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Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

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Permission to Speak
A day or so back Tom Harris quoted from a Labour List piece by Michael Merrick - Culture clash: how Labour can look to reconnect with the poor -, wondering why people were deserting Labour and what could be done to get them back.

Often, the response is that the party needs to reconnect with its core vote, that it needs to reach out to those who feel abandoned. I absolutely agree. The problem is that any return to the 'core vote' is only ever conceived in economic terms. Whilst there is undoubtedly value in this strategy, it can only ever have limited impact, because it only ever addresses a limited part of the problem. The truth is that for those who feel alienated, pushed to the outside of public life, the dispossession is cultural every bit as much as it is economic...

Whole communities feel dispossessed, trapped in a country that is changing at a rapid pace - a transformation that affects the poorest communities more than anyone else, but over which they feel they have had less of a say than anybody else.

Further on Merrick writes about New Labour's new ideology:

the disillusionment of the electorate is at least partly down to the fact the Labour Party has embraced an ideology that actively undermines the beliefs and culture of ordinary working people...

the general beliefs of vast swathes of the electorate are demonised and ridiculed by an elite interested only in securing the dominance of their own particular worldview

He identifies the problem as a clash of cultures:

[This] does little but demonstrate with crystal clarity precisely what it is people are angry about - 'these are our concerns, but none of you will listen'. And of course they won't. Because at root this is a clash of cultures.

...the Labour Party has chosen to sacrifice its traditional roots in defence of a shiny new social creed it likes to call 'liberalism'. Truth is, the cultural underpinnings of this creed, originating in the post-1968 student 'resistance' movements, are thoroughly middle-class, individualistic and bourgeois...

So there all these ordinary working people who feel culturally dispossessed, and nobody in the Labour party will listen to them. It's not just about immigration that they're not listened to, but also school/parental discipline, capital punishment, patriotism, euro-scepticism, and morality. And the reason that nobody will listen to them is because the Labour party has abandoned its traditional roots for a liberal (that'll be 'liberal' in the American sense, and not in the least bit 'liberal' in the traditional English sense) ideology which grew up in the aftermath of the 1960s.

I won't disagree with a word of that. I think it's almost exactly right. The Labour party has been taken over by latte Guardianistas and champagne socialists who have little or nothing - and want little or nothing - to do with the working men having a beer inside (and a cigarette outside) a traditional English pub, and who voted Labour into office 12 years ago. A cultural war has been launched by the New Labour establishment upon the Old Labour voters they're supposed to represent.

But as I read the piece, it was the smoking ban that came sharply to mind. For what better exemplifies that cultural war than the smoking ban? The smoking ban has been the very spearhead of that cultural war. Yet it wasn't mentioned at all by Merrick. But then, the smoking ban is never mentioned anywhere ever. Immigration? That's a genuine, valid issue. The EU? That's another one. Schools? Another biggie. The health service? Certainly. But the smoking ban? Ha, ha. You must be joking. You cannot be serious. The smoking ban is trivial by comparison with the weighty issues of immigration, the EU, housing, education, healthcare, and so on.

But is it?

I'm single, childless, in good health, not quite penniless, and I live out in the Devon countryside. So my interest in schools and education is approximately zero. And my interest in hospitals and healthcare not much greater. And my concern with immigration is nearly zilch. And my interest in the EU is pretty minimal as well (yesterday excepted). None of these things have much of a real, tangible impact upon me. My interest in them is abstract. In order to think about them I have to ask myself: What if I had children? What if I was unwell? What if I lived in Bradford? What if the EU did this or that?

But the smoking ban has had a colossal impact on me. It's estranged me from my local pub and its little community. It's taken away a sense of belonging. It's made me feel like a stranger in my own country. It's made everyday life extraordinarily uncomfortable, as I look for places where I might enjoy a smoke. It's cut me off from friends who no longer go to the unwelcoming pubs. It's divided me from non-smoking friends in ways I never was before. It's bringing me a gradually deepening isolation and alienation. In my entire life I've never known anything so profoundly cruel and divisive - and so utterly unnecessary.

