Hot today, and I ended up comatose in the evening.
Earlier I’d gone to a couple of pubs, for a cool drink, and to interview a few smokers. I found the cool drinks, but I found no smokers at all. I suppose that if 80% of people don’t smoke, that means that 80% of the time I’m not going to find any smokers.
But if it’s slow going, it’s a fairly clear picture that’s emerging from the responses to the questionnaire. Some people are reporting no adverse effects from the smoking ban. Most are reporting some adverse effects. A few are reporting severe adverse effects. And nobody is reporting clear benefits. And the questionnaire does allow them to report benefits.
I’ve yet to encounter anyone who’s said that life has got better since the smoking ban, and they’ve been out more, and met more people. The responses I’m getting range from indifferent to strongly negative. “It’s a joke,” one wrote.
I can understand the people who report heavy impacts. After all, I’m one of them. I can also understand the people who report minor impacts. After all, if people were well embedded in a matrix of friends and family, they were probably fairly bomb-proof.
The people I don’t understand are the ones who report zero impact.
Like the tall guy who came out from the pub a day or two back, and lit up outside the front door, which was where I approached him. He agreed to do the questionnaire, and proceeded to fill it in rapidly, hitting all the zero impact options, and strongly approving of hospital smoking bans, before handing it back wordlessly. And then he stubbed out his cigarette and returned to rejoin his companions inside. About 20 minutes later he emerged and climbed into his car, lighting a new cigarette as he did so. He looked to me like he was a veritable chain-smoker. So why was he reporting zero impact?
I suspect that some of these people are just refusing to admit that smoking bans have any adverse effects on them at all. They’re just not going to let it get to them. For such people, I’ve thought that there should perhaps have been an additional question: “Is there ANYTHING that could happen that would cause you outrage?” And maybe they’d still say No.
There are other explanations. Such people might be trying to stop smoking, and feel ashamed of smoking, and so approve of smoking bans. One of the other Zero Impact respondents wrote that he approved of the ban because maybe it would stop young people starting smoking. And another Zero Impact respondent said – but didn’t write – that one the benefits of the ban was that he smoked less. Such people clearly had a negative view of smoking.
However I’ve yet to encounter an antismoker. Or at least not an outspoken one. Which doesn’t surprise me. They only seem to exist online.
Tomorrow I’ll probably go out again. And there’s an 80% likelihood that I won’t find any smokers then either.