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Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban


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Yes, I Was Blind.
frank_davis4
frank_davis
I was reading an article in the Publican by Pinstripe in which he wondered at  "the way European democracies have rolled over in the face of local health lobbies, much like the French military did to the Wehrmacht in 1940." And I read the comments beneath it, and came across this from Steve W:

All of you (peeved smokers) also keep mentioning the passive smoking health risks, but what you fail to understand is that most none-smokers weren't that bothered about this; what they WERE bothered about was the disgusting affects of passive smoking on them personally and on the surrounding atmosphere; you all really were blind to the discomfort caused to none-smokers in any enclosed public space.

Well, the reason us peeved smokers keep mentioning the passive smoking health risks is because these were given as the primary justification for the ban. And if there isn't any genuine health risk, there's no justification for the law. Would parliament have voted for a smoking ban just because a lot of people don't like the smell of tobacco smoke? Perhaps they would? Anything is possible these days.

But it's good to discover that the anti-smokers aren't actually bothered about the health risks. But then, I always knew that. I've always known that they didn't give a damn about the non-existent health risks. They just didn't like smoky places.

But what really caught my attention was that bit about us smokers being blind to the discomfort caused to non-smokers. Because, well, yes, I don't remember ever seeing it. I don't remember anyone ever collapsing in convulsions in a smoky pub. I don't remember anyone ever saying to me or to anyone else in any pub ever something like, "Can you put out that damn cigarette, it's killing me!" Not once. Ever. In going to pubs for 40 years.

I used to find, from time to time, that sometimes when ill-ventilated pubs were really packed with people, the air would sometimes get so rank that I couldn't bear it any more. At which point I'd go outside to get some fresh air, and maybe not bother to go back in again. But it was just as much the overcrowding and the din as the rank air that would drive me out.

Personally I preferred pubs that were quiet and half-empty. Those are the best ones for a quiet meditative pint. Once they got too full, they'd also get too noisy. And if I was talking to anyone, it would get harder and harder to hear and be heard, and I'd get hoarse from shouting. I didn't much like that. But some people love it. Some people love pubs that are heaving with people. I think they like the sheer physicality of it. And why shouldn't they? It's a free country. Or at least, it was once.

The people I knew who didn't smoke had usually been smokers at one stage in their lives. But they'd usually carry on going to pubs. And they'd never complain about it. In time, some of them stopped going to pubs, and would say that they were "too smoky". But my reading of that was that pubs were "too smoky" for them in the way that pubs were often "too noisy" or "too crowded" for me.  I'd go to pubs for my quiet meditative pints in the afternoons or early evenings, and leave when they got too full or too noisy. 

What gets me about antismokers like Steve W writing in the Publican is that they've only become vocal (and mostly only become vocal online) since the ban was enacted. For the 40 years before that, they hardly said a word. So yes, of course I was blind to their discomfort. They never mentioned it. They kept on going to pubs, and sitting in their smoky atmosphere, drinking beer and talking and laughing, and never ever once mentioning that they were hating every minute of it, and couldn't wait for smoking to be banned in all pubs everywhere. Nope, I never guessed that was how they felt. Yes, I was blind. 

But did they ever notice that I didn't like noisy, crowded pubs? Didn't they ever see me raising my eyes to heaven when Bohemian Rhapsody came on for the 25th time? I bet they didn't. And I bet they didn't because I never complained about it. Not once. Just like they never complained about the smoke. I never said, "If they play Bohemian Rhapsody one more time, I'm going to top myself!". Nor did I ever say, "My voice is so hoarse from trying to talk through this din, that I'm going to have to lie in a darkened room sipping iced water afterwards." So they were blind too.

The difference is that I didn't want there to be a law restricting the noise levels or the density of people inside pubs. Neither did I want there to be a law restricting the number of times Bohemian Rhapsody could be played on a juke box in one evening. Some people like noisy, crowded pubs. And some people can listen to Bohemian Rhapsody all night. It simply never occurred to me to impose my own personal preferences on everybody else. It simply never occurred to me to make my own personal preferences into the law of the land. To do so would have been an obscene thing to do.

But I increasingly think that when parliament voted for a total smoking ban, the MPs who voted for it were all Steve W's. They didn't really believe there was a genuine health risk either. They just saw a golden opportunity to impose their own personal preferences on everyone else. They had the power, and they used it. Just like New York mayor Bloomberg had the power, and used it too.  Who knows, if I had been an MP, and was voting on the Bohemian Rhapsody amendment to the Health Act (2006), which would have completely prohibited playing it on juke boxes in public places, I would have done exactly that. But I hope I wouldn't have. I hope I wouldn't have wanted to negate someone else's pleasure just so as to ensure mine.

