Macedonia’s Dark Hour

Readers will be glad to hear that Macedonia is the most recent country to adopt a modern, progressive smoking ban. In fact the ban is even more modern and progressive than the UK ban: not only can’t you smoke inside pubs and restaurants, but you can’t smoke outside them either.

In Macedonia, as of January 1 2010, smokers will not be allowed to smoke in eateries, cafes, nightclubs, disco-clubs, pubs, stadiums, including the outdoor dining areas in summertime. #
The anti-smoking law is considered one of the harshest in Europe with smoking banned in all public places, including offices and hospitals, and even outside locations serving food or drinks. #

As expected, the forward-looking ban was greeted enthusiastically by Macedonians:

Members of the public appear to be complying. The government conducted 1,350 inspections of restaurants, cafe bars, pubs and clubs across the country and found only two violations, in the towns of Kumanovo and Gostivar. The individuals involved were fined on the spot and the businesses received citations.

“The law is good and shouldn’t be changed,” Skopje resident Zoran Stefanovski told SETimes. “Several days ago I was having lunch with my family at a restaurant, and we really enjoyed it because there was no smoke… #

“Thank God I don’t feel like a walking ashtray when I leave a restaurant,” 48-year-old physics teacher Suzana Venovska said. #

However, by mid-January there were some signs of disquiet from backward and uneducated petits-bourgeois bar and restaurant proprietors:

Macedonian businesses chafe at smoking ban

Opposition MPs Vlado Buckovski and Gorgji Orovcanec began collecting signatures in parliament to initiate a procedure to amend the law. #

Nevertheless Deputy Prime Minister vowed not to back down before these malcontents:

Macedonia will not back down on the ban on smoking in public places that took effect on January 1 2010, a senior government minister said.

The long-term economic effects from such measures would pay off, even if the hospitality industry shed profits in the short term, said Pesevski, who is deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs. #

Speaking in solidarity, Health Minister Bujar Osmani grittily added:

“As the one responsible for the health of the population I stand behind the medical facts that the smoking presents a health hazard. I remain on the stand that the 100 percent ban should stay, ” Health Minister Bujar Osmani said on Friday.#

Unfortunately by 23 January, amid clear signs of interference by foreign reactionary elements (see emphases below), smouldering minority discontent had been fanned into flame:

Cafes in Skopje’s usually crowded Debar Maalo area were closed Friday, with red posters saying “Democracy is freedom to choose – Give our customers freedom to choose.”#
The owners of cafes, pubs and restaurants in Macedonia have started a day of defiance on Friday in a bid to voice their discontent with the new steep anti-smoking law.

The landlords say the ban has driven away their customers, dealing a severe blow to their business. The association of restaurateurs, who organized the protest, made it clear that it is not about being pro-smoking but about the freedom to choose. The association demands amendments to the law that would suit both groups of customers.

“We warn that the anti-smoking law is likely to result in closure of pubs and restaurants, staff layoffs and utter collapse of the sector,” the head of the association, Darko Danilov told press on Thursday.

He said that business dropped 40 to 70 percent.#

Almost all hotels and hostels in Macedonia are closed in a sign of protest regarding a new law prohibiting smoking in cafes, restaurants, and hotels. #
Macedonia already has a nearly 35 percent unemployment rate with the catering industry providing around 2.3 percent of jobs.

“This is nightmare. The law is too strict so it has become a torture for smokers,” 50-year-old lawyer Bojan Ivanov told AFP outside his office, cigarette in hand.

(Comrade Ivanov appears to be blinkeredly unaware that the ban is supposed to torture smokers. Macedonian smokers must learn that there is no place for them in progressive, forward-looking, smoke-free Macedonia, even if half of all 2 million Macedonians are smokers.)

Unfortunately, in the face of this foreign-sponsored and undoubtedly Tobacco-Industry-funded so-called ‘spontaneous’ uprising, Macedonia’s politicians appear to already be buckling:

the resolve of the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party has already cracked under the public pressure from the smokers and the hospitality industry… Legislators from the party have submitted draft amendments. They proposed that smoking be allowed in outdoor space of cafes, terraces and other objects without roofs.#
The parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) starts mulling over amendments to the law as well, which will allow owners of public entertainment establishments up to 100m2 to decide themselves whether the place to be for smokers or non-smokers,.. #

Any amendment, just one month after the ban came into force, would be a humiliating defeat for the forces of progress and the unstoppable forward march of history.

In this dark hour, and for the sake of the children, I call upon far-sighted progressives of every kind to personally appeal to the President of the Macedonian Assembly, Trajko Veljanoski, to resist heroically any attempt to amend or repeal the Macedonian smoking ban.

