Earlier this week, David Nuttall, the new Conservative MP for Bury North, put down a private member’s bill under the Ten-Minute Rule to amend the smoking ban in pubs and clubs. It was defeated, but by the surprisingly narrow margin of 141 votes to 86 – and this for a hastily-submitted measure where there was little opportunity to lobby for support. Much of the opposition seemed to be simply recycling the same old clichés with little sense of conviction – see Dick Puddlecote here. What is to say that a better-organised bill, with more time for lobbying, could not do even better? The antismokers have argued that the ban enjoys overwhelming support, and is a done deal on which there is no going back, but clearly this isn’t the case.
This underlines the fact that the the smoking ban very much remains on the political radar. Contrary to the hopes of the antismoking lobby, opponents of the ban are not going to “move on” or “stop crying over spilt milk”. The passage of time does not render the ban any more acceptable, or any more right, if anything quite the contrary. And the issue won’t go away until the ban is relaxed.