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robert_parnham

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Is there always fire when there’s smoke?

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22.12.2003

Advantages:
None (see review)

Disadvantages:
Limits your freedom (see review)

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I often writing ranting opinions for inclusion in various categories of the Ciao Café, but this is the only one that’s got off the drawing board. I hope you enjoy it, even if you don’t agree with it.

So let’s get straight to the point. Should smoking be banned I all public places? No, absolutely not.

FREEDOM OF CHOICE

For now, I want to leave aside all the stuff about whether smoking is right or wrong. For me, this is an issue of freedom and freedom of choice. It’s about the freedom that individuals and businesses have in their decision making.

In America, and especially in some states (such as California, New York and Florida) there’s a sort of holier than thou attitude evolving. The powers that be have got together and decided that smoking shouldn’t be allowed in public places. It doesn’t matter what the owner of “Joe’s Bar” wants, or even what Joe, himself, feels his customers want. Smoking is banned in Joe’s Bar. That’s it. End of story.

But hang on a minute. I thought American was supposed to be the “land of the free”. This doesn’t sound very free to me. Personally I feel, and I feel very strongly about this; that in a free market, your customers should decide your policies. If your customers want a no-smoking environment, that’s what you should deliver. If your customers want a place to chill with a cigarette – that’s what you should provide. After all, if you don’t meet your customers’ needs, they’ll go elsewhere and you’ll be out of business.

IS SMOKING THAT BAD?

The tobacco companies will have you believe that passive smoking isn’t harmful. Some doctors would say that it’s just as harmful as smoking a cigarette yourself. I’m not a medic, so I don’t know who to believe. But needless to say millions of people die around the world every year through “smoking related diseases”. Some of these people have never smoked a cigarette in their lives, so it’s probably passive smoking, right?

Well, no. Not necessarily. If you, god forbid, were to drop of your perch tomorrow with heart disease or with some sort of cancer to the repertory system; you would die of a “smoking related disease”. Doesn’t matter if you’ve never smoked in your life, the thing that killed you is related to smoking, therefore it’s a smoking related disease.

If you have never smoked, it’s not much of a leap of faith to assume that it must have been passive smoking. Don’t believe me? Next time there something on the news about passive smoking (and there will be; when the ban comes into effect in the Republic of Ireland), they’ll only mention “smoking related diseases”.

You see, passive smoking, like radiation from mobile phone masts, is very difficult to prove. It’s not an exact science; it’s not even a science; it’s about taking the available data and interpreting it. Just suppose, for one moment, that the interpretation was wrong.

SEGREGATED SMOKING

Even though I think that the dangers of smoking are overestimated, for now we’ll assume they aren’t. Let’s say it’s a real danger and it kills people, both smokers and passive smokers.

So what about segregation of smoking areas? This can work, but it can also be badly misjudged. I once read somewhere (I don’t recall where or by whom, so I can’t credit this quote) that “Having a smoking and a non-smoking section is a bit like having a pissing and a non-pissing section of a swimming pool”. And it certainly can be true.

The other week I was sitting in a non-smoking section of a restaurant and the smoking section was the other side of a small railing. Needless to say, the smoke drifted right across from one section to the other. Completely pointless.

But there is also another restaurant I frequent. Their smoking section is practically enclosed. There’s no smoking allowed at the bar and there’s large air-cleaning units on the ceiling at the access to and from the smoking section. The smoking section itself is still part of the restaurant, but clever design and technology allowed smokers and non-smokers to enjoy each other atmosphere, but without the pollutants.

But what happens if there is no non-smoking section? Easy, don’t go there. Make sure the establishment knows the reasons why you won’t go there and if enough people feel the same, they’ll have to change. This is the free market; this is freedom of choice.

I don’t actually think there is a law that bans smoking on trains (except underground ones), planes and in cinemas. It’s just that the companies responsible for operating these places have come to the conclusion that smoking isn’t appropriate or what customers want. And rightly so.

Now, some of you may be nodding in agreement with me; others will be thinking “what’s this idiot on with. What about my freedom not to come home smelling of smoke?” To be honest, you do have the freedom. You take your money to a place that meets your needs and avoid the places that don’t.

I don’t drink and I can’t abide kids. So, I avoid a city centres at night (when it’s full of unpleasant drunk people) in the same way I avoid Toys R Us. If I know a destination is going to be full of things or people I find abhorrent, I avoid them. I don’t moan that people should be tea-total or refrain from pro-creating. It’s about tolerance and respect.

RIGHTS OF THE WORKER

From memory, I think that the ban due to come into force in Ireland, bans smoking “in the workplace”. By default, this also bans it in restaurants, bars and hotels. The reason is simple, to protect workers from passive smoking.

We’ve already established we don’t fully understand passive smoking or its effects, but it would make sense to take some sort of preventative action just in case. But is a ban the best solution?

If you work behind a bar, it must be relatively unpleasant to have people blowing their smoke all over you. That’s why the Weatherspoons chain introduced a “no smoking at the bar policy”. It caught on. It’s now pretty much standard across most pub chains.

But what about other people that have to go into areas where people are smoking as part of their duties? Perhaps this should be left to decisions made by the worker themselves. You should be asked to sign a form that you are aware of the potential dangers and accept the potential risks but you have no objections. For a smoker this should be a no-brainer, but a non-smoker might wish to consider alterative employment.

Now I can feel you anti-smoking people getting angry with me again. But I’ll take some arguments you might raise and address them:

“This discriminates against non-smokers”. Yes it does, in the same way that fire fighters must accept their job is dangerous. Or in the same way that being a milk man discriminates against people who enjoy lie-ins.

“It will force the desperate and low paid into ‘smoking’ jobs, because they can’t afford to turn down the money”. Rubbish. We all have a choice in our careers. If you so inadequate you can feel that you must take one of these jobs; the situation is of your own making. There are plenty of people out there who turn their life around and better themselves. You only have yourself to blame; we all have opportunities, it’s whether we choose to explore them. Oh, we’re back to freedom of choice….

IN SUMMARY


It is a matter or freedom. This is what living in a free country means, this is what we must savour and protect. So no, I do not think smoking should be banned in public places. It’s about our own choice and freedoms concerning which places we choose to frequent or work in.

The government have said that a ban on smoking isn’t on the cards. And, for once, I applaud their common sense.

Thanks for reading. Please leave me comments. I love to read them. Rob
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Comments about this review »

dbirse 04.04.2007 12:45

Very good.

lona 14.09.2006 07:24

Excellent review. Pity the government didn't read it before they enforced the whole of Scotand to be a smoke free zone. I wonder if the next step our government will make is putting all smokers into Ghetto's lol.

cuggles 27.04.2006 22:46

Fantastic well written you have given me alot of things to winge about to the other smokers who get stuck in the rain outside the pub! cheers

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This review of Should smoking be banned in all public places? has been rated:

"exceptional" by (10%):

  1. lona
  2. cuggles
  3. lianasb52

and 4 other members

"very helpful" by (90%):

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  2. bmthkatie
  3. silentpig

and 59 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.