We in Britain are fortunate to not have any opposition party in our parliament, where Gordon Brown and David Cameron and the other chap stand shoulder to shoulder in support of a slightly less progressive UK smoking ban. Our hospitality industry is also thoroughly progressive and advanced in its outlook, and is able to shrug off the closure of 52 pubs a week. We are probably also lucky that smokers constitute a mere 25% or less of the UK population, and so form an easily-liquidated deviant antisocial underclass. The population of Macedonia is also less than the population of Greater Manchester (2.2 million), and so the Macedonian ban has almost the character of a local UK regional ban. The more local a ban, the easier is it for resistance to mobilised, and for bans to be overturned, as Macedonia is now demonstrating (like Croatia last year). Progressive antismokers should therefore aim to introduce bans at a national or preferably EU level, where they are inherently less likely to be rapidly overturned by pressure from so-called ‘democratic’ populist revanchists. One of the truly advanced features of a post-democratic EU is that it’s next to impossible for grassroot political groups to gain pan-European support, because the grassroots all speak different languages. This allows progressive new legislation to take a firm root, and permits public health and other experts to do what they know how to do best, which is to run everybody else’s life for them.

About Frank Davis

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12 Responses to Macedonia’s Dark Hour

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yugo slaves
    It looks like all they have to do now is join the EU and their transition from communism to democracy will be complete!

  2. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Yugo slaves
    Are you sure you got that the right way round? Won’t joining the EU be more like completing their transition from democracy back to communism?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Re: Yugo slaves
    Sorry, I should have added [irony alert]. Like the Czech president warned, the EU is as bad as or worse than communism.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “One of the truly advanced features of a post-democratic EU is that it’s next to impossible for grassroot political groups to gain pan-European support, because the grassroots all speak different languages. This allows progressive new legislation to take a firm root, and permits public health and other experts to do what they know how to do best, which is to run everybody else’s life for them.”
    Excellent point. Borders aren’t just divisions between people, but divisions between political power. Elimination of borders and collectivization of interests only amounts to more centralization of political power. As you state, this amounts to marginalizing prevailing regional interests, and removes power from localized grassroots efforts.
    The Czech president mentioned is named Vaclav Klaus. He’s been a vocal opponent of global warming. He wasn’t a supporter of smoking bans, either, at least when I last checked. I saw a video where he was addressing the EU and members started walking out on him. The “progressives” have tried very hard to marginalize him. From the little I know of him, I regard him as a hero. WS.

  5. Frank Davis says:

    I have a good opinion of Vaclav Klaus too.
    Apart from being rather bothered about the multi-language/state EU coming down the track, I encounter the problem in a rather more direct way with this smoking ban business.
    The peoples of the EU don’t seem to talk to each other much. This isn’t very surprising. But the result is that I have a much better idea of what’s going on in California than I do in France, just over the other side of the English Channel (which the French call la Manche). The French talk to the French about it all. The Germans talk to Germans about it. And so on. There’s every little intercommunication. There’s even less because smoking bans are never deemed newsworthy: there is nothing at all about them in the British mainstream media. Now and then somebody from Holland pops up on F2C and gives a fascinating account of the progress/retreat of their smoking ban, but then they vanish.
    Last year I tried to get onto a French message board. I can speak French a bit. I thought they’d be as interested in me as I was in them. But they weren’t much interested, and it was a bit of an uphill struggle, so I gave up. They were all a bit defeated too, I felt. I tried to do the same with a very active German message board, but that was even harder (I don’t speak any German), and I got absolutely nowhere. In fact, I had difficulty just logging in.
    It puzzles me a bit that, in the USA, where pretty well everybody speaks English, there isn’t a more active smokers’ movement. Or perhaps there is, and I’ve not encountered it. You’ll know better, of course.

  6. Frank Davis says:

    Postscript. Up until a century or two ago, Europe did have a common language: Latin. It wasn’t the language of any of the peoples of Europe, but it had been the language of the Roman empire, and of the Roman Catholic Church. Anyone with any education was taught to read and write in Latin (and maybe even speak Latin). Newton’s Principia Mathematica was written in Latin. These days the preferred language is English. Yet this is quite recent. Up until 50 or 60 years ago the lingua franca was quite literally the French language. I don’t know why that changed. Perhaps it’s just a consequence of the historical ascendancy first of Britain until 1914, and then America. I still find it a little odd that the EU official language is English, rather than French.

  7. Anonymous says:

    From Junican.
    Isn’t there something peculiar about the way in which the Macedonian government is backtracking so rapidly? Didn’t the Croatian gov do the same thing? And didn’t the German gov also?
    There are so many curious events occurring, not only with the smoking ban but also with the global warming thing, that one cannot help but wonder what on earth is going on?
    If I mention the phrase ‘divide et impera’, would I be going too far? I mean, surely it cannot be possible that such a simplistic idea is actually being used by the EU, the WHO, the WWF, the IPCC, etc, not only to control knowledge, but also to control individual opinions?
    ‘Divide et impera’. ‘Divide and conquer’.
    The idea that this principle is being used extensively has only just occurred to me. It would certainly explain why ‘the smoking debate is dead’ – the people are divided and so the ‘problem’ is solved. Alcohol abuse? Same thing. Global warming? Same thing?
    Frank, your thoughts on the subject of ‘divide et impera’ (if I have spelt the words correctly!) would be interesting.

