The Smoking Ban

Now that I’ve accidentally started this blog/journal, maybe I’ll continue.

It was the smoking ban that brought me here. And I guess that it’ll quite likely be the smoking ban about which I’ll continue to write. Because it’s something about which I’m quite obsessed. And that I’m extremely angry about.

Coming up on 2 years after the smoking ban came into force, on 1 July 2007, I’m still angry about it.

There are some simple reasons for that anger. Firstly, the British people didn’t want it. In opinion polls before the ban, the 70% of people wanted things to be left the same, or some restrictions put on smoking in public places. Only 30% (which is actually quite a lot) wanted a total ban. So this was a ban imposed in the face of public opinion. It seems public opinion doesn’t matter. And that’s undemocratic.

The second reason was that the Labour manifesto said they intended to ban smoking in pubs which served food, but not ones that didn’t.. I could have lived with that. I don’t particularly want to smoke while I’m eating – although a cigarette at the end of a meal would be welcome. So a promise was broken in imposing a complete ban.

I guess that a third reason was that there isn’t really any good reason for a ban. There isn’t any real health threat from tobacco smoke. Most studies of it show little or no threat. We have a ban because a considerable number of people don’t like the smell of tobacco smoke. And because the medical establishment and the WHO want to get people to give up smoking. And so the smoking ban is really a piece of social engineering.  It’s highly authoritarian.

I wasn’t in the least bit interested in the smoking issue before this ban came into force. Smoking was just another thing I did. Like I drink tea. And enjoy a pint. And read books. I accepted that there was probably a risk in smoking. I never imagined for a moment that a British government would do something like ban smoking in all public places. And then start to move to force tobacco to be sold from under the counter. And then to start banning smoking in outside areas, and cars. What’s going on? Something has gone horribly wrong.

It also bothered me that there was so little debate about it. The movers and shakers who pushed for the ban were senior doctors, and pressure groups like ASH. The parliamentary debate was laughable. And once the ban came into force, there was no reporting of it in the mass media. There were no debates about it. There were no investigative studies. There weren’t even any polls. Smokers became non-people. And the smoking ban became a non-subject. As if it had never happened. It was Orwellian.

And then there were the ubiquitous No Smoking signs that sprang up everywhere, even in churches. And there were the anti-smoking TV ads,. One portrayed black smoke coming out of smokers. Another had a little girl with a hook through her lip. Another said: "If you smoke, you stink." If anyone had run that sort of campaign against Jews or blacks or gays, there would have been uproar. Instead, there wasn’t even a murmur. The depiction of smokers in these ads reminded me of nothing so much as the depictions of Jews in Nazi propaganda. This was fascism. This was Nazism. How could this be happening, here in Britain. Why was nobody noticing? Were they all blind?

The smoking ban, once in came into force, shattered pub communities. I used to go to my local pub every day, just for a quiet pint and a smoke, to gather my thoughts, relax and meditate. I could no longer do that after smoking was banned. It’s only possible to do that sitting outside. And sitting outside is only possible in summer. And the summer of 2007 was dull and wet and overcast. And so was the summer of 2008. And 2009 isn’t looking very much better. I simply stopped going to pubs in the winter. And so did lots of other people. Which is of course the reason why pubs started closing their doors shortly after the ban came into force.

I could go on. The smoking ban is not just about smoking. It’s about freedom and democracy and accountability. It’s about science and risk and health and medicine.  It’s about truth and justice. It’s about friends and communities and social inclusion and exclusion. The smoking ban is about everything. It is connected to everything.

Which is why, in writing about the smoking ban, it’s possible to write about anything. Because it is connected to those things. It is related to those things.

About Frank Davis

smoker
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12 Responses to The Smoking Ban

  1. nisakiman says:

    Frank, I don’t know if you ever re-visit your old blogs, but I’ll leave a comment anyway. This particular blog, coincidentally, was written on my 60th birthday, and I’ve smoked since I was 12. My feelings about this current situation (the bans, the distain) pretty much mirror yours. I’ve been saying for ages that it’s not about the smoking – it’s about self-determination, which to me is the basic right of all men.(I use the word ‘men’ in the traditional sense). I’m not by nature political, or evangelical in any way, but this attack on smokers and smoking has really fired me up. I find myself expounding at some length and with considerable fervour to any who I can corner.
    And, living in Greece, I’m not even personally affected by it! Although there is the EU ban here, and even though there are all these fines in place, the Greeks don’t really do “no smoking”. Just about all the bars, and even quite a few of the restaurants I go to still have ashtrays on the bar / tables. I shudder to think what I’d be like if I was still in the UK. Absolutely intolerable, I should imagine!
    Anyway, good blog. Interesting, informative and says what needs saying.
    I will not be a closet smoker. Nor will I feel ashamed to be a smoker. I am totally unrepentant.

