Jax left a great comment late last night, so I’m going to reproduce it here:
I certainly object to the smoking ban for much more than just because of the negative effect it has had on me personally. In many ways, it is more concerning to me because this particular piece of legislation runs so contrary to so many of the basic principles for which the law should stand, and, legally speaking, it has had several pretty fundamental deleterious effects. For example:
1. No matter how it’s worded, in effect it’s the first piece of legislation which makes one adult (a pub landlord) more harshly punishable for an offence committed by another adult (a smoker lighting up in his pub) than the person actually committing the offence – to my mind, a dangerous deviation away from one of the most basic principles of British law that “if you do the crime, you do the time.”
2. It’s unfair, plain and simple. The wording of the Health Act makes it quite plain that it, as a law, is “against” one group and “for” another. For a piece of legislation to so blatantly favour one group of people over another, again, runs completely contrary to the whole purpose of having laws at all. Laws are, after all, supposed to ensure that – as far as is possible in a complex and imperfect world – everyone has a chance to be treated fairly. Isn’t that why it’s called the “justice” system? Where’s the justice in a law which only sets out to protect the interests of one group, at the direct expense of another?
3. It’s supplied a template law which can (and I have no doubt will) be used in any context, on the basis that “well, it was OK, and massively popular, and hugely successful, and saved countless lives, etc etc etc” for smoking, so why not apply it to [latest Proclaimed Evil]?” When the Public Drinking Ban, or the Town Driving Ban, or the Fried Foods Ban, or whatever else comes in, as it surely will, I’ll bet the wording of the actual legislation will be almost identical with just a bit of tweaking. So one bad law will form the foundation for a whole host of others.
4. It’s unreasonable, by very determinedly and deliberately giving no quarter to smokers at all. How on earth is a Man in a Van, alone, having a cigarette on his way home, hurting anyone else at all with his “passive smoke?” Why is it not permitted that a group of smokers start up a members-only pub or club of their own, with only smoker members permitted and only staffed by smokers? How would that hurt non-smokers? And isn’t the law supposed to be the very embodiment of “reasonable?” Reasonable force, punishment to fit the crime, mitigating/aggravating factors and all that. Isn’t that an attempt to keep things in perspective, i.e. “reasonable.” So, doesn’t an unreasonablelaw such as this show a worrying move away from reasonability and towards a dictatorial approach? Is that really what we want our laws to be – a bludgeon to force people to do as they are told?
5. It’s essentially protected the intolerant, the rude, the selfish, the demanding and the uncompromising in our society, i.e. the very people whom the law should be reining in rather than encouraging, and given them legitimacy. By enshrining in law the fact that it was OK for people to be prejudiced against smokers, it’s essentially approved prejudice per se. Prejudice, it has essentially said, is sometimes OK. And that is a terrible thing for any law to say. Ever. Intolerance and self-righteousness in this country has increased exponentially over the last decade, in no small part due to the subtle but nonetheless very easily-understood message given out by this wicked piece of legislation.
6. It’s given hope to a multitude of off-shoot groups who are against this, that or the other “pet peeve,” that they can “achieve the same success in respect of ….., as the anti-smoking movement has” It’s given countless busybody campaigners hope that they in turn will manage to “denormalise” whatever it is that they don’t like and has spurred them on to greater efforts in trying to become the “new ASH,” with the result that we now have Action on Sugar, the Alcohol Health Alliance, BRAKE, the National Obesity Forum and CASH snapping eagerly at our freedoms, too. If this law had been strangled at birth they’d all still be sitting in their little boxes, quiet as mice.
So, a bad law all round, for all number of reasons. And therefore one which, in a civilised country such as we like to think we are (although sometimes I do wonder whether we still are), should – and would – be watered down, relaxed or, better still, repealed altogether.