Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Being executed with a bacon slicer

I was tempted to post about the government plans to require tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging, but in the end decided there’s only so much outrage I can summon up in a day. But I was struck by this rather despairing post by IanB on the Counting Cats in Zanzibar blog:

I feel scared. I can see the world I grew up in being dismantled, bit by bit. There are times I wish they’d just get it over with. In a sense, it is the gradualism that is unbearable. There are times I wish they’d just ban everything- baccy and beer, burgers and bangers, and all the rest- once and for all. Instead, they creep forward one apparently tiny step at a time. It’s like being executed with a bacon slicer.
You do have to wonder when it’s all going to stop. Will there ever be some turn of the tide, some popular uprising against all the nannies and the bullies? Or will all of our freedom and individual responsiblility continue to be dismantled, agonisingly slowly, piece by piece?

And the truly galling thing is that so many are happy to stand by and applaud as others lose their extremities to the blade, even though they must know, deep down, that one day it will be their turn.


  1. I found the post you refer to chock full of studied and carefully drawn hopelessness; it didn't really look like a genuine outpouring of despair to me.

  2. I think the smoking ban was one of the best things to happen to pubs in the last ten years. Was in Austria recently where I could smoke freely in bars and not only was I conscious of blowing smoke on people who dont want it, I hated my clothes stinking the next day.

    Nearly every smoker I know agrees with the UK smoking ban in pubs. I want to taste and smell my beer, not someone elses smoke. What people forget is that first hand a cigarette may taste great to the smoker, but its the second hand smoke that doesnt, and it thats which everyone else in the pub has to endure.

  3. p.s. I know you didnt mention the smoking ban specifically but i've got a feeling this is one of the 'bacon slices' youre talking about?

  4. Ah yes, "the best thing that's happened to pubs in the last ten years. " Because it's only closed 7,000 of them, hasn't it?

    Of course, before the ban there was nothing to stop people opening wholly non-smoking pubs. But very few did, and many of those were not exactly very successful, which suggests the demand wasn't really there.

    Anyway, all the things that were visited on smokers are now being progressively extended to drinkers. I and plenty of others told you so, but if you weren't prepared to listen then don't be surprised now.

    "First they came for the smokers, but I was not a smoker, so I was not concerned." Now where have I heard that before?

  5. Here's an excellent post at Adam Smith on the coming prohibition.


    The stance of the prohibitionist is more or less equal on tobacco and alchohol.

    So do not worry @Neil, Eating Isnt Cheating there won't be any pubs at all eventually.
    You see Alchohol, is the next slice.
    ps I really do not believe that most smokers support the ban it's such an impossible notion to comprehend.
    Oh and keep you body mass index down their next .

  6. That stat is wildy inaccurate and you know it. If that stat were true, where have all the smokers gone? are you saying that they have given up drinking? Or now dont go to the pub? A load of rubbish. I've not seen any of the good pubs in my area close, just the ones which were best avoided anyway.

    Pubs are closing at a rapid rate I agree, but the amount of good pubs and bars serving quality real ale and dare i say it craft beer is the best it has been in years. The quality of pubs is improving, even if the quantity is decreasing, something people seem happy to ignore.

    people do vote with their feet. if you want to stay open, run a better pub, diversify, or simplify, but most importantly be the best at what you do. The smoking ban is a weak excuse

    also, regarding non-smoking pubs, the fatc they werent popular prior smoking ban is a moot point. Friends stick together, same reason you don't go to a bar that requires shoes if one mate has trainer son. Even though you might not all smoke why go to a bar where one is excluded? The culture and facilities have changed now, going outside for a fag is the norm. back then it wasnt, and as such by chosing that bar you would exclude the smokers. Peoples mindset has changed, and in my humble opinion, it's for the better.

  7. anon - I actually said "Nearly every smoker I know agrees with the UK smoking ban in pubs". and amongst people i know that is true. Thats all i was stating, I'm not claiming to be YouGov!

  8. "Or now dont go to the pub?"