But that's a hypothetical question. There's nothing hypothetical about the smoking ban though. It's a reality. It was casually introduced by a bunch of self-centred, trougher MPs who just voted for their own personal preferences, screw everybody else. You can read the lamentable debate here.

We are now watching the horribly divisive consequences of this unfold. This ban has already cost me many of my friends. And I'm sure it will cost many more. And it's not something that can be undone. There's no turning back the clock on this. There's no way of restoring the situation. They have set in motion something which cannot be stopped. We once had a tolerant, live-and-let-live society. But now it's gone. And there's no way back. I can't win back my lost friends now.


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Yes, I was blind

(Anonymous)
I did have several friends who really didn't like smoky pubs and let me know, but this wasn't a religious objection to smoke. If the pub was well ventilated, they were happy. Had the ban not been enacted when it was, the anti-tobacco activists might have lost their chance, and they know it. More non-smoking pubs were opening, especially in middle class areas and, by now, a state of equilibrium would have been reached, with a good selection of smoking, non-smoking and separate smoking room pubs. It's a shame it didn't happen earlier. Most non-smokers are ordinary, reasonable people, who thing of smoking like I think of rap music and R&B - something they might want to avoid depending on their mood and how overpowering it is. I always felt more comfortable going into a restaurant or cafe where there was a room specified as smoking, as then I could relax and smoke without listening to fake coughs and grumbles. Why it didn't happen earlier is a bit of a mystery, but, logically, whatever non-smokers say, it must have been due to lack of demand. And this is why many publicans - those who make a lot of their money from food, don't want the Act amending. They think that there is very little market for non-smoking pubs if smoking pubs exist. What they secretly think is that, for example, two smokers in a group of six would mean all six going to a smoking pub. I contend that there is now a huge number of social circles where nobody smokes. I honestly think I am the only close acquaintance of my sister who smokes. I think there would now be a large market for non-smoking pubs. The other issue is that non-smokers are pleased that smoking is banned everywhere, as they do do not now have to choose whether to follow their smoking friends into smoking pubs. Well this is really their problem to sort out. If the smoking ban were amended, it would be less of a problem than it was. Many pubs would install powerful extraction systems so as to get a share of both the smoking and the tolerant non-smoking market.

whatever non-smokers say, it must have been due to lack of demand.

I agree. I didn't know anyone who was wanted non-smoking pubs. It's only since they've arrived that quite a few people have piped up and said that they like them. Not that they go to them much.

And this is why many publicans - those who make a lot of their money from food, don't want the Act amending. They think that there is very little market for non-smoking pubs if smoking pubs exist.

I think they are separate markets. There was a big pub near where I live which went non-smoking a couple of years before the ban. But it was a pub-restaurant. It had no locals, because it was out in the middle of the countryside, and middle-class punters would flock there from miles around. And the food was good too.

Most people don't want to smoke while they eat. The two activities are mutually exclusive.

Smoking pubs and pub-restaurants are also mutually exclusive. The latter is a new sort of beast. They scarcely existed 40 years ago.

Frank, I think you're missing the point of what Steve W was saying. He wasn't talking about non-smokers, he was talking about "none-smokers" - and they're a very different beast altogether.

Sorry - when I've had a few drinks I become both flippant and pedantic. I read Steve W's comments yesterday and they utterly incensed me, for exactly the same reason that the same argument always drives me up the wall - because it's a load of Stalinist, revisionist bollocks. We weren't ruining the evening with our "disgusting" second-hand smoke for ANYONE - well, at least nobody we could see.

I could talk about this all night, but it's getting late, so I'll just make a few points as they spring to mind. Firstly, I used to have a number of non-smoking friends of both sexes who used to ring me up suggesting a drink, knowing perfectly well that I enjoy a tab or two with my pint. Why did they do this? Am I exceptionally handsome, interesting, witty, charming, influential or rich? Not a bit of it - I'm just an ordinary and relatively amiable bloke who is hopefully quite good company over a few beers. So it's not as if they were putting up with my "stench" for ulterior motives - it was because they weren't remotely bothered by cigarette smoke.

Another vital point about us all being "blind" is never mentioned: how on earth were we supposed to tell? How do you spot the non-smoker? You'd have to spend all night keeping everybody under surveillance to figure out who did and didn't smoke. All we could see were a bunch of people enjoying themselves - some smoking, and some not smoking, but nobody seeming to mind one iota either way. If you walked into a pub where people were smoking and everybody seemed to be having a good time, was it really "selfish" to light up as well?

And yet it seems to Steve W and people of his ilk that the ban is great because it's a kind of revenge on people they never met, and who never did them any harm. Smoking should be banned everywhere because they don't like the smell of smoke. Well, I can't stand the smell of vinegar or tomato ketchup in a pub, so can we ban that as well?

