Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Smoking ban is rare Labour success. Don't change it.

I notice that a couple of the big Conservative blogs, Dizzy and Iain Dale, have clambered aboard a campaign to amend the smoking ban. The argument is that current legislation is too inflexible and provision should be made for certain exemptions. There is an implication that pubs and clubs especially might choose to operate outside the ban, in order to lure back lost customers.

This type of thinking is obviously attractive to the libertarian strand of Conservatism. Personally I oppose the campaign.

I suspect that the smoking ban’s uncompromising nature has provided the impetus for its success. Without producing hard evidence (although I’m quite prepared to do some research if anyone thinks my contentions are questionable) I’d imagine there are fewer smokers today than there were before the legislation came into force and those who do smoke certainly smoke fewer cigarettes when they are out at bars and restaurants. I am told that medical professionals are already satisfied that the ban has had a positive impact on the nation’s health.

On a purely personal level, I have got used to smoke free pubs and I find them much more convivial than their smoke filled equivalents. I’d be prepared to bet that many other customers feel the same. Yes, if a few bars were to reintroduce smoking I could choose to go elsewhere, but necessarily more and more pubs would revert and the ban would be undermined.

Friends who smoke would naturally tend to gravitate towards premises which permitted their habit and non-smokers in their social circle would probably follow rather than appear unduly censorious. Those who had cut down dramatically on their night out cigarette intake would find it gradually creeping up, despite their best intentions. Many of these people have been amongst the most enthusiastic supporters of smoke free bars, in my experience.

To instinctively prohibit anything associated with health problems is clearly not tenable. However when legislation is in place which is working and which the public, for the most part, has accepted and grown used to, I see little point in tinkering with its provisions. Let pubs entice customers back by other means.

8 comments:

Frank H Little said...

I never thought I'd agree with a NI Unionist, but I certainly subscribe to your views here.

Now, would you also agree that the supermarkets and corner shops with liquor licences are a greater threat to pubs than the smoking ban? Or perhaps their difficulties are not so pronounced in NI?

Chekov said...

I never thought I'd agree with a NI Unionist

I must admit I can’t imagine why. Northern Ireland unionists have a variety of different opinions on every topic under the sun, we simply share a conviction that the best constitutional arrangement for our region is to remain within the United Kingdom.

Now, would you also agree that the supermarkets and corner shops with liquor licences are a greater threat to pubs than the smoking ban? Or perhaps their difficulties are not so pronounced in NI?

Very cheap off sales do encourage people to drink at home which is bad for the local pub. I think there’s also something of a culture shift at work here, whereby people are more inclined to watch the television and have a couple of glasses of red, rather than tramp half a mile to the local for a pint. It’s difficult to know how you reverse that trend.

fair_deal said...

"I am told that medical professionals are already satisfied that the ban has had a positive impact on the nation’s health."

Such a basis could be used for a wide variety of bans so why single out smoking?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/8126129.stm

Timothy Belmont said...

You are right, Chekov. The smoking ban has had a positive effect on the health of the UK, including smokers! The hard core of smokers who find the ban unacceptable ought, perhaps, to re-double their efforts to give up tobacco. Obviously it's easier said than done because it is an addiction.
It's really inconceivable that the smoking ban would be repealed, given the savings being made by the NHS and other inestimable benefits.

Tim

Chekov said...

Such a basis could be used for a wide variety of bans so why single out smoking?

As I've intimated, the ban is already in place and working well.

fair_deal said...

"As I've intimated, the ban is already in place and working well."

Because it is there does not address the question "Such a basis could be used for a wide variety of bans so why single out smoking?"

Chekov said...

If a law is already in operation and is found to be working well then it is the responsibility of those wishing to remove it to prove that there's a strong reason for doing so. To instigate a ban where there isn't one already requires an entirely different balance to the debate. We don't know if other bans would work. We know about this one because it's operable.

Chekov said...

Incidentally smoking is fairly unusual in that it is still a significant risk factor in all manner of diseases even when it is practised in moderation. I know, because I'm told the 'risk factor' even when I eat too many fecking chocolate bars. :-(