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Monday, July 02, 2007


Smoking ban!

Hooray, hooray, after a century of public smoking we finally have a ban on it!

To my terror, I saw that some people are appealing it. But then I looked at their objections. Basically, they seem to be that smoking violates the right to 'peaceful enjoyment of possessions' - by which logic I presumably have the right to enjoy my book collection by setting fire to it inside the nearest restaurant. 'Peaceful' surely means non-injurious to others, and what with lung cancer and all, I don't think smoking comes under that heading. I don't think the police are going to be arresting anybody who has a packet of cigarettes nestling quietly in their pockets under the pub table; it's when you put a match to the bloody things that the problem comes in.

They also seem to be under the impression that it violates the right to privacy. Exactly how it's a private act when you're doing it in a public place frankly bewilders me, but if they win, I guess that's good news for all the exhibitionists who think that having sex on the table of their favourite cafe would be a great way to spend an evening.

All that stuff about freedom to choose is nonsense: you do not have the right to 'choose' to act in a way that's potentially dangerous to those around you. That's why factories aren't supposed to pollute the water supply, and unless Erin Brockovitch has lied to me, I don't think they're allowed to. One of the pro-smoking commenters remarks 'Smokers should have their own area to smoke where they aren't hurting anyone' - but that's the beauty of this law. They do. It's called 'at home'. Or 'outside', and frankly, having had the experience of getting stuck behind a smoker on a busy street and getting lungfuls of poisonous air, that's quite enough compromise right there.

Everyone has a choice under this new law. People can choose to smoke, on the condition that they don't prevent other people from choosing not to smoke. Because, having chatted with smokers on the subject, something that I find always surprises them is that you can smell a cigarette from across the room. You can smell a cigarette that somebody smoked yesterday from several feet away, if they haven't changed their shirt. Cigarette smoke is one of the most pervasive and clinging smells in the world. But smoking blunt your sense of smell; I think many smokers simply don't realise that the traditional analogy - having a smoking section in a restaurant works about as well as having a peeing section in a swimming pool - is not only accurate as regards the laws of physics, but also pretty accurately conveys just how disgusting the whole business is to those who'd rather have clean air and clean water.

All this is going to die down. When I was a little girl it was legal to smoke in cinemas, and nobody remembers that now. It was legal to smoke on the Underground, for pity's sake, and look how that worked out. I personally am greatly looking forward to being able to actually sit in a pub without coming out covered in a stench that won't go away until I wash my skin, clothes and hair, being able to eat in favourite restaurants without having to queue for ages because the smoking section's half-full and the non-smoking section is packed, and no longer having hundreds of public places that I just can't use because the air is full of nasty stuff.

Here's hoping that the appeals die a swift and well-deserved death; in the meantime, let's all raise a glass to clean air and safe lungs. It's been a long time coming. And if anyone has been meaning to quit and thinks now's the time, good luck to you and I hope you make it.

Your Wikipedia link is broken - although I like it, in a surrealist kind of way.

(This I think, is what you meant.)

Dunno how I feel about the smoking ban. I think people, on balance, shouldn't smoke - since the clinical evidence of harm to the smoker is overwhelming.

While I'm not saying that there isn't clinical evidence of harm done to innocent bystanders by 'secondhand' smoke, I am saying that I haven't seen any.

But then again, I don't read The Lancet or any other serious peer-reviewed journal - which is where one would have to look for any kind of reliable information.

Surely, though, the 'dose' of dangerous chemicals must be greatly reduced in the case of secondhand smoke? Your swimming pool analogy is correct - doesn't a room full of air 'dilute' potential toxins?

(I don't know. I'm playing devil's advocate a bit.)
I'm all for it. I worked at a hotel back in Colorado, and the bar/cigar lounge was twenty feet from the front lobby where I worked. So I spent at least half my shift sucking in the fumes of the late night barflies. Not the most pleasant thing. When property bans came into place (ie. no smoking around places like hotels, hospitals, businesses, etc) there was much rejoicing.
Good guess on the link, anon!

Here's the first link I hit that talks about cancer from second-hand smoke: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2053840.stm

But honestly, the fact that smoking stinks is enough to make me happy about the ban. It just makes the atmosphere intolerable.
Continuing to play devil's advocate...

Here's a report that was published in the British Medical Journal, which argues against a clear causal link between 'secondhand' smoke and serious illness.

The conclusions of the report may be wrong, of course - but it's very difficult for a layman such as myself to know. The methodology looks reasonable enough, at a glance.

I don't like a smoky atmosphere much either - but I also don't like noisy children in restaurants, and that's not much of an argument for banning them!
...you do not have the right to 'choose' to act in a way that's potentially dangerous to those around you.

Umm...yeah you do, unless specifically prohibited by law. Take a moment to think of all those things we all do every day that are potentially dangerous...driving our cars, for example. Using electricity. Collecting vast quantities of water behind concrete walls. I could go on :).
Well, then you don't have the moral right. Which is what smokers often seem to be claiming. Boo.
All those immoral drivers out there....

Well, fair enough, I grudgingly suppose. :-) I just hate hate hate hate hate getting covered in cigarette smoke. But if you're going to use logic... But don't tell the smoking lobby, okay? I want them to lose! Pleeze?
My lips are sealed :).
I am very much enjoying the "pool peeing section" analogy.
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