  2. nisakiman says:

    Frank, I don’t know if you ever re-visit your old blogs, but I’ll leave a comment anyway. This particular blog, coincidentally, was written on my 60th birthday, and I’ve smoked since I was 12. My feelings about this current situation (the bans, the distain) pretty much mirror yours. I’ve been saying for ages that it’s not about the smoking – it’s about self-determination, which to me is the basic right of all men.(I use the word ‘men’ in the traditional sense). I’m not by nature political, or evangelical in any way, but this attack on smokers and smoking has really fired me up. I find myself expounding at some length and with considerable fervour to any who I can corner.
    And, living in Greece, I’m not even personally affected by it! Although there is the EU ban here, and even though there are all these fines in place, the Greeks don’t really do “no smoking”. Just about all the bars, and even quite a few of the restaurants I go to still have ashtrays on the bar / tables. I shudder to think what I’d be like if I was still in the UK. Absolutely intolerable, I should imagine!
    Anyway, good blog. Interesting, informative and says what needs saying.
    I will not be a closet smoker. Nor will I feel ashamed to be a smoker. I am totally unrepentant.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I don’t know if you ever re-visit your old blogs
      Yes, I do. All the comments anywhere in my blog get sent to me whenever they are entered. That way I get to read all the comments. My commenters, by contrast, are only able (or willing) to read recent comments.
      I hope that Greece stays the way it is, and the Greeks don’t get beaten into submission. Submission, of course, being the end of self-determination.
      In the UK, despite all the bans, smoking has not been denormalised. Smokers continue to unselfconsciously smoke outside pubs, and while walking along the street, or driving in their cars. In the entire time that I was living in Devon, nobody – absolutely nobody – ever complained about my smoking. The UK smoking ban is almost entirely an attempt by the state to control its citizens, largely against their will. If the smoking ban were lifted tomorrow, the pubs would be filled with smokers and smoke in next to no time (although some pubs might choose to be non-smoking).
      I am, needless to say, totally unrepentant as well.
      Frank
      P.S. I’m always hungry for news from elsewhere, and Greece as much as anywhere else. If you’d like to write something about the Greek smoking ban and people’s attitudes to it, I’d be more than happy to publish it on my blog.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I don’t know if you ever re-visit your old blogs
      Yes, I do. All the comments anywhere in my blog get sent to me whenever they are entered. That way I get to read all the comments. My commenters, by contrast, are only able (or willing) to read recent comments.
      I hope that Greece stays the way it is, and the Greeks don’t get beaten into submission. Submission, of course, being the end of self-determination.
      In the UK, despite all the bans, smoking has not been denormalised. Smokers continue to unselfconsciously smoke outside pubs, and while walking along the street, or driving in their cars. In the entire time that I was living in Devon, nobody – absolutely nobody – ever complained about my smoking. The UK smoking ban is almost entirely an attempt by the state to control its citizens, largely against their will. If the smoking ban were lifted tomorrow, the pubs would be filled with smokers and smoke in next to no time (although some pubs might choose to be non-smoking).
      I am, needless to say, totally unrepentant as well.
      Frank
      P.S. I’m always hungry for news from elsewhere, and Greece as much as anywhere else. If you’d like to write something about the Greek smoking ban and people’s attitudes to it, I’d be more than happy to publish it on my blog.

  3. nisakiman says:

    Frank, I don’t know if you ever re-visit your old blogs, but I’ll leave a comment anyway. This particular blog, coincidentally, was written on my 60th birthday, and I’ve smoked since I was 12. My feelings about this current situation (the bans, the distain) pretty much mirror yours. I’ve been saying for ages that it’s not about the smoking – it’s about self-determination, which to me is the basic right of all men.(I use the word ‘men’ in the traditional sense). I’m not by nature political, or evangelical in any way, but this attack on smokers and smoking has really fired me up. I find myself expounding at some length and with considerable fervour to any who I can corner.
    And, living in Greece, I’m not even personally affected by it! Although there is the EU ban here, and even though there are all these fines in place, the Greeks don’t really do “no smoking”. Just about all the bars, and even quite a few of the restaurants I go to still have ashtrays on the bar / tables. I shudder to think what I’d be like if I was still in the UK. Absolutely intolerable, I should imagine!
    Anyway, good blog. Interesting, informative and says what needs saying.
    I will not be a closet smoker. Nor will I feel ashamed to be a smoker. I am totally unrepentant.

