"Yet, Freedom, yet thy banner torn but flying,
The Campaign to Amend England's Smoking Ban
Topics covered in this page are listed below and subject to ongoing development:
(Note: The comments in Sections 1 and 2 below were first written in 2007 - the year of the introduction of the smoking ban in England. They are substantially unchanged since first being written, as it is interesting to see how they predict increasing curtailment of individual freedoms using similar unethical tactics by those who want to straightjacket society to their own norms!)
-----1. What will become of us?
-----2. The passive smoking debate
-----3. The travesty of reasoning and debate behind the legislation
-----4. The impact of the smoking ban
-----5. Summary argument against the smoking ban
1. What will become of us?
So here we are, the beleaguered and despised remnants of a whole class of people who once smoked freely and with a clear conscience!
What has happened to make normal non-smoking members of society rise up in this way and adopt a truly bigoted approach to all forms of smoking. That it is bigoted and the health effects, particularly of passive smoking (or Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) as it tends to be known), are based on evidence exaggerated to the point of falsification can be clearly seen if you browse these pages, their links to other sites, and commit to investigate the real facts for yourself.
It is clear to me, and almost all other smokers I have met, that those who don't like secondhand smoke should not have to suffer it - whether it causes them harm or not. Neither should workers be forced to accept it.
However, if there are ways of achieving this without banning smoking across every enclosed public space then what fair-minded person would object? What person with even a minimal amount of commitment to civil liberties could argue otherwise, unless they let their personal prejudice overcome their reasoning?
It is no doubt beneficial that smokers are now more aware of the harm they may do themselves, the often unpleasant environment they create, and the potential harm continuous exposure to a heavily smoke laden atmosphere may cause others in the long term. But, there must be more even-handed ways of dealing with the difficulties created by smoking, while retaining personal freedoms which are so important to us all?
Most people would agree that smoking moderate to large numbers of cigarettes per day is not particularly good for a person's health - but then, how many other activities fall into this category? Eating? drinking?, motorcycling?, bicycling, playing computer games, watching television? - to say nothing of exposure to industrial processes/pollutants upon which the wealth of the world relies?
But surely smokers do not have to be treated as outcasts of society in the way that they are?
Could one argue that 'Drinking' to excess causes as much, if not more, overall disease and direct family distress than smoking? What about over-eating and lack of exercise? It seems evident that being substantially overweight and taking little if any exercise will kill me early and I might pass on my over-eating and dilatory exercise habits to my children. So, I harm myself and could harm others. Legislation in this area doesn't seem to be particularly imminent, but just wait..... it will be coming your way to change your way of life in due course - unless a stand is made now.
All thinking people should reject the travesty of reasoning which forced this legislation through Government. If this precedent is allowed to stand, then the way will be open for any well organised pressure group to manipulate the passing of legislation which will ensure that your way of life complies with their own personal lifestyle.
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2. The