Impact of Smokefree Legislation

H/T to DP for Impact of the Smokefree Legislation in England.

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.

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8 Responses to Impact of Smokefree Legislation

  1. Ta, I have upgraded you.

    Four years on I am also still angry.

  2. Marie says:

    One of the “environmental benefits” of smoke free venues is that less frequent and less intense cleaning is performed. This may have led to the outbreaks of bed bugs reported in some major cities Nice benefit.

  3. Jay says:

    Tonight, I’m still seething from a phone conversation from this morning during which I was told, in no uncertain terms, that a document “reeked” of cigarette smoke and that the caller was sending it back (with an implied threat of complaint).

    The document in question is a legal document, relatively costly to produce, the caller is not the owner of this document, merely someone who is required to sign it, and who should not keep it for longer than it takes to do so. Nonetheless, this person believes that it is her right to be offended by a smell of a document that isn’t hers and demand that it be reproduced at no cost to herself. Before the smoking ban, which was the starting point of the continuing war on smokers, her disgust would have been confined to perhaps wrinkling her uber-sensitive nose. Now she is so confident of the righteousness of her indignation that she is prepared to jeopardise another’s livelihood because her olfactory sense has been offended. And the ban paved the way for such demonisation of smokers. I intend to write to my MP to point out the consequences of government being the puppets of tobacco control.

  4. Brigitte says:

    Nearly 4 years on I still can’t say that I am angry, I am far too busy feeling nauseous from constantly shaking my head in disbelief, mainly about what could be termed collective stupidity of a society taking any printed word as gospel.

    Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of SHS and
    research in England has explored changes in exposure over time. A study
    found that between 1996 and 2007, SHS exposure among children declined
    by nearly 70%. The reductions were greatest in the period immediately before
    the introduction of smokefree legislation, coinciding with national mass media
    campaigns around the dangers of SHS.

    Where is the evidence for the “nearly 70% reduction of SHS exposure to children”? What does “nearly 70%” mean?
    When people throw this kind of “research” about I just ask them to explain why I, having grown up with smoking everywhere, am still healthy and alive and kickin’.

    Having recently been treated to visit several pubs one thing is instantly noticeable: there are plenty of seats available. This never used to be the case. Also, pubs have become boring places. Clinical and dead.
    Nevertheless, it is also noticeable that smokers are beginning to speak up for themselves and are becoming more and more confident again, so maybe the penny is dropping.

    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.

    Eating (overweight people) is – and has been for a while; didn’t Cadbury’s feel compelled to issue the statement that chocolate can be part of a healthy, balanced diet a few month back when the BBC ran this ‘healthy eating’ campaign?

  5. Fredrik Eich says:

    “I hope that in 10 years’ time we will be much closer to the situation where smoking is no longer as socially acceptable. That’s what this ban is about – cultural change. Dr Linda Bauld, April. 2007.

    And we thought it was about protecting staff. It is a complete admission that it is more about social engineering.

  6. Fredrik Eich says:

    I have added a night satillite map against lung cancer distribution. If it is true that smoking causes ~85% of lung cancers, then I want to know how local authorites know where smokers live and why these authorites feel the need to switch off street lamps on the streets that smokers live. How do they know and why do they do it?

  7. Lysistrata says:

    @Frank: They lied.
    I’ve never been more cross than I am now – and I’m getting crosser. Deb Arnott said vis-a-vis research questions in front of a Parliamentary Select Committee “It does depend how you word it”.

    Too damn right it does, you duplicitous spindoctoring arselicking heartless bitch.

  8. smokervoter says:

    “Smokers reduced consumption…because of a perception that their greater visibility as a smoker attracted public disapproval.”

    Not that long ago the government would have been ashamed to own up to a statement as atrocious as this. They’re crowing about their success in siccing two-thirds of the population, as some alpha pack of dogs, upon the other third. Linda Bauld and company have designed a health caste system and now smokers just want to stay out of sight.

    What weasel word terminology ‘public disapproval’ is. It’s more like public detestation, or more frequently now it’s the h-word. Were it a religion or an ethnicity they were citing, it would be criminal. I don’t see a widely adopted pleasure-in-common as being that much different myself. Particularly a relatively innocuous, six-hundred year old delectation like smoking.

    The real damage is that there is a new paradigm upon the land as a result. One in which personal freedom is something not considered precious nor revered anymore, but expendable for the greater good. One in which Prohibition is no longer regarded as a gravely failed experiment but rather an efficient use of state power.

    I hope you’re right about the ten thousand year conclusion. According to this study everyone loves the new paradigm except ‘some’.

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