In my life, the EU doesn't matter much. Nor does education, healthcare, or immigration. In my life, the smoking ban matters more than all of them put together. What can the EU do to me? Take away my country and its traditions? The smoking ban already has already done that. What can immigration do to me? Fill up the country with aliens and strangers who usurp my place? The smoking ban has already done that too, as I sit outside banished from my pub. What does it matter to me what becomes of hospitals and healthcare? As a smoker I'm likely to be denied any access to them anyway. What concern should I have for education and morality, when schools are places where children are taught intolerance for smokers (and little else as far as I can see)?

The smoking ban gave me a whole set of problems where there weren't any problems before. And it hasn't even stopped me smoking, like it was supposed to. Nor even reduced it in the slightest. In fact it's made me determined to carry on smoking regardless. It's made me angry, and when I'm angry I smoke more, not less.

And the smoking ban has made me not only angry but also increasingly intolerant. Why should I continue to be tolerant now that I am no longer tolerated? Is intolerance a one-way street, so that only antismoking bigots are allowed to practise and promote intolerance, while smokers must suffer in silence? No, of course it isn't. The intolerance of antismokers for me results in my reciprocal intolerance for them. And official state-sponsored intolerance of smokers has made me intolerant of the state and of officialdom in all its forms. And particularly this parliament and the MPs that voted for the smoking ban that's made my life so hard for me. And the EU too, which just looks like another layer of crushing bureaucracy. In fact the smoking ban has made me more intolerant of absolutely everything. I don't have any genuine immigration problem in my life here in rural Devon, but I'm less tolerant of it anyway. And I'm markedly less tolerant of Islam, even if it's another personal non-problem. The health service and the medical profession? Don't talk to me about that crew of rabid antismokers, or I'll burst a blood vessel.

So if anyone came and asked me what I thought about immigration, Islam, the health service, the EU, the UK parliament, I'd come out with markedly more intolerant and hawkish views than I would have only 3 years ago, when I was a tolerant Lib-Demy sort of person. But it wouldn't be because I had a real problem with any of them, but because the smoking ban has made me into a generally far more intolerant person than I once was. But nobody will ask me what I feel about the smoking ban. People with clipboards will ask me my views on immigration, Islam, the EU, and all the rest of it, because those are regarded as genuine issues of concern. But the smoking ban is not regarded as something that merits equivalent attention. It's supposed to be just a successful public health measure, which everyone loves, particularly smokers.

And everyone knows that they're not supposed to mention the smoking ban. It's supposed to be a trivial non-issue. Not as important as real, bread-and-butter issues like immigration and the EU. People don't feel they're allowed to talk about the ban. Asking his constituents about immigration, Tom Harris reported that

...they’re talking about their concerns now because it’s only now they feel they have “permission” to do so.

Why do people feel they need, like Corporal Jones in Dad's Army, 'permission to speak'? Because everybody knows what they're supposed to think. They're told every day by the righteous on TV and radio and in newspapers. And while they don't have permission to speak freely, they'll just parrot what they've been told they should think, rather than what they actually think. And if they think that they now have permission to say what they feel about immigration, that's because a few politicians (mostly BNP) have been brave enough to drag it into the public arena of debate, and in so doing 'permitted' everyone else to speak their minds.

But nobody has permission to speak about the smoking ban. That remains a no-no. No politician has managed to haul that one into the public discourse as a serious issue in its own right. Any politician who tried would probably get howled down by irate health lobbyists and doctors, much like climate change sceptics today. And Michael Merrick didn't mention it either, although he must know about that particular elephant in the room.

And yet my own guess is that the smoking ban has had by far the greatest cultural impact upon Britain over the past 3 years than anything else. It's been during that time that UKIP and the BNP (both of which are against the smoking ban) have begun to make significant electoral progress. It's been during that time that the public esteem for MPs (who voted for the ban) has collapsed. And EU scepticism has continued to mount. And respect for authorities has plunged.