  4. Frank Davis says:

    I don’t know if you ever re-visit your old blogs
    Yes, I do. All the comments anywhere in my blog get sent to me whenever they are entered. That way I get to read all the comments. My commenters, by contrast, are only able (or willing) to read recent comments.
    I hope that Greece stays the way it is, and the Greeks don’t get beaten into submission. Submission, of course, being the end of self-determination.
    In the UK, despite all the bans, smoking has not been denormalised. Smokers continue to unselfconsciously smoke outside pubs, and while walking along the street, or driving in their cars. In the entire time that I was living in Devon, nobody – absolutely nobody – ever complained about my smoking. The UK smoking ban is almost entirely an attempt by the state to control its citizens, largely against their will. If the smoking ban were lifted tomorrow, the pubs would be filled with smokers and smoke in next to no time (although some pubs might choose to be non-smoking).
    I am, needless to say, totally unrepentant as well.
    Frank
    P.S. I’m always hungry for news from elsewhere, and Greece as much as anywhere else. If you’d like to write something about the Greek smoking ban and people’s attitudes to it, I’d be more than happy to publish it on my blog.

  5. nisakiman says:

    Frank, your response appeared in my email inbox, and I just hit “reply” and typed a few words. Then today, it occurred to me that maybe the mail was like a “do not reply to this email” type jobby (I came late to computers, so find myself on a permanent learning-curve). So anyway, I thought I’d copy and paste what I wrote in my reply here. It’s nothing I would seek to keep from the public domain anyway.
    ————————————-
    Ha! That took me by surprise! I wasn’t expecting a response to my comment – just ranting a bit, really! (As tends to be my wont of latter years…) I’m glad there seems to be a modicum of passive resistance to the siren-call of the tobacco controllers in the UK.
    Yes, I may well write something on Greece’s reaction to the EU directives on smoking in public places. I do rather worry about how long they can resist – the main problem being this pernicious system of penalising the proprieter for the actions of his clients. It’s a system of coercion as old as the human race. Threaten a brave man with death, and he will laugh in your face. Threaten him with the death of his loved ones, and the axis of power shifts…
    They really are nasty bastards…
    However, the Greeks are a stubborn bunch. I live in hope.

  6. nisakiman says:

    Frank, your response appeared in my email inbox, and I just hit “reply” and typed a few words. Then today, it occurred to me that maybe the mail was like a “do not reply to this email” type jobby (I came late to computers, so find myself on a permanent learning-curve). So anyway, I thought I’d copy and paste what I wrote in my reply here. It’s nothing I would seek to keep from the public domain anyway.
    ————————————-
    Ha! That took me by surprise! I wasn’t expecting a response to my comment – just ranting a bit, really! (As tends to be my wont of latter years…) I’m glad there seems to be a modicum of passive resistance to the siren-call of the tobacco controllers in the UK.
    Yes, I may well write something on Greece’s reaction to the EU directives on smoking in public places. I do rather worry about how long they can resist – the main problem being this pernicious system of penalising the proprieter for the actions of his clients. It’s a system of coercion as old as the human race. Threaten a brave man with death, and he will laugh in your face. Threaten him with the death of his loved ones, and the axis of power shifts…
    They really are nasty bastards…
    However, the Greeks are a stubborn bunch. I live in hope.

  7. nisakiman says:

    Frank, your response appeared in my email inbox, and I just hit “reply” and typed a few words. Then today, it occurred to me that maybe the mail was like a “do not reply to this email” type jobby (I came late to computers, so find myself on a permanent learning-curve). So anyway, I thought I’d copy and paste what I wrote in my reply here. It’s nothing I would seek to keep from the public domain anyway.
    ————————————-
    Ha! That took me by surprise! I wasn’t expecting a response to my comment – just ranting a bit, really! (As tends to be my wont of latter years…) I’m glad there seems to be a modicum of passive resistance to the siren-call of the tobacco controllers in the UK.
    Yes, I may well write something on Greece’s reaction to the EU directives on smoking in public places. I do rather worry about how long they can resist – the main problem being this pernicious system of penalising the proprieter for the actions of his clients. It’s a system of coercion as old as the human race. Threaten a brave man with death, and he will laugh in your face. Threaten him with the death of his loved ones, and the axis of power shifts…
    They really are nasty bastards…
    However, the Greeks are a stubborn bunch. I live in hope.

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