    Yep, that'll be me. I used to love pubs having grown up in one, but they're too much hassle now so I've been to a pub twice since 2007 (for parties where it would be rude not to). I do my drinking at home with friends these days. There are a hell of a lot of us.

    And I think you'll find the stat is according to BBPA figures.

  9. It's a complete canard to suggest that, because some smokers still go to pubs, the smoking ban has not affected the trade of pubs. Of course some smokers still go to pubs – indeed apparently smokers on average are still more likely to go to pubs than non smokers. But of those who went before July 2007, some have stopped going entirely, some go less often, some spend less time when they do go, and the overall effect on trade is all downwards. There's a huge wealth of anecdotal evidence that the smoking ban has had a severe negative effect on the pub trade.

    And, given that a government survey has shown that a majority of the British public continue to oppose a blanket smoking ban in pubs and bars, the assertion that most of the smokers you know support the ban suggests that any smokers you do know are highly unrepresentative.

    If you can't see the strong parallels between the campaigns against smoking and alcohol then you are living in a dreamworld.

  10. curmudge - So we've gone from "it's only closed 7,000 of them, hasn't it?" to "of those who went before July 2007, some have stopped going entirely, some go less often, some spend less time when they do go, and the overall effect on trade is all downwards". They are two very different points, the second represents 'some', which I would agree with. That is very different to saying the smoking ban has caused 7000 pub closures, when in fact that figure is part of a downward spiral alreayd in motion before the ban isnt it?

    dick - what is a hassle about it now? You are one of the smokers who dont agree with the ban, thats fair enough. But there are many smokers who do, and the vast majority of non-smokers applaud it.

    the so called 'attack on alcohol' may have parallels, such as increased duty etc i agree. I never actually mentioned not seeing parallels in my comments if you read back, did I? Just that I dont think the smoking ban was a bad thing. So not sure where this 'dreamworld' rubbish came from.

    I doubt we are going to agree on this but I made a very simple point to begin with, I agree with the smoking ban. You obviously don't. Lets agree to disagree

  11. Neil, At very great stretch it could be argued that pubs are public buildings or that their staff need protecting, but there is no argument for banning private smoking clubs staffed by volunteer members (the ban specifically includes volunteers among "employees"). Why would non-smokers care about the existencwe of such clubs? I've never got a satisfactory answer.

  12. anon - couldnt agree more. Private members clubs are a different beast altogether. I wholeheartedly agree they shouldnt have been included in the ban in the first place. Provided they are truly still a 'members club' with paying members.

    I remember when the ban came in I couldnt believe they extended it to members clubs. And also places like middle eastern Hooka/Shisha bars aswell, I mean, why would you go there if not to smoke!? I think most people expected it not to include clubs.

  13. Ah, but the argument was that if private members' clubs were excluded, then there wouldn't be a "level playing field" and pubs would be disadvantaged. You could have seen some wet-led pubs converting to clubs so they could continue to allow smoking.

  14. Neil, Curm has explained the problem, but you have gone up in my estimation,
    Jonathan bagley.

  15. Jonathan Bagley is previous anon.

  16. "the vast majority of non-smokers applaud it."

    Sorry, they don't, see here.

    When specifically asked the question as to whether they thought that pubs and bars should be able to allow smoking in separate areas, a majority have always agreed. And bear in mind that this is a government survey, not one done on behalf of FOREST or suchlike.

  17. "what is a hassle about it now?"

    Next winter, whenever you are nice and comfy in a pub, get up, put your coat on, and stand outside under a grubby awning for 5 minutes a couple of times an hour in sub-zero temperatures. It's no hassle, after all.

    Of course, if I'm at home with good supermarket brews (no standing at a packed bar), I can relax properly. Understand?

    Nice that you can see the idiocy of parts of the ban, mind. But why you can't imagine that there is a demand for at least some smoking-allowed pubs, is a complete mystery.

