Friday, 13 August 2021

Baby steps to prohibition

It has been reported that, to help achieve their target of achieving a “smoke-free Britain” by 2030, the government are looking at raising the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21. This would put it out of line with pretty much every other normal activity in society. We have established now that 18 is the age of majority for virtually everything. The only areas where the minimum legal age is 21 are those where some additional degree of maturity is considered desirable, such as adopting a child, supervising a learner driver and gaining an HGV or commercial pilot’s licence. Yet smoking, while widely deprecated, remains a legal activity, and one that is enjoyed by very many people.

Young people would still be easily able to obtain cigarettes either from co-operative adults or via the black market, so it’s hard to see this making any meaningful difference to availability. And, given that smoking is already outlawed in any indoor social settings, there aren’t really many situations where a young person lighting up would raise eyebrows. On any warm day in a city, the smell of cannabis is already widespread, and that is illegal for any age.

There’s no suggestion that possession would be outlawed, only the act of purchase, so the police wouldn’t be patrolling the streets demanding that any young smokers they come across prove their age. And it’s hard to see that pub licensees would have much enthusiasm for checking the age of smokers in beer gardens.

And what kind of message would this send to young people, that they’re not considered mature enough to act responsibly? As a society, we pay a lot of lip service to the interests of the young, while in numerous ways seeking to restrict their freedom of action. The previous increase in the tobacco purchase age from 16 to 18 in 2007 went through with very little adverse comment, although it was overshadowed by the indoor smoking ban introduced earlier in the same year.

The only area where there is pressure to increase their freedoms is in reducing the voting age to 16, but would that really achieve any more than giving them the opportunity to choose what colour of stick they prefer to be beaten with? And it’s hardly a consistent message to say that you are considered old enough to decide who should govern the country, but not what you can put in your own body.

Once the principle was established, there would inevitably be calls to extend it to other areas, in particular alcohol. Oh, that will never happen, many will say. But it has already been proposed in Scotland. Fortunately it wasn’t implemented at the time, but it clearly indicates the thought processes of the public health establishment. What would it say to a young soldier who had been putting his life on the line in Afghanistan, but then wasn’t allowed to buy a few cans to relax at home with his family?

19 comments:

  1. "would that really achieve any more than giving them the opportunity to choose what colour of stick they prefer to be beaten with?"

    Getting a bit dark there, Mudge...

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  2. The decline of the British pub was set in earnest with the 2007 Smoking Ban. Since then this country has gone increasingy down the authoritarian route. Little by little we are losing our freedoms due to the actions of strident minorities. We were once tolerant. Smoking was just the start. Be in no doubt - these people now want our pubs.

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    1. Curtailing ones freedom to harm other people is not totalitarian. It is a prime directive for any government of any colour.

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    2. Provided that it is based on fact. In the case of 'passive' smoking the Enstrom & Kabbat survey (35000 over 30 years) along with the Bofetta et Al survey (WHO , 7 years) showed the claim of danger to others to be somewhat false!

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  3. It is easy enough to buy smokes on line with no more check on age than a self declaration that you are over 18, so the law will be unenforceable.
    And unenforceable laws are a very bad thing because they reduce the authority of the law where it matters.

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  4. FFS you are a curmudgeon. I love your posts on beer and pubs but really getting tired of your polemics. No one gives a shit about cigarettes anymore - that fight is over and you are not even a smoker. I am no fan of bans or limits but your posts are getting tedious. I live in Dallas and we do not have real ale here so do me a favor bud, pull out that rail pass of yours,mosey on down to the next town and tells us about those heavenly pubs with bench seating and no music while I stare at 32 TVs in my local.

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    1. So I am a curmudgeon? Who knew? If you don't like it, don't read it.

      And, in the fullness of time, everything done to smokers will be done to drinkers. Don't tell me I didn't warn you.

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    2. Do you really believe that drinking will eventually be banned in indoor public spaces, 'mudge?
      I, personally, find that very unlikely.
      It is difficult to apply the "danger of side smoke" argument to alcohol (though it will be tried).
      But, more importantly its the economy stupid. The economic ramification of effectively banning sale of alcohol other than for home consumption would be far greater than those of banning smoking. It is not just pubs but theatres, concerts, restaurants and so on. Many of these establishments would not be viable without the profit from selling alcohol
      And I think that there would massive public outrage at the idea of closing almost every pub n the country, especially from non pub goers :-).

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    3. What a selfish person you are. So its alright to write smokers off because you don't like it. Many people enjoy smoking and were and still are huge users of pubs so butt out of it. Curmudgeon is right they are gunning gor pubs. Petsonally whaley or whatever your name is i'd like to know exactly what you enjoy and ban that ! See how you enjoy being picked on.

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    4. Why are you so aggressively obnoxious towards me, Lucretius? I am merely pointing out the difficulties in banning the sale of alcohol in public places. I am a smoker by the way.
      My greatest pleasure is driving my sports car at 120mph on motorways.

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    5. @dcbwhaley - It won't necessarily be a mirror image, but there can be no doubt that the anti-tobacco campaign is being used as a template for action in other lifestyle areas.

      When tobacco advertising was banned, any suggestion that it would lead to severe restrictions on advertising food would have been pooh-poohed, but it has happened.

      And, of course, a measure that led to the closure of thousands of pubs went through in 2007 with remarkably little public outrage.

      Plus the idea of banning indoor drinking has already been tried in Scotland.

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    6. I'd also remind Anon that in "About this page" I write "The smoking ban is what prompted the creation of this blog back then and, while it touches on many other topics, it remains essentially its core theme."

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  5. Only steers and queers come from Dallas Texas and that Anom does not seem like a steer.

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  6. Do young people smoke cigarettes anymore? Everyone I pass in the street seems to be exhaling either billowing clouds of vape or the somewhat distinct aroma of the ols wacky baccy. I find it very rare to pass someone who is smoking a regular cigarette.

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  7. Many young people where i live enjoy cigarettes made from rolling tobacco and most people know someone who supplies cheap from abroad. People have been priced out of regular cigarettes by the high prices almost double those in Greece. Also there is greatly diminished choice now in the UK now we have plain packaging and everything looks the same.

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  8. There are no shortage of pubs with a ban on under 21s entering in the Good Beer Guide.
    CAMRA leads the way.

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  9. Given the Toraidhs (not a typo, this time) are basically in the pocket of property developers, I wouldn't be too surprised if they are assaulting pubs in order to make sure their mates can get prime development land for buttons. Thieving b'stards the lot of them.

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  10. Beginning to look like the shortage of beer and draymen to deliver what there is could have a more immediate effect

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  11. @dcbwhaley 11.01 - All your , reasonable , comments were arguments made by people (including myself) about smoking 20 - 30 years ago. Because banning smoking in pubs never made any sense then or in 2007 but it still happened. I agree with you that banning drinking in pubs is unlikely to happen any time soon. It would need drinkers to be in a minority for starters. But there is also an important difference between alcohol control and tobacco control in that tobacco is a far deeper political hot potato than alcohol because the powers that be need to convince the scientific community and the broader public that the reason why global lung cancer deaths are falling is because the numbers of smokers are falling globally - despite the fact that the ecological data tells us this is impossible. Put simply there is a global lung cancer pandemic to hide and the consequences of it not being hidden would be very damaging to the five permanent members of the UN security council (and a few other countries). You may be able to work it all out from the information I have provided. Alcohol has no such problems so there is no need to ban it in a hurry.

    "My greatest pleasure is driving my sports car at 120mph on motorways." - surely you mean on a private road adjacent to a motorway? ;-)

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