  8. Frank Davis says:

    The Macedonian government is backtracking because bars and restaurants and hotels are protesting strongly – something that hasn’t happened in Britain. The same happened in Croatia. In Germany the situation is a bit different, because it wasn’t the German central/federal government that introduced the ban, but the German regions (e.g. Bavaria), and they did so in different ways, with some bans being more ferocious, and others more relaxed. The backlash to the ferocious bans was strong, and resulted in heavy losses in elections for the parties that imposed them. Bans were lifted or relaxed.
    As I read it, these revolts happened because these were small countries or regions in which people could organise more easily, and because they had higher numbers of smokers. On average about a third of EU citizens are smokers. In the UK it’s 25% or less. It seems that people in Eastern Europe smoke more than in Western Europe. The larger the population onto which a smoking ban is imposed, the longer it takes for resistance to get organised and become effective.
    If, for example, UK bans had been imposed locally by, say, county councils, it’s likely that there would have been intense activity to overturn them in counties with a lot of smokers, and Britain would have been turned into a patchwork quilt with no-smoking counties and smoking counties. As it was, it’s been Westinster that imposed the same ban everywhere, and that is much harder to overturn. It would be even harder again if the EU were to impose a ban across the whole of Europe. Naturally, the antis always want bans imposed at the highest level possible.
    Wherever bans come from, they are always imposed unilaterally by governments.on their citizens, very often by deceit. As we know, this Labour government promised in its manifesto that only pubs which sold food would have smoking ban. They broke their promise. And it’s one of the reasons why they’ll be thrown out at the next election. But since the Conservatives and Lib Dems back the government, we effectively have one party rule in Britain on this matter (and lots of other matters). And this is another thing. You’ll note that some Macedonian politicians tabled amendments. This doesn’t happen in one-party Britain, where in effect we no longer have any democracy, but just have edicts raining down on us from the political classes installed in Westminster and elsewhere.
    I think this will lead inevitably to an explosion. It’s not just the smoking ban. People are angry and not being represented, and not being consulted about more or less everything. The media are used to tell us what we think, or are supposed to think. In the case of AGW however, something extraordinary seems to have started to happen. Climategate now extends to the USA, the IPCC’s Pachauri is beset with charges of corruption, and there’s to be a parliamentary inquiry in the UK, and there’s even a bit of ferment in the BBC, and more and more newspapers seem to be picking up the scandal. And it’s a colossal scandal.
    Perhaps it’s Divide and Rule. It’s maybe more like Marginalise and Rule. Smokers are marginalised and excluded and ignored. Climate sceptics are (or perhaps were) marginalised and ignored.
    I may write some more later.

  9. Anonymous says:

    From Junican.
    Speaking of global warming, does anyone know what the extent of the North Pole ice cap now is after the horrendous cold spell that the Northern Hemisphere has recently been subjected to? I am surprised that Christopher Booker has said nothing about it – unless NASA are keeping such information secret. And what about this latest cock-up with the expedition whose very sophisticated equipment didn’t work because of a dead battery! Is that the truth, though? What organisation would be using battery powered equipment without having spare batteries? “Oh God! This sodding machine isn’t working!”
    “Have you checked the battery?”
    Bollocks! The machine worked fine, but did not show ‘the correct’ results, and so a convenient way out was found.
    I have emailed the President of Macedonia. You never know.

  10. Frank Davis says:

    That expedition was sometime last summer. Didn’t they have to be rescued?
    And I emailed the President of Macedonia as well. I liked the idea that, among the blizzard of emails from antismoking organisations, there would be one or two sticking up for the people of Macedonia, who clearly don’t like their smoking ban.

  11. Anonymous says:

    From Junican (aka James Watson).
    No, Frank. This one is quite recent – last couple of months. The one you are thinking about had to be rescued by a passing oil tanker (!) – of all things. That was about 18 months ago. Whether or not the same people involved on this occasion were the same people as before, I do not know.
    I would like to look up the details, but time conspires….. It appears that another piece of equipment also did not work, and so the team had to resort to common or garden drilling. Needless to say, their drillings showed that the ice was thinner than it should have been.
    What a load of shit! No corroboration, no scientific discipline.
    After climategate, and glaciergate, etc, politicians have to realise that that they cannot rely on advice which they receive from organisations such as IPCC unless they take steps to have a GENUINE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE working to pull the science apart BEFORE billions of pounds are spent on windmills. As we see with the Iraq enquiry, it is very easy to have a devil’s advocate after the event, but the devil’s advocate is then totally useless as an agent to stop the event taking place, if the event is unjustified.

  12. Frank Davis says:

    I remember reading something about someone using some very crude way of measuring ice thickness. Not the correct way. I can’t remember when I read it. I probably read it at WUWT.
    I’ve just written a piece that addresses (quite coincidentally) some of your other points.

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