Let me start this by making a confession. I hate cyclists. In my opinion they are lycra-clad menaces to other road users and pedestrians. I even have some dodgy statistics to back up my argument, for example: did you know that deaths amongst cyclists increased by 7% between 2009 and 2010? Clearly they need to be protected from themselves, and so I have decided to make it my life’s mission to rid the country of this scourge. I’m sure I can get government funding to aid me in my mission, after all, the non-profit independent groups who campaigned and lobbied to ban smoking in public places were paid for largely by taxpayer’s money.
Smoking, like cycling, is a dangerous pastime that many people either do not understand or downright loathe. I don’t want to share my roads with the Chester-Birkenhead bike race any more than others want to share their restaurant with a man smoking a cigar. However, my sense of logic and fairness prevents me from trying to ban every activity that I don’t enjoy.
Recent opinion polls suggest a 75% approval rating for the UK smoking ban. I call bullshit. If 75% of people disliked smoking bars, then 75% of bars would have been non-smoking before the ban of their own volition. Bar owners aren’t stupid, they, like every other business, attempt to provide their customers with the service they desire. And as almost all bars before the ban were smoking, it can be concluded that the majority of patrons either want smoking bars, or didn’t care enough to withdraw their custom. It is a small, power-mad faction, backed by millions of pounds in government funding, who have been controlling the rest of us for the last 5 years.
It is a well-known fact that the bars and pubs in Britain have been struggling since the ban. In the first year alone around 1200 went out of business. The majority of these were end-of-terrace working class pubs which provided a focus for the local community, not the kind of swanky London joints where the journalists and politicians, the people responsible for this ludicrous situation, hang out. Whilst sales of tobacco fell by 6% since the ban, sales of alcohol in bars fell by 8%. Clearly the ban is hitting your local landlord far harder than the huge tobacco companies.
Second-hand smoke isn’t nice. Your clothes and hair smell and if you have a pre-existing lung problem, the consequences can be severe. But what on earth is wrong with providing a separate room or a well-covered outdoor area? I refuse to believe that the ban is really about passive smoke. If it were, the UK would be more like Slovenia, where awnings have been constructed to protect smokers from the elements, or Austria, where bars are obliged to protect non-smoking patrons, rather than make smoker’s lives as miserable as possible. As for the places where a separate area is impossible, and which choose to remain smoking, the answer is blindingly simple. Just as I do not spend my weekends at Halfords, a fresh-air fanatic should not go to a smoky dive.
“But all my friends go there!”. Give me a break. All that oxygen must have addled your mind if you blindly follow your friends into what you believe to be a dangerous place. But is it really that dangerous? Perhaps for the workers who spend up to 12 hours a day in this environment. I was a waitress for a number of years and my boyfriend and many of my friends still work in bars. We are quite aware of the dangers, and to suggest that we need protecting from the smoke is patronising and frankly ludicrous. Especially as in the bar where I worked every single member of staff smoked at least a pack a day.
But is ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) really that dangerous? Amazingly, despite being the grounds for a law that has put thousands out of business, the answer seems to be no. In the US every year 20-30 000 non smokers die every year from lung cancer. The biggest cause? exposure to Radon. There also seems to be a genetic predisposition to this kind of cancer, as with many others. The chances of dying of lung cancer as a non-smoker increase by 25% if you live with a smoker. Sound scary? Not really. The risk increases from 6.3 deaths per 100, 000 to 7.8 per 100,000. Statistically this is of no significance. Solid proof that passive smoke kills simply does not exist.
One report that was touted as proof of the ban’s success suggested that there has been a 2.4% reduction in the number of heart attacks since the ban, stating “this shows a clear association between the ban and a decreased rate of hospital admission.” however the author also went on to say that the study did not actually look at smoking studies or people’s exposure to smoke.
What really depresses me, and most other Libertarians is that the battle for freedom seems to already have been lost. There are still a few European countries holding out against the nonsense, but it won’t be long before they are also forced to submit to EU pressure. However, whilst we have given up the struggle for smoker and buisness owner’s rights, the anti-smoking campaigners are far from satisfied. Joan King, head of Cancer Research UK said “We need to do everything possible to continue our success – we now need a tobacco control plan for the next 5 years”. Whilst they continue to campaign for tighter restrictions on packaging and distribution, we must continue to fight back. And if the bullshit all gets too much? May I recommend a holiday in Austria, the smoker’s paradise – for now.