Tuesday, November 16, 2004

England also to ban smoking in pubs

I think I speak for all of us at Europhobia when I say "the bastards!" We've already covered how smoking bans in public spaces don't actually help people to quit smoking, and everything Rhona was saying about Scotland pretty much applies to the proposed English ban as well.

The fact that the English ban is in restaurants and "pubs that serve food" (whatever that might mean) makes this even more nonsensical. It smacks decidedly of a vote-winning ploy, aimed at the self-righteous, largely middle-class non-smoking lobby who want to be able to have a nice glass of chianti in a gastropub (probably along with their goujons of plaice in a light dill sauce with a side of sauteed asparagus and curly fries) without coughing on someone else's smoke.

The people who want to ban smoking in pubs are precisely the people who don't understand what pubs are all about. It's like me going into a vegetarian restaurant and getting annoyed that I can't have a nice juicy steak.

But hey - smokers can still go to pubs that don't serve food! So that's all right then. Pubs without food are - these days - usually in working-class areas. So the poor can still smoke themselves to death, as long as they don't do it where Tristram and Priscilla can be upset by their fumes and coughing.

Smoking has been a central part of pub culture for centuries - the majority of regular pub-goers either smoke themselves, or don't mind - and non-smokers have the ability to go elsewhere if they don't like it. It's called market choice.

So why can't this sort of decision be left to the landlords? The Wetherspoons chain (one of the largest in the UK, with pubs in most towns) are already introducing chain-wide smoking bans. This alone will give most towns at least one smoke-free pub. If the market is calling for more non-smoking drinking dens, more will appear, just as more no smoking areas are appearing in pubs and restaurants throughout the land.

Why legislate to force something on people when the market can dictate? That way everyone's happy - smokers get to smoke, non-smokers get to have pubs where they aren't bothered by me lighting up.

Update: Oh God... I appear to be agreeing with the Tories... (Although the proposal by the "Lib Dem Youth and Students" to introduce "smoking licenses" for pubs may also be workable...)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a difficult issue, but one I think you are wrong about. I used to smoke. After about 10 years I discovered I was allergic to cigarette smoke, and was advised by my doctor to give up or face a slow death. I struggled to give up. I always went back to smoking, until I moved for a while to a country which bans smoking in pubs, restaurants, shopping malls, workplaces, etc. Believe me it made a huge difference and helped me to kick the habit for good.

But I also recognise that my grandfather, who smoked like a chimney (and lived a long and healthy life although he died of a smoking-related disease at the age of 88!) was not allergic to cigarettes. He smoked from the age of about 12, and had no reason to give up. It would seem a pity that people like that are penalised, but I suppose with most things we have to go with what does the greater good for the most people.

You find that smokers are very adaptible people. Within a short space of time they go from inconsiderate dirty and smelly people who never empty their ashtrays and blow smoke in everyone's face to being considerate, asking permission before lighting up, and standing in the parking lot at work or in a lean-to shelter outside the back of a pub in Ireland. Everyone likes to moan, but the trick is to get the law passed quickly so that they can face facts and start adapting earlier.

11/16/2004 10:14:00 pm  
Blogger Underblog.co.uk said...

Well, for a majority of the pub-going public, pubs are not "all about" smoking. In the UK, one bar-worker a week dies from passive smoking (consevative estimate).The government has a duty legislate to ensure workplaces are safe, and the current ban doesn't go far enough.

11/17/2004 05:09:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Anonymous - yep, it's hard to give up. But it's not impossible if you've got the willpower - I've seen it happen. But yep, it's easier if you can't smoke anywhere. This is why this so-called ban is so ridiculous.

If the government were seriously concerned about our health, they'd ban fags completely, and sod the massive loss in tax revenue (make it up by not launcing illegal wars, perchance?). At the very least they'd make nicotine-replacement treatments free/subsidised.

A total ban I have no problems with (as long as the government also provided smokers with help to get over the withdrawal symptoms) - it's the half-measure of allowing people to continue smoking, and continue to be addicted, but preventing them from smoking in certain places. You're right, I'll learn to live with it, but I'll be well and truly fucked off when I'm unable to light up for a few hours.

Underblog - I'll get the obvious ones out the way first: they don't HAVE to work in bars. Plus there still isn't any actual proof that passive smoking in a bar-type environment causes lung cancer, despite all these scare stories. I think it's highly likely, but there is still no actual proof.

I fully agree that no one else should have to breathe my smoke. I find smoking in restaurants unpleasant a lot of the time (even though a fag after a meal is always nice). Pubs are, however, a different matter. They aren't "all about" smoking - and I don't think I said they were - but smoking is nonetheless a fairly major part of pub culture. As I say, if there's so much demand for non-smoking pubs, the market will create them. There hasn't been - to date - so most pubs maintain the tradition of letting people smoke.

This ban is supposedly also to "attract non pub-goers back to pubs". Fine. So why doesn't the government legislate to make Miss Selfridge stock bottled ales and DVDs? That might attract me there. But that's not who Miss Selfridge is aimed at. Pubs are aimed at people who like to drink, have a chat and (in a higher percentage of cases than is the national norm) have a smoke. It's ridiculous to force them to change to appeal to a market they evidently have no wish to attract.

