Friday, February 17, 2006

Smoking ban in Britain

MPs first ended an exemption for pubs not serving food by 453 votes to 125 ... and then to extend the ban to private clubs by 384 votes to 184 (BBC).

Well, we didn't think this would happen, but it has - a great blow to the social life of this country, which will accentuate the trend of people drinking at home. It looks like Britain will be even worse than Zapatero's Spain.

 Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, said on BBC radio Tuesday morning that she saw a strong case for exempting private members' clubs from the ban. Later, she said the argument had been 'finely-balanced'. But in the end she came down on the side of a total ban.

And so we had this Alice-in-Wonderland logic. Whatever the case for allowing members to decide the policy in their club, rather than it being imposed by the government, it was said that this would be unfair on pubs. In other words, people would choose to go for a drink in clubs (which allowed smoking) rather than pubs (which did not). In other words, people would prefer to use places where smoking was allowed to those where it was not.

I was going to say that at least it showed that there was some soul in the Labour Party since it was divided on the issue, in contrast to the sanctimonious unity of the Liberals, since that was how it came across from the media. But, in fact, a number of LibDems voted against the ban. (How MPs voted)

Anyway, you can follow the debate in full. Patricia Hewitt said that the ban would 'save thousands of people's lives'. It is clear that the vast majority of these would be smokers who would be 'encouraged' to stop. Then there are those who choose to go into pubs or clubs where smoking is allowed and suffer from 'passive smoking'. The argument that some of the people who work in pubs and clubs would have their lives saved is irrefutable as such, but the numbers involved are relatively small (see my comments here) and it's really a smokescreen (no apologies) for making life so uncomfortable for smokers that they give up.


Blogger Neil Harding said...

I was surprised there was a total ban but immensely relieved.

The govt tried it's best to find a compromise on this issue, but once it became a 'health and safety' issue, it was difficult not to go for the complete ban.

We are not alone; Sweden, Bangladesh, Cuba, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Hong Kong, Norway, India, Scotland, Ireland, Kenya, Uganda and Belgium already have implemented, or soon will implement smoking bans. There is also an ever expanding list of US cities with total bans and partial bans in Spain and Australia.

Just because people tolerated smoke didn't mean they had a choice. If the choice is between going out to a gig or not going out to avoid smoke, then that is hardly a choice. Even the majority of smokers wanted a ban.

6:54 am, February 27, 2006  
Anonymous DavidP said...

I don't have any objection to smoking being banned at indoor events, providing we're talking about the main concert hall and smoking is allowed in other areas.

Some theatres have already introduced bans in all bars and coffee areas. I then choose to go to the pub across the road before and in the interval.

12:30 pm, March 09, 2006  
Anonymous DavidP said...

Norman Geras has a well-argued post on the smoking ban - Paternalistic interference - starting with a quotation from J.S. Mill:

That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant


8:57 pm, March 12, 2006  

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