  18. Ask yourself this Neil, if pubs were given the choice tomorrow to stay smokefree or allow smoking again which pubs would get the most custom?
    I think you know the answer to that so now tell me again how many smokers are in favour of the ban?
    Im a smoker and i still use pubs although nowhere near as often, my local consists of about fifteen of us in a smoking shelter and no-one in the pub!

  19. Curmudge - again you're taking a very general statistic and extrapolating it to encompass more than it is actually saying.

    41% agreeing with smoking being allowed in a specific area, does not mean 41% are against the smoking ban. Smokers have specific areas now, often in a partially enclosed, covered up outdoor smoking area. Is that what at least some of that 41% were thinking of? Does the survey make this clear?

    Also, in the stats you quote, 46% of people disagree with the ban. So you can hardly say that 41% is the majority can you?

  20. anon - cheers. I'm just saying my opinion of the ban, it's all shades of grey i admit. But I dont think an opinion can be "wrong", not mine, not yours, not anybody's.

    kebabking - a fair point. But if it's a comfort thing, is it fair to make non-smokers share our second hand smoke?

  21. No non-smokers have ever been "forced to share others' second-hand smoke". For a start, nobody has to go in pubs anyway. And, even before the ban, there were very large numbers of pubs with non-smoking areas, or even ones that were predominantly non-smoking, so if you felt that strongly about it there was no shortage of places to frequent. Obviously, since the vast majority of pubgoers were quite willing to drink in areas where smoking was permitted, they really weren't that bothered.

  22. I can only think of one pub that had a specific non-smoking room before the ban. Again, I think you are generalising.

    In the past, if the choice is to not go at all or go to a pub where people smoke then people would invariably choose the latter. The smoke was never a deal breaker for all but a few people i Knew. But that doesnt mean that they wouldnt prefer it to be non smoking.

  23. Well, every single Wetherspoons had a non-smoking area, and some had gone entirely non-smoking before the ban, although the company called a halt to that programme as sales, not surprisingly, fell off a cliff.

    Obviously I can't get in a time machine and go back to June 2007 to prove the point, but certainly there were a large number of pubs around here that had non-smoking areas. There was even one wholly non-smoking pub (the Phoenix in Hazel Grove). I would be amazed if your neck of the woods was any different. OK, they tended to be the more food-oriented pubs, but they did include some urban locals and specialist beer pubs as well. If it was important to you to be able to drink in a non-smoking environment, then you wouldn't have had much difficulty in finding somewhere that you could.

    As you say yourself, smoking wasn't a deal-breaker in the sense that maybe availability of real ale was, so it can't be said there was a genuine economic demand for non-smoking pubs. I would like beer to be 10p a pint and served by topless 21-year-old barmaids, but the fact that I don't get either doesn't stop me going to pubs.

  24. Neil,

    That stat is wildy inaccurate and you know it. If that stat were true, where have all the smokers gone? are you saying that they have given up drinking? Or now dont go to the pub? A load of rubbish. I've not seen any of the good pubs in my area close, just the ones which were best avoided anyway.

    People are basically sharing the "buying the booze duties" and doing rotas at each others houses. Or just not going out as couples down the pub.

    If you look at the closures, the evidence points to them being about the smoking ban:-

    1. The trade in town centre bars is barely affected. This is because young people go out to pull and they'll trade a little inconvenience of having to go out for a smoke with the possibility of getting sex.

    2. Food-orientated pubs are barely affected, and many of these already got most of their money from a non-smoking dining room.

    3. Pubs which have an outdoor area or garden which can support a shelter are less likely to close than a pub without one.

    4. Pubs with more of a working-class clientele (so more smokers) are closing more.

    This is why Working Men's Clubs have been hit so hard. They hit all these things and for a lot of people, they'd rather just go to each other's houses.

    I'm an ex-smoker. I remember when my former employer introduced a smoking ban in the office and how annoying it was, but at least they were paying me to be there. Given the choice between going to a pub and not smoking, or drinking at home and smoking, I'd have taken the second option unless there was a very good reason (like trying to pick up women).


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