As for the one bar person dying of passive smoking a week claim, I find that fairly hard to believe, but OK. Say it is true - how many people die on the roads each week? Car pollution - how many diseases has that caused? Do they ban cars? No. Why not? I don't drive so I couldn't care less.

But in the final tally - if the pubs are happy to have smoking, and the bar staff are happy to work there with people smoking, and the customers want to smoke, who is the government to say they can't?

Until smoking as a whole is made illegal, this not even half-ban is simply penalising the pub trade and irritating people like me who want to have a relaxing few pints and a smoke of an evening. It's not actually going to help anyone - and the bar staff in the pubs and bars where smoking IS allowed are going to be even worse off, as they'll have several times the number of smokers in there.

I think - believe it or not, and even though we're all coming at it from different perspectives - we all agree on something there...

11/17/2004 06:09:00 pm  
Blogger Underblog.co.uk said...

Ok. No they don't HAVE to work in bars, so perhaps we shouldn't need to regulate. Perhaps warehouses, factories and office blocks shouldn't be obliged to have adequate fire escapes. Perhaps haulage firms shouldn't have to get their lorries MOTed. Perhaps we shouldn't have a minimum wage or a maximum number of working hours per week. But we probably should, because, I would suggest, safe and fair working conditions shouldn't be dependent on the labour market.

You may doubt the figures of passive smoking related deaths among bar-workers. (I don't think it's people dropping dead behind bars. They take people who die from smoking related illness and use statistical techniques to estimate a proportion that can be attributed to work in smoke-filled bars). But this is science. It's the best information we have, and I actually chose one of the more conservative figures reported in scientifically credible sources. Similar arguments are or have been used by oil companies to argue against doing anything to combat climate change; by the tabacco companies to question whether smoking causes cancer or is addictive; and by the MOD to avoid compensating gulf-war syndrome sufferers. "It's all speculation, there is a diversity of opinion, we need more research, there's no PROOF yet". Well you'll wait forever for proof - the scientific method is actually incapable of prooving a theory with absolute certainty. But in all of these cases, the theories have stood up against attempts to disproove them, and the vast majority of scientific opinion accepts them. (Actually, perhaps the gulf war syndrome thing is less certain, but that's by the by)

Yes cars kill people. No we don't ban cars. It's all about balance between personal freedom and the safety of others. Firstly, far more people drive than smoke in pubs. Secondly, motorised transport is far more important to the running of the country than smoking in pubs (which I would suggest, is of no importance at all). Thirdly, in most car accidents you can identify one individual who is a fault, which whilst not bringing anyone back to life, at least allows compensation and therefore an incentive to drive safely. But hey, if someone proposes a realistic alternative to the car, or measures to reduce accidents or the number of cars on the road, I'm all for it. (Speed cameras, traffic calming, efficient public transport, banning drink driving, banning SUVs...)

I don't support the current half-ban. There should be a ban on smoking in all public places and workplaces. I also think there's a case for prosecuting parents who smoke around their children, although that would perhaps be unworkable. I don't support a ban on tabacco, indeed I think other drugs should be legalised, because what people do in private, if they aren't harming others, is not the state's business (as long as the burden on the NHS is recouped by appropriate taxes - I don't think we should tax fags (or alcohol) above health costs + standard VAT).

You'll probably have guessed I'm not a smoker. I don't find smoke in pubs particularly unpleasant, although I would like to be able to charge the smokers for the additional launderette and dry cleaning charges that result! I could choose not to go in, and I do sit in no smoking areas if they have them, but if I want a nice pub-type environment I usually have to put up with the smoke.

11/17/2004 09:20:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, I agree: this smoking ban IS ludicrous. I don't know where the proponents/supporters of the ban get their ideas from, but it certainly ain't reality! Have any of them actually been in any of the pubs in this country? Over three-quarters of all those in there smoke! They've just told those customers that they're no longer welcome because of a lifestyle choice!

They should get real - why not tackle REAL problems like drugs or under-age drinking instead of going after smokers.

11/18/2004 04:57:00 pm  
Blogger Underblog.co.uk said...

I shouldn't think anyway near three quarters of the people in most pubs smoke, but even if they did, I'm sure there was once a time when three quarters of people in certain pubs drove home in the evening under the influence of alcohol. Both drink driving and smoke in pubs kill people. The fact that a lot of people do it doesn't mean it should be allowed.

11/18/2004 06:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well what our lovley government is trying to do is big brother everyone of us.
And the kicks they are getting out of it.
people hating others for smoking , binge drinking ,crime etc etc and the trouble is people dont take out their frustrations out on the government do they. no each other and thats where we go wrong .
we fight each other and they win and as long as we play the game and let them tackle our weakspots it will never change.
they all want locking up before its to late and new world order and armageddon lurks around the corner

6/23/2005 10:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well what our lovley government is trying to do is big brother everyone of us.
And the kicks they are getting out of it.
people hating others for smoking , binge drinking ,crime etc etc and the trouble is people dont take out their frustrations out on the government do they. no each other and thats where we go wrong .(read the posts from people and see what i mean )
we fight each other and they win and as long as we play the game and let them tackle our weakspots it will never change.
they all want locking up before its to late and new world order and armageddon lurks around the corner

6/23/2005 10:36:00 pm  

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