I looked at the section on Changes in behaviour (page 9).
It was a longitudinal study conducted in six contrasting areas located in and around two major cities, one in the north and one in the south of England. The study involved in-depth, repeated interviews pre and post-legislation with a panel of adults in each community, pre and post-legislation interviews with professionals, group discussion post-legislation and repeat observations in a range of public places in each community pre and post-legislation.
They don’t say how many people they interviewed. Or what kind of premises they studied. Or how they recruited people for the study. Or whether they interviewed just smokers or just non-smokers, or both. In my view, landlocked pubs and bars were impacted far more than hotels and restaurants. People mostly go to restaurants to eat. And they go to hotels to sleep. And they go to pubs and bars to socialise. So if this study was weighted more towards hotels and restaurants, it would probably have found not much impact. Also, the ban had almost no impact on non-smokers. Many of them may well have regarded the smoking ban as a great improvement. And since non-smokers outnumber smokers 3 to 1, any study which interviewed both groups would have been weighted in favour of the non-smokers.
The study looked at people’s views of the legislation and found that there were shifts in attitudes from initial resentment to acceptance of the changes, and a growing perception of the personal, health and environmental benefits of smokefree. The research also found that in all study areas there was a high degree of compliance with the legislation, with only a few minor infringements observed or reported, usually at the boundaries between public and outdoor spaces.
It’s not surprising that there’s been a high degree of compliance, given that not only smokers were liable to be fined, but that pub landlords were liable to be very heavily fined, under a policy of collective punishment.
In my own case, I wasn’t really sure what my attitude was going to be until the ban came into force. Prior to the ban, I didn’t like it at all. Once the ban came into force, I was shocked at how angry I was at it. And coming up on 4 years on, I’m still angry. Resentment is an understatement. Hatred would be a better word.
For the most part, people continued to socialise in public settings to the same degree as before the legislation. However, particularly among those living in the less advantaged localities, some had curtailed social outings and were now either socialising (and smoking) more at home or socialising less than before.
Not me. My social life in local pubs ended within 2 or 3 months of the ban coming into force. I met up with a few people for a few drinks and games of pool, but the pleasure had gone out of it. Not just for me, but also for them.
I still went to my local pub, but only to sit outside alone. It had become distinctly unwelcoming inside, with all the No Smoking signs.
And what do they mean by ‘some’ and ‘people’? ‘For the most part’ non-smokers probably went as much after the ban as before. But for the smokers it was a different matter.
In relation to smoking behaviour, there was a general pattern of reduced tobacco consumption among participants in all locations, including cutting down and, to a lesser extent, quitting. Many respondents in all localities described decreased tobacco consumption while out socialising in public social settings. Smokers reduced consumption largely because of the inconvenience of going outdoors to smoke, but also because of a perception that their greater visibility as a smoker attracted public disapproval.
I didn’t cut down on smoking at all. In fact, I probably smoked slightly more than before. And what slim likelihood of me quitting smoking completely vanished. To do so meant giving in to these bastards, and I’ll never do that.
And I’ve never found smoking attracting ‘public disapproval’. And I had expected quite a lot. I’d expected all sorts of gleeful antismokers to come and tell me to stub it out. But nobody ever did. And that’s not really very surprising. Because smoking was socially acceptable before the ban, and continued to be socially acceptable after the ban. Changes in laws don’t translate into changes of public opinion.
However, those living in the more disadvantaged localities were less likely than smokers in the more affluent areas to have access to more comfortable outdoor spaces where they could smoke. In addition, in areas of disadvantage, some older men and women with children reported that they had curtailed social activities and experienced a sense of loss of the pleasures of socialising in bars and cafés where they could smoke with friends.
Again, ‘some’. ‘Some’ can range from 1% to 99%. The report gives figures for reductions in admissions for heart attacks. 1,200 of them. Why can’t they put a figure to the ‘some’ in ‘some older men and women’?
But then, this report is by an anti-smoking zealot called Linda Bauld, and was no doubt conducted by a whole team of similar zealots, who were always going to find that the smoking ban had had next to no social adverse effects. And that ‘people’ carried on going to pubs just as before. While ‘some’ people stayed at home, and smoked and socialised at home, there was no increase in smoking at home. The purpose of this document is to re-assure legislators that they did the right thing, and that the smoking ban has been a great success, except for
one or two some people, who claimed reported otherwise.
The truth of the matter will never come out while such people as Linda Bauld are doing the ‘research’. It requires a completely independent study to ascertain that.
My own view, for what it’s worth, is that the impact of the smoking ban on non-smokers was almost nil. It didn’t really affect them at all. And the impact on smokers ranged from nil (among those smokers who never went to pubs or cafes anyway) to the near-complete destruction of their social lives (among those smokers who exclusively used pubs and cafes to meet up with their friends). And the latter group is the one that an honest investigation would seek to cast light upon.
Yet it would prove a difficult task to find this group. Where do you go looking for them? They won’t be found in the pubs and bars they no longer go to.
Although the main aim of smokefree legislation is to protect the public from SHS and through that protection improve health, it is also now apparent that this type of legislation has the potential to change social norms around smoking and result in changes in smoking behaviour.
Well, the main aim wasn’t to ‘protect the public’. The health threat from smoking in public is negligible. The main aim was to make people stop smoking, and to denormalise smoking, and change social norms.
It’s far from clear to me that the smoking ban has achieved any of these goals. Nor does it seem to me to be likely that compulsion can ever achieve such goals. The antismokers seem to believe that, if the smoking ban is kept in place for long enough, it will act – rather like formwork around concrete – to mould public behaviour into a new shape. And that if this works for smoking, then it might equally work for anything else. For example, drinking alcohol. So that if alcohol were banned in pubs, people would carry on going to them as before, only now sipping water or fruit juice or some other approved drink, or perhaps none at all. Ban something for long enough, the idea seems to be, and people will get used to it, and adopt it as a norm.
It is of course the dream of social engineers of every stripe to manipulate human behaviour towards desired goals. How wonderful if one could denormalise not only smoking and drinking, but every other disapproved behaviour. And do so simply by making it illegal!
Yet I have the idea that no social engineering plan of this nature has ever succeeded in ten thousand years of trying. And will not succeed with ten thousand more years.