UK Smoking ban – some of the arguments

The UK Parliament has voted through a smoking ban prohibiting smoking in (almost) all public enclosed spaces. This I think is a great plus for the health of people in the UK, both for those that enjoy a drink or food in an non-polluted atmosphere, but also for those that have to work in that environment.

In particular for me it’s going to be a lot easier to protect my baby daughter from the harmful effects of other peoples smoke. I won’t have to search around for restaurants with non-smoking areas that don’t get smoke drifting over from the nearby table, and where you don’t have to walk through a smoking area to reach, and I won’t have to worry about smoke in shopping centres and other places we go to.

The bit that gets me is some of the comments people have used in defence of smoking. I can understand those that feel that their freedom is being taken away, but that is a small price to pay compared to the right to live of those that have to smoke the fumes from other smokers. Many of the other arguments really don’t have a leg to stand on.

The right of life should take precedent over the right of someone to produce a toxic gas in a public place.

I’m surprised that smoking is not a breach of the COSHH regulations anyway. Or perhaps it is, but everyone ignores it.
If an employer asked people to work in an environment containing a toxic gas that is a carcinogenic, carries the risk of heart disease, lung disease and various other illnesses without protective equipment then they’d have the book thrown at them. But if that toxic gas happens to come from the end of a cigarette then it appears to be OK (until next year anyway).

Here are some of the worst examples of people opposing the ban.

BBC Vote on Smoking Ban
People claim that the majority of the people don’t want this ban. However the bill was passed with a majority of 200 in the house of commons, which is a very big majority. Also the screenshot shown to the right shows a BBC poll, which whilst not necessarily representing the whole population shows a significant percentage in favour of a total ban.
BBC website containing details of the vote (at the time of writing).

Children will have the BENEFIT of spending more time with parents who have deserted the pub and so face more passive smoking at home.”

Are they really suggesting that smokers go to the pub just so that they don’t have to smoke in front of their children? What about the idea that they will either still go to the pub, or that perhaps a parent actually spending time with their child could be a good thing.
If the parents care at all about their children’s health then they will not smoke in areas that their children are present. If they don’t care about their children’s health then they will smoke in front of their children regardless of whether they can smoke at the pub or not.

I’ve heard many arguments saying this is going to harm the restaurant and bar revenues. I’ve yet to see any evidence that says it will, but the following suggests that it hasn’t affected El Paso in Texas in the US. Plus some restaurants in the UK have already moved to non-smoking and actually increased their revenues.

Review of impact on El Paso Restaurants and Bars
“To assess whether the El Paso smoking ban affected restaurant and bar revenues, the Texas Department of Health (TDH) and CDC analyzed sales tax and mixed-beverage tax data during the 12 years preceding and 1 year after the smoking ban was implemented. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which determined that no statistically significant changes in restaurant and bar revenues occurred after the smoking ban took effect. These findings are consistent with those from studies of smoking bans in other U.S. cities”

Some smokers said that they supported a ban for smoking where food was served but not elsewhere. What difference does it make to the passive smokers or the staff working in those environments. In either case they are still having to breath in the same smoke whether they are eating or not.

more litter and more fights, it’ll just move everything out onto the street

Which somehow seams to thing that people will suddenly start fighting. If this is the typical behaviour of smokers then there are serious concerns about what smoking is doing to them! Of course dropping litter is also against the law, and it’s about time that a lot of smokers realised that throwing their cigarettes on the ground or out of their car windows in filthy and illegal.

Of course the conspiracy theories have to come out at some point:
a fabricated controversy, designed to deflect the real attention away from the Iraq war.

Then there are those that think that cigarettes don’t actually pose any health risk. No doubt along a similar thread to the cigarettes are healthy rubbish that the tobacco industry used advertise some years ago.

The reality is:
The government’s Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) states that passive smoking significantly increases the risk of serious illness and no infant, child or adult should be exposed to it.
BBC news for the above quote.

Finally this one really takes the biscuit. This is from Jamie Whyte writing for Times Online who suggests that people working in a smoke filled environment actually benefit as a result due to the “danger money” they will be earning.

Workplace safety regulations, such as this ban on smoking (it is supposed to benefit bar staff), are a perfect example of how this confusion leads legislators astray. Consider coalmining, a job even more dangerous than working in a smoky bar.”

‘Danger money’ is not just a joke expression. It is a real consequence of supply and demand in a free labour market. And it explains why you cannot help coalminers (or any other workers) by making their jobs safer.

Article on TimesOnline.

I think that the one thing that’s obvious from that is that Jamie has never worked in a bar being paid at the legal minimum wage. It may come as a big surprise to him that most of the bar staff and cleaners etc. that work in these places do not live in large detached houses and drive around in expensive cars, but are often earning the minimum wage and are most likely struggling to make ends meet.

Obviously these opinions don’t represent all those against the smoking ban, but it’s hard to see any real arguments that out-way the right of life for others not to breath toxic fumes.

Unless the smokers can actually put forward a much better case then it looks like it may be the end of smoking in public enclosed spaces, not just for the UK, but spreading across Europe and beyond. Something that I welcome.