What are smoking bans supposed to achieve?
I think they’re supposed to ‘help’ people quit smoking. Actually, I don’t think it’s about ‘helping’ people quit smoking: it’s about making them quit smoking. They make people quit smoking, by disallowing smoking in more and more places.
You get on a train, and you’re not allowed to smoke on the train, and so you’re made to quit smoking for the duration of the train journey. And then maybe there’s No Smoking in the train stations too. So you can’t smoke when you’re travelling. And the more places that smoking is banned, the longer you’re being made to quit smoking.
And when you’re being made to quit smoking, you’re being made to control yourself, restrict yourself, stop yourself, say No to yourself.
So I think that the idea may be that smoking bans train people to stop smoking, train people to say No to themselves (and say No to everybody else too), and after a while, when people have learned to say No to themselves, it becomes second nature, and they say No to themselves all the time, and completely quit smoking.
I think that’s how it’s supposed to work. And behind it is the idea that smoking is something that nobody really wants to do. Because antismokers have never understood why anyone smokes, or anyone wants to smoke, and it’s just a bad habit that people pick up, and they need to be helped rid themselves of this strange addiction. It’s always an ‘addiction’, of course.
But isn’t that like tone-deaf people trying to make people stop listening to music? The tone-deaf don’t like music. For them it’s just a noise, an unpleasant noise. They don’t like listening to the racket that comes out of radios and juke boxes, and they can’t understand why anybody else should like it either. They can’t really enjoy the awful din, can they? No, they’re just addicted to it, and they play it over and over again. So they ban music, first on trains, and then in stations, and then in public places. And maybe then in private cars and parks and beaches, in order to create a noise-free, music-free environment. And in these places radios and juke boxes and ipods, etc, are all banned. People are taught to deny themselves music, made to feel ashamed of liking music, and forced to Switch It Off. And the intention is that if people are deprived of the music they’re addicted to, they’ll eventually quit listening to it at all. And we’ll have a wonderful, music-free world.
Would that work? I kinda suspect that music would just get driven underground, and people would meet up in caves to play music, or to make music with bottles and sticks and whistles. Because most people like music, and they’ll go a long way to hear some music – just like they’ll go a long way to smoke a cigarette, because they like smoking cigarettes too.
So smoking bans just stop people doing what they want to do, in exactly the same way as music bans (or talking bans, or reading bans, or any other bans) would stop people doing other things they want to do.
Or rather, they don’t actually stop people doing what they want to do: they just make it harder to do it. So if you’re inside some place where smoking is banned, and you have to step outside to smoke, then an additional cost is imposed on every cigarette smoked (over and above the tax that has been slapped on the cigarettes). If it takes two minutes to go outside and come back in again, then someone who has a 20-a-day habit will have to spend 40 minutes just walking outside, and then walking back in – something they don’t really want to do. And if you’re in one of those hospitals in whose grounds smoking is banned, then the round trip to smoke a cigarette may take 10 or 15 minutes, and with a 20-a-day habit, that’s 200 – 300 minutes (5 hours) per day spent trudging to and fro.
Instead of a cigarette taking 10 minutes to smoke, it takes 30 or 40 minutes. It’s just like having a ball and chain.
So smoking bans hamper smokers, and slow them down. Everything takes longer. And because everything takes longer than it used to, some things no longer get done at all. So dishes don’t get washed, or floors don’t get swept. Because the time that gets subtracted from people’s lives, by having to trudge downstairs and out to the gates, is time that can no longer be devoted to other activities. So smoking bans impoverish smokers, and so impoverish society as a whole, because it’s not as if non-smokers benefit from the bans, with their lives being made correspondingly easier as it is made harder for smokers.
As long as they’re not working to get people to quit smoking, there’s no upside to smoking bans. They just impose an inhibiting drag force on everyday life. And the more intensive and ubiquitous the bans, the greater the drag force.
Which is probably why they usually get repealed. Because they’re more a hindrance than a help.