A few days back Dick Puddlecote emailed me a link to Does Shunning Smokers Motivate Them To Quit? The article, published last Friday, started in the usual prescribed manner:
Smoking is an unhealthy habit and we all know the health risks of inhaling the 4,000 blah blah blah….
As a result of the public smoking ban, many smokers were forced to stand outside in the cold and the rain, feeling isolated and even shunned by friends, family or colleagues. What was once a social activity suddenly became grounds for exclusion and many proponents of the ban hoped that it would encourage more people to give up smoking altogether.
Has the ban stopped people smoking?
Nearly a decade on, the NHS says there is no significant difference between the number of people smoking before and after the ban.
And a bit further on:
….there has also been opposition from interest groups who believe the ban has had a negative effect on many pubs, bars and restaurants within cities. They also believe that the smoking ban has raised taxes, hurt small businesses and that the health impact of breathing in secondhand smoke has been exaggerated. Add to this the fact that many people believe that the right to smoke is an important freedom, and it becomes easy to see why smokers might ignore advice to stop.
…many smokers are now staying at home instead of drinking in pubs, so they don’t have to stand outside in the wind and rain to smoke.
So despite spouting all the usual mandatory healthist guff about smoking, here’s a pretty frank admission that the ban didn’t stop smokers smoking, like it was supposed to (although the author seems to have forgotten that justification at the time was to ‘protect bar workers’).
There’s also the recognition that smokers have become excluded and isolated. And there’s even recognition of “interest groups” who believe that pubs, bars, and restaurants have been adversely affected, and that the health impact of secondhand smoke has been exaggerated.
It’s very unusual to see admissions of this sort appearing on the kind of medical website which usually rigorously toes the party line. And if the author hasn’t already received a visitation from the Arnott herself on her broomstick in dead of night, escorted by her usual bodyguard of vampire bats, I’m sure she soon will. And I would guess that she’d be told in no uncertain terms, as the bats hungrily sink their yellowing fangs into her flesh, that 70% of smokers always want to give up smoking (so that when 70% of them actually have given up, 70% of the remaining 30% will want to give up, and so on). And that countless millions of lives have been saved by the ban. And that far from feeling excluded or shunned, 70% of smokers are delighted to stand outside in the rain (because it might help them give up smoking), and are looking forward eagerly to further helpful restrictions. And she’ll be told that, given the millions of grateful non-smokers who flooded into pubs and restaurants after the introduction of the ban, they are not “interest groups” that are making these wild, unsubstantiated claims about “negative effects” on pubs and restaurants, but “industry front groups.” And that, far from being exaggerated, the health impacts of secondhand (and thirdhand) smoke have been as rigorously proven as Newton’s Laws of Motion. And that the only sort of “freedom” that matters is smoke-freedom. And don’t you ever dare say otherwise again.
And then the Arnott will mount her broomstick, and majestically depart through the open window into the night sky, accompanied by hundreds of squealing, blood-gorged bats, leaving the miscreant author in a dead faint.