Continuing with yesterday’s line of investigation…
I mentioned yesterday that we not only make useful tools that make life easier for ourselves, but also amusements and pastimes with which to pass our idle hours. If the tools and technology we use make idle time for us, the amusements and pastimes use it up.
I’m going to guess that half the working population of Britain is making and selling useful things like food and clothing and houses and cars and computers and medicine, and half are making and selling amusements and pastimes like books and fashionable clothes and perfumes and fluffy toys and tobacco and whisky. I don’t need these things. I can live without them. It’s just that life without them wouldn’t be much fun.
Perhaps the antismokers are just trying to rid us of anything that isn’t strictly necessary? I’ve suggested this several times before. Perhaps these puritanical killjoys are just trying to strip away everything that is inessential for survival?
Anyway, if half of what is being produced and sold is inessential, then half of the work that is being done is inessential work making fluffy toys and lampshades and necklaces.
Yesterday I estimated that we were living 76% idle lives. But if half the work being done is unnecessary work, then really the 24% of work could be halved to 12%, and we’d have an 88% idle society.
So just 12 people in 100 need to work to maintain 100 people. And their productivity in terms of idle time/work time is 100/12, or 8.3 hours/hour.
In a somewhat unscientific way, it is probably safe to say that if non-nicotine users perform 1.0, then nicotine users will perform up to 1.25 – with smokers as the absolute top performers. At the same time nicotine users – especially smokers – who fail to maintain nicotine levels will perform down to 0.75.
So what happens when smoking is banned in workplaces, and the work capacity of the smokers drops from 1.25 to 1.00? The productivity of the workforce will drop. And so if smokers make up 25% of the workforce, and are its most productive members, then initially the work capacity of the workforce will be (0.75 x 1.0 + 0.25 x 1.25) or 1.06, and after the smoking ban, assuming smokers become just as productive as non-smokers, the work capacity of the workforce will fall to 1.0. It may actually fall even lower.
And this will reduce the productivity of the workforce. With work capacity at 1/1.06 or 94% of its pre-smoking ban level, they’ll only be able to do 94% of the work they’d previously been able to do in the same time. Or they’d have to work 1.06 hours to do the same work that they did in 1 hour. And so their productivity would fall from 8.3 hours/hour to 8.3 hours/1.06 hours or 7.8 hours/hour, and there’d need to be 12*1.06 or 13 workers needed to maintain every 100 people, and social idleness would fall from 88% to 87%.
And this fall in productivity and idleness would have been experienced immediately the smoking ban was introduced, because the drop in work capacity of workers would fall on the very first day of the ban. Companies everywhere would find that they were failing to meet production targets, and were having to pay out more in overtime wages, or hire new staff. There’d be a general fall in profitability of companies. There’d be an economic slump, which would only show up in the companies’ books over the next quarter.
None of this takes into account the fall in productivity associated with workers who used to be able to smoke on the job being forced to take smoking breaks that they never used to take before. If someone takes a 5 minute smoking break every hour, it’s going to take them 65/60 or 1.08 times as long to get the same job done as before.
It also doesn’t take into account the fact that if smoking increases work capacity in smokers, it’s probably having a slight effect on non-smokers inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke. The productivity of smokers might fall sharply with the introduction of a smoking ban, but the productivity of their non-smoking co-workers would have probably fallen slightly as well.
The UK smoking ban was introduced on 1 July 2007, and was followed by the 2007-2008 Credit Crunch, after which a prolonged slump followed. I’ve already argued in the past that when smokers were “exiled to the outdoors”, they stopped spending as much as they used to do in pubs and cafes, and cut their spending on everything else as well. So there is a double whammy that comes with smoking bans: the profitability of all businesses suffers as workforce productivity drops, and they also sell fewer products. And the same would be happening all over the world at more or less the same time, as more and more countries introduced workplace smoking bans.
It follows that a repeal of smoking bans would be accompanied by an economic boom during which worker productivity would return to previous levels, and exiled smokers would return to pubs and cafes, and spend more money on everything else as well. Companies of every description would find the profitability of their companies boosted, and sales enhanced.