But we all know what the answer to that would be - it's that vinegar and tomato ketchup don't threaten other people's health like smoking does. So in the end Steve W is really bothered about the perceived risks of ETS and is being completely dishonest, or he would see the absurdity of his viewpoint.

A final point - the oft-quoted "stink" on one's clothes and hair. Not having much hair, I've never noticed the latter - but I have noticed the former. It's fairly easily solved by washing the items in question. The only real beneficiaries of the ban seem to be intolerant, dirty and smelly people.

Double post deleted, as requested.

Firstly, I used to have a number of non-smoking friends of both sexes who used to ring me up suggesting a drink,.. it was because they weren't remotely bothered by cigarette smoke.

Same experience here. And yet the same people now often say that they like the smoking ban.

To me that means that they didn't like it before the ban. And that I spent years and years going to pubs with people who I thought weren't bothered by cigarette smoke, but who were. And that does my head in.

vinegar and tomato ketchup don't threaten other people's health like smoking does.

Nobody has investigated vinegar and tomato ketchup to death, however. They will both be releasing a cocktail of chemicals into the air. If just one of them is a tiny bit carcinogenic or toxic (and pretty well all chemicals are), then case closed.

Alcohol is a class A carcinogen. Michael McFadden has pointed out in the BMJ somewhere that alcohol evaporates from a glass of whisky into the air. So the air in any bar is going to be filled with carcinogenic alcohol vapour. There's as much a case to ban drinking in pubs on these grounds as it is to ban smoking.

But nobody makes that case. There haven't been a raft of epidemiological studies of it. But there could be, very easily. There's absolutely no reason why health zealots don't claim that drinkers in pubs are killing the bar staff with the carcinogenic alcohol vapour boiling off their drinks. Maybe they'll start doing so soon.

Part of the trick with tobacco is always to keep the focus on tobacco smoke alone, and shrug off equivalent 'risks' from other sources. Like candles. Or wood fires. Or charcoal grills.

The unwritten laws that mankind lives by are the true and sacred laws... smoking bans have broken many if not most of these laws. I don't know what will happen as a result of this breach as I have never wittnessed this kind of behaviour before... but I do know that all things eventually return to harmonious balance... at the moment there seems to be a tremendous ammount of energy pointed toward taking away indivual rights and freedoms of anykind... this energy by my definition must be negitve or "anti" productive as productivity can only truly be achieved through inspiration and inspiration cannot exist without freedom and the celebration of individuality. My conclusion therefore is that the current trend is toward non productivity and the cessation of the natural progression of mankind and a general intolerance of joy.
This trend has been purchased, as have the bans and laws that have followed... the precident is disturbing to say the least... however I do think that the true heart of man will live to shine once again and the tyrany will give way to understanding... you will see your friends once again my friend.

Danger! Danger! Alcohol Fumes Present!!!

(Anonymous)
Frank noted the following:

===
Alcohol is a class A carcinogen. Michael McFadden has pointed out in the BMJ somewhere that alcohol evaporates from a glass of whisky into the air. So the air in any bar is going to be filled with carcinogenic alcohol vapour. There's as much a case to ban drinking in pubs on these grounds as it is to ban smoking.

But nobody makes that case. There haven't been a raft of epidemiological studies of it. But there could be, very easily. There's absolutely no reason why health zealots don't claim that drinkers in pubs are killing the bar staff with the carcinogenic alcohol vapour boiling off their drinks. Maybe they'll start doing so soon.
===

Very true. After all, they can make the same argument that was made with smoking that drinking alcohol is not "intrinsic and necessary" to the act of eating healthy food with our families, so why should young workers and children have carcinogenic alcohol vapors rammed down their throats?

The BMJ reference is at:

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/330/7495/812#103642

under the heading "Secondary Smoke, Alcohol, and Deaths"


Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

Re: Danger! Danger! Alcohol Fumes Present!!!

Thanks for that. The relevant paragraph was this:

A cigarette emits roughly a half milligram of active Class A carcinogens with the most significant in terms of weight being benzene at 3/10ths of a milligram. A standard martini releases roughly one full gram of the Class A carcinogen ethyl alcohol into the air in the space of an hour: an amount equal to 2,000 cigarettes. You can see this for yourself most clearly if you pour a large shot (48 grams) of grain alcohol into a martini glass and set it someplace ventilated and safe for two days. When you come back it will be gone. If the cat didn't drink it the alcohol went into the air and was breathed and ingested by any who wandered through the room during that period.

non-smokers in pubs

(Anonymous)
Pubs have never been emptier. So where are all the bastards who claimed they couldn't go to pubs because of the smoke? There should be queues at the door, given the bleating which preceeded the ban. I don't smoke any more, but have no problem with smokers. Now those shits for ever eating take aways and drinking bloody coffees on trains, don't get me started...

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