many jobs that involve a far greater and more demonstrable risk to health than working in a smoky club, I don’t see why there shouldn’t be paid employees. After all, in my experience a considerable majority of bar staff are smokers anyway.

Nobody who found smoking unpleasant or offensive or felt it was a risk to their health would ever need to cross the threshold of such an establishment. Nobody could claim it was the only place in town you could get a meal. I really can’t see how any reasonable person could object. If you don’t like kinky sex, you don’t go to fetish clubs. If you don’t like smoke, you don’t go to smoking clubs. Simple.

But perhaps the reason it’s not allowed is not philosophical principle, but the fear that such smoking clubs would become embarrassingly popular amongst non-smokers as well as smokers, thus taking away the vaunted “level playing field” for other businesses, and exposing the hollowness of claims that the ban enjoys overwhelming support. As I said in a previous post, in many spheres the way people vote with their feet can be much more significant than how they cast their ballot.


  1. I wouldn't say a 'considerable majority' of bar staff smoke. I would say about the same number who drink alcohol.

    Having worked in a number of pubs I am struggling to think of more than one member of staff at each that didn't smoke. Or didn't start smoking while they were there.

  2. Yes the points you have made are quite logical .
    Therefore the reaction to not allow smoking even in private clubs can only be conformation of the benign totalitarian nature of the modern state.
    Proved and illustrated perfectly by the ban.
    The parralels exists against other authoritarian policy
    The ban was used as a dress rehersal for more control freak measures.

  3. I was going to write that the "vast majority" of bar staff smoke - but, hey, I don't want to sound too strident ;-)

  4. It's using the same sort of principal as applied to men-only clubs - they had to let women in, but the all-women ones could stay single-sex.

    There are some 'rights' which can be trampled on. Some adults have the power and authority to tell others what to do, and use this power to suit their own agenda.

    Almost the worse knock-on effect of the smoking ban is the closure of almost all casual meeting places for ordinary people, but maybe that was intentional?

  5. Interesting that the smoking ban Act includes volunteers, so is not just to protect employees. It was precisely formulated to ban smoking in all non-residential buildings. The phrase "enclosed public spaces" is both inaccurate and misleading. Looking at it from the point of view of anti tobacco, there was no alternative. Any tiny chink in the armour would have resulted in all but name, plenty of pubs and cafes in which to smoke.

  6. Is it legal to smoke at a fetish club? Only one way to find out Mudge.

  7. I have a Government Document dated
    May 2007 signed by Dawn Primarola
    and undersigned by Caroline Flint
    drafted by Patricia Hewitts Department. One page of this document proved 100% beyond doubt
    that this TOTAL BAN had absolutely
    zilch to do with the protection
    of staff.
    Allowing for the ones who prospered ,nicely from the ban,
    the petty small minded neurotics
    pushing their own self importance
    and of course the little corporals
    without a real life of their own,
    it is still astounding how many
    actually believe the ban was an health issue. There are even silly
    little socialists who aggree Labour shirked on their own Manifesto,did the dirty on their
    own working class supporters and still
    wriggle like Quislings and Judases
    when shown forcefully the facts,
    the closures,the desolation and isolation forced on millions.

    Freedom for all
    Freedom for none

  8. … the fear that such smoking clubs would become embarrassingly popular amongst non-smokers as well as smokers …

    Oh, please! You cannot possibly expect to be taken seriously if you make a statement like that.

  9. Well, why don't we try it and see what the result is?

    But, before the ban came in, it was notable that there were extremely few entirely non-smoking pubs, and some of those that tried that formula fell flat on their faces. It was also noticeable, when we consider wet-led pubs, that non-smoking sections were always the quietest and the last to fill up.

    I can easily imagine that many convivial non-smokers would be attracted by the craic on offer in smoking clubs and leave many of the non-smoking pubs to a dwindling collection of joyless whingeing bigots.

  10. Further to the above comment, can there be any serious doubt that, had the Labour government honoured its manifesto pledge and allowed smoking to continue in private members' clubs, there would not in the months after 1 July 2007 have been a significant movement of trade from wet-led pubs to clubs, and indeed very likely some pubs converting themselves to clubs?

  11. @Martyn Cornell

    Martyn, I am afraid you are wrong. Patricia Hewitt the then Health Secretary was going to allow smoking in private clubs but the pubs lobbied for no exemptions and of course they won. Pubs knew that they would of lost a substantial proportion of their business.

    As someone who is an Executive of Freedom2Choose I can speak on behalf of The Working Mens CIU and let me tell you the biggest challenge facing our clubs is the smoking ban.

    This survey in Ireland states that 58% of bar staff smoke and it is interesting 4% fibbed.

    "Results Self reported smoking prevalence among Cork bar workers (n = 129) was 54% (58% using cotinine-validated measures), with particularly high rates in women (70%) and 18–28 years old (72%).

    Bar workers were twice as likely to be smokers as the general population sub-sample (OR = 2.15)."


  12. Martyn, I disagree. With efficient extraction, no children allowed and no food smells, I can see these places being attractive to many non-smokers.

  13. Anon 20.26. Scan your document and email it to Chris Snowdon at Velvetgloveironfist. If you don't think that is safe, switch brief cases outside the British Museum.

  14. I've been living in Thailand for five years, and would die if they introduced a no smoking policy in bars and clubs. Okay, some clubs do have this in place, but the majority of watering holes don't. Plenty of places to chill and try my new novel, Pursuit To Paradise.

  15. The subject of smoking in work places/pubs etc. should have been a very easy one to change (if it was at all necessary). The owners/operators should have been given a choice, they could then put up notices stating this is a smoking or this is a non-smoking establisment. Visitors/customes/staff etc. could then be told respectively, use/work/visit here if do not like smoke or use/work/visit here if you like smoke or do not mind it. Giving people a choice is democratic (the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community).

  16. Fascist hippy's got it right. With better-planned introduction, more consultation with regional authorities etc, this saga could have been handled in a much more benificial way. Loopholes were invented to be used!


Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. Unregistered comments will generally be rejected unless I recognise the author. If you want to comment using an unregistered ID, you will need to tell me something about yourself.