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: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.