One day people will get 'permission to speak' about the smoking ban, and say what they really feel rather than what they're supposed to feel. And I bet there'll be an eruption of protest at it. All sorts of horror stories will be told. And I also bet that it will be found that, just like with me, anger at MPs' expenses and the EU and immigration and everything else will turn out very often to simply be 'impermissible' anger at the smoking ban redirected at 'permissible' targets. And maybe then politicians and pundits and media will finally wake up and realise what how enormously socially and culturally destructive the smoking ban has truly been.

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Relevance Paradox

I think the situation is similar enough here in the US, where people also don't talk about smoking bans and tobacco taxes. They've marginalized smokers to the point that they've closed off the entire issue. Meanwhile the problems with anti-smoking directly reflect the problems with other issues. You pointed this out yourself regarding the similarities between global warming and anti-smoking. As a result, smokers have become alienated, and policy makers and pundits have entrapped themselves in a "relevance paradox"; a situation where the relevant information has been hidden, so it can't be taken into consideration.

Since smoking is supposedly the largest life and death issue on the planet,while tobacco is also a major source of revenue, one would think that it would readily be discussed all the time in the public square. But it's not. This has created an aberrant situation, where matters of relevance are excluded from examination. Therefore, any decisions going forward are based upon an incomplete picture and false information. As you touched on, people will express their dissatisfaction with anti-smoking in a way that is passive aggressive, so smoking bans might be showing up in public sentiments about other issues. But policy makers don't realize this, so they don't take it into account, and the move forward with an incomplete idea of what's actually going on. WS.


Re: Relevance Paradox

Interesting link. Thanks.

Once again I find myself enthralled by your post, so much so I've pinched it again. I've added a bit at the end about you and your link WS (anon.)


That's OK.

Permission to speak

Once again you have put my feelings into words. When do you think we will get permission to speak about the smoking ban and how will it come about? Since the global warming whistle-blowing we now seem to have a sort of "grey" permission to speak about it. In the NY Times and the Telegraph but not that North London dinner party, the BBC. I still think there will need to be some big change in smokers attitudes. We are not getting angry enough or breaking the law in sufficient numbers. A few workmen smoking in battered transits and me on a windswept station platform isn't the Black Power salute.

Re: Permission to speak

I don't know when we will get 'permission to speak', but I'm sure we will. But for myself, I give myself permission. And so does anybody who speaks up about it at the moment.

Frank - thank you for your kind words.

Specifically on the issue of the smoking-ban, I would only add that I have briefly mentioned the issue previously, but as a comment to a later piece by a chap named Matthew Zarb-Cousin (the necessities of space mean you can't address everything within the one original article). I, too, see it as related to a cultural assault; framed within the a framework of 'rights' and 'health' that made opposition to it difficult.

Anyway, for your interest, my two comments were...

"I was going to hold my tongue, but seeing as other people have picked up on it... the idea that the smoking ban has had a 'positive effect on our freedom' truly is laughable.

It has had this effect, of course, for those who wish to go wherever they please and not have to smell cigarette smoke. Clearly it has not had this effect for those who like to go wherever they please and have a smoke whilst they are there. Of course, the tension between the two needs to be managed sympathetically, and a solution sought that attempts to cater for the 'freedom' of both sides - what we ended up with was an essentially vindictive piece of legislation, rooted in an 'our rights are more important than yours' cultural attitude (increasingly common in some sectors of society), which had more than a faint whiff of social snobbery about it."

And then,

"This is precisely the point; the government chose to prioritize one group's rights as more important than an other, when it should really have attempted to find a solution that could balance the needs and desires of both.

Why shouldn't a landlord have a right to make a decision for his/herself, and say either 'this is a non-smoking pub', or 'this is a smoking pub', and both smokers and non-smokers must bear that in mind when they choose to enter the establishment? People would vote with their feet - smokers would go where they can smoke, and non-smokers likewise.

Again, the fact that the legislation opts toward an outright ban suggests to me that this is a cultural issue; people in bingo halls and working men's clubs up and down the land are banned from having a smoke (even if the vast majority of them want to) because some people would like to have a frappuccino free from cigarette smoke."


