THE SMOKING BAN. 


                        This essay is in two parts - Pre Ban concerns followed by my reactions a year after the ban was enforced. 


                                                        BEFORE THE SMOKING BAN


Writing on June 16th 2007, I see that on July 1st 2007, England, in keeping with the rest of Great Britain, bans smoking in most public places, including pubs, clubs, and work places.


As someone who never smoked, you’d think I would welcome the prohibition, but it actually angers me. I’m almost tempted to buy my first packet of cigs. I have never regarded smokers as social lepers and pariahs.


I’m all for anyone who quits smoking, due to its expense and genuine health threats caused. I have lost several friends and relatives to Cancer. See my web page on Death for their stories.


Having been raised in a family of smokers and having been a drinker in smoky nightclubs for most of my life, I always took smoking for granted – gradually however, the call for its ban has intensified to hysteria akin to a witch-hunt or a born again evangelical crusade. There are few fanatics as extreme as born again non-smokers.


With a purge on advertising, the health warnings on cig packets taking up more room than the name of the production companies, and extortionate government taxes, smokers have been treated like drug addicts. Many people rip off the people trying to quit by offering everything from hypnosis to tobacco pouches, which strike me as about as useful as sellotaping a wet teabag to your armpit and paying for the privilege. It’s individual will power that stops someone smoking – just go cold turkey and don’t spark up no matter how tempting it gets – that strikes me as the way to do it.


I do dislike smokers getting extra break times at work places – I feel we non-smokers should get a matching level of time to do with as we wish.


Banning smoking, vilifying smokers for their habit, feigning self-righteous indignation whenever anyone sparks up, is all-wrong. The politically correct brigade use extreme peer group pressure to hassle smokers it is paramount to bullying.


Though in a smoky bar from time to time, (at least until the ban) I don’t complain about smoky atmospheres – if I were going to find the air unbreathable I’d go off to another bar rather than ruining everyone’s night.


I am aware that by association with smokers, I risk cancer through passive smoke inhalation – thanks for the warning. I’ll take my chances. I’d appreciate it if you stopped trying to sanitize and safety audit my life by taking all the sharp corners off. It will not make you or me immortal. Death will still catch us in the end. I do not need mamby pambying. Anti-smoking legislation is a means of creating social control – it drives people away from bars and other places where smoking will soon be outlawed – it provides an excuse to intimidate licensees and rival businessmen by creating claims about them harbouring smokers. Anyone who turns a blind eye to someone having a cig, cigar or pipe tobacco, will soon be grassed up – we live in a country obsessed with surveillance, spying, snooping and telling tales on one another.


Many bars will lose trade, as smokers take their trade elsewhere, probably by getting beer at the off-licenses and being able to smoke and drink at home.  Many businesses will have staff standing around outside, creating heaps of ash and clouds of smoke around their offices, until they are dispersed and banned from going out to enjoy such breaks from their daily stress.


Smokers who need or desire a cig can go to various places to light up – they are still free to smoke at home or in prison, as a prison’s whole culture and economy runs on tobacco exchange in turn for favours. Wardens would not cope with convicts who haven’t had a cig all day. The other place where you can still mainly smoke is the Houses Of Parliament, as our MP’s, eager to force the rest of us to stop smoking, still grant themselves the freedom to do so – hypocrites!


They are now seriously discussing legislation to ban smoking in any car carrying passengers - now think about that - it may be that the passengers have no objection to a smoker sharing the vehicle, but the government wants to disregard any form of common sense consent in the issue. It could even apply when all of the passengers smoke as well.  Most smokers will usually ask if I mind them smoking or not. Generally I consent. The government plans to rob me of such a choice in the matter. 


I don’t smoke – I don’t mind or care if someone else does. What really worries me is that once they eliminate the smokers, they’ll start on the drinkers too – where is Al Capone now that we need him?   Arthur Chappell


                                            AFTER THE BAN 


Well, they did it, and the pub has never been the same since. The lack of ashtrays gives me no means of disposing of detritus from my pockets or the scraps of note paper from my writing down of ideas for my features. The lack of smoke highlights how unfragrant the aroma is that comes from the toilets of many bars and restaurants.  Labels are slapped everywhere warning of the penalties for smoking, long after most people got the message loud and clear.  Smokers have to go outside, and often do  in group, clustering around in doorways. As a non-smoker, I sometimes go out to just to keep in with a conversation, or sometimes when staying in, especially if the weather is appalling, I find myself looking after coats, drinks and bags for the smokers.  As it is illegal to take glasses or open bottles from a bar to the street, smokers often have to leave drinks unattended to go out to smoke, running the risk of having beer taken away by staff or by other drinkers if they don't have friends staying behind to guard the drinks. The evening now becomes one of fragmented conversations,  and people coming and going from a bar.  The smell from toilets is often over-compensated for with air fresheners that are bad for the ozone layer and probably the human lungs too.  I'd rather have the smokers back in the pub, frankly, but given the effectiveness of the ban, it seems unlikely. 


 © Copyright. Arthur Chappell