Michael? Michael Merrick, I presume. Good of you to drop in to this nest of Libertarians.

As I said, I thought you were pretty much spot in with your essay. And it seems to have caused a bit of a stir. But did anyone pay attention to the good sense you wrote? I suspect not, somehow. Not in today's Labour party.

I hope you enjoyed my essay, and that it gave you a clue of what life is like for some of us smokers these days. Perhaps next time you write an essay along the lines you did, you might give us a mention. We're only 25% or so of the population.

Again, thank you. I think it would be too much to ask that people 'pay attention', and probably slightly vain; being given the opportunity to patiently make your case is about the best you can hope for.

As for writing; why not knock something up yourself and send it in? If you believe in it, write it, and try and get one of the sites to take it. I suspect you'll find more sympathy for your view than you realise.

Anyway, best wishes with your blog,


What, send something in to Labour List??

I suppose I could imagine doing that if I believed that the Labour party was worth something, and had some sort of future. But I think you yourself have put your finger on why it doesn't have a future: it's a party which turned on its own core voters in exactly the way that you described in your essay, and its why it's going to be voted out of office next year, and will probably remain unelectable for a generation. I for one hate them far more than I ever hated Thatcher (and I hated her a lot).

My guess is that after it loses the election next year, the Labour party will descend into vicious 1980s-style infighting. But this time there won't be another Tony Blair to emerge and put a civilised face on it and make it electable again. Oh, and speak for the British people too.

Not that Cameron and the Tories will be much better. I think there are plenty of people around who think that he's betrayed quite a few of the people he's supposed to represent. And that's before he's even walked into 10, Downing Street.

I think the British people are looking for a completely new political class made up of people who actually want to represent them and their interests, rather than dupe them and fool them and lie to them. But that, I think, will require a complete reconstruction of British political culture.

Anyway, best wishes with the Labour party. I think I'll stick right here with my blog.

Oops! I wrote the above before I'd read some of your other stuff.

The Labour Party is facing wipeout. Politically, a defeat looms every bit as significant as that inflicted upon the Conservative Party in 1997. The potential damage, however, extends well beyond the projected numbers of seats the Labour Party may come to hold post-election. More worryingly, Labour is losing the battle of ideas, not against the Conservatives, but against the people at large. In short, Labour has ceased to believe in those things that once defined it, and that still defines large swathes of those it has ceased to represent.

Couldn't have put it better myself. Nor could I have written this:

Labour really is pursuing the path of its own annihilation.

So clearly you know what's coming.

Most of those who voted for the ban, most of the media, and a large majority of the public are never smokers. Many of them also lack empathy.
I do not and never have followed football. If there was an anti football campaign which eventually resulted in it being banned, I would not really notice. I would not notice that grounds had closed because I do not even know where most of them are. I would notice it wasn't on telly, which, if I were intolerant of other peoples pleasures, I would think was good.
The thing is, it would affect me, but I would not be aware that it was the football ban which was doing it, because I don't like football, know very little about it, and have no desire to find out.
Don't get me wrong, I am not intolerant or anti football. I am giving an example of how I could be if I was thoughtless and intolerant.
Most of those who voted for the smoking ban are not even aware that they were being spiteful and socially damaging, and still don't realise.

But it wasn't ordinary people who voted for the smoking ban. It wasn't in the Labour party manifesto. What was in that was a commitment to ban smoking in pubs that sold food, leaving the wet-led pubs to allow smoking. It was a commitment that wasn't honoured. But then, antismokers have no honour.

Nor was it even that that opinion polls showed that the British people wanted a complete smoking ban. They didn't. There was a YouGov poll (which I can no longer find) in 2005 which showed that about 25% of people wanted no change, and 45% wanted some provision for smokers, and 30% wanted a total ban.

Apart from that, I see what you mean.

You're absolutely right, Anon, and I think that you have given a very good outline of the malaise affecting British society generally these days, i.e. the it-doesn't-affect-me-so-I-don't-really-care attitude. The problem with all of these arguments is that the people who fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes are effectively excluded from partaking, firstly, because they don't particularly want to be associated with either of the extreme sides who get all the airtime, but also because any suggestions which they might make which encompass any kind of compromise often results in both sides turning on them. The side to which they have generally aligned themselves accuse them of being Treacherous to the Cause; the side to which they have generally opposed themselves accuse them of Poking Their Nose In due to their general lack of involvement in (in your example) the game. Given that situation, is it any wonder that they withdraw from the debate altogether, or are reluctant to take part in it from the outset? They decide instead that they'll only go through that abuse for something which is worth it to them (about which, of course, they are likely to be fairly extreme themselves – and so the pattern continues).

Hence the reason why the public generally were pretty much universally unconcerned either way about the smoking ban before it came in (ticking a box in a questionnaire saying that "the smoking ban will be a generally good thing" doesn't really count as being "enthusiastically pro-ban", does it?), but it also explains why, POST-ban, it seems that increasing numbers of non-smokers ARE now voicing their disquiet and disapproval of it.

Sadly, our disgraceful, egotistical authorities, who should BE that Man in the Middle, trying to find a compromise which will accommodate everyone, and who should be taking each extreme group by the scruff of its neck, giving it a good shake and telling it to behave itself, have instead chosen to use – indeed actively foster – this situation in many, many instances in order to further their own idealistic or political causes. And that, I think, is at the root of a whole host of problems in our unhappy and discontented society.

Antismoking and Climate Change


I read your blog occasionally and appreciate your honesty in writing about the smoking ban and how it has impacted your life in a negative way.

From my point of view, nothing will change significantly in the forseeable future unless the fraudulent science regarding secondhand smoke is properly exposed and widely communicated. Most non-smokers (not anti-smokers) have been told that secondhand smoke is toxic and can damage their health. As the smoking bans do not directly impact their lives very much, they have no motivation for researching this issue and will not discover the massive fraud that underlies the fabricated messages. Additionally, because they have been told that secondhand smoke is toxic, they then associate the smell of smoke with poison and although smoking does not have a particularly unpleasant smell in the same way that faeces or rotting flesh does, they begin to characterise the smell as very unpleasant in their brains. Furthermore, most people were only dimly aware of secondhand smoke in the days prior to its adverse publicity. The brain has a way of cancelling out everyday smells which are irrelevant to our survival. Now that smoking is banned almost everywhere, this makes the odour exposure infrequent, therefore it becomes very prominent and recognisable to non-smokers and this further entrenches and fosters intolerance of smoking.

Unfortunately, the scientific research covering secondhand smoke is quite complicated, although to a lesser extent than is the case with Global Warming. This means it is difficult for the average person to understand secondhand smoke related information without the application of considerable tenacity and a willing attention to detail. The situation is even more complex for global warming, where months need to be spent examining data and arguments for cogency.

Both Global Warming and Antismoking causes share considerable political and vested interest support from zealots and profiteers alike. In both cases it is difficult to get widespread understanding of the truth to surface. In the case of Global Warming, there is some hope for exposing the truth due to a natural human aversion for spending massive amounts of public money to fight a nonexistant problem. It also helps that we have experienced recent cooling which everyone can see doesn't match the climate alarmist model predictions.

It will remain interesting to watch the progress or lack thereof on both antismoking and global warming issues. As we do not live in the third world, these two items are both worthy contenders for crime of the century in our neck of the woods.

John Cookson (British Expat living in Ontario, Canada)

Re: Antismoking and Climate Change

Climategate went mainstream today in the UK as the BBC finally started reporting it seriously, as I've reported in my latest post today. I've argued before that Climate Change/Global Warming science is very closely related to ETS 'science'. If the lid comes off the one corrupt science, we might hope that the lid will come off the other one (and indeed all other ones).

My thoughts exactly

Once again Frank manages to say exactly what I'm thinking. I hope many more people have been radicalised by gross attacks on our culture and liberties, and by the appalling misuse of "science"

Well done Frank - I believe you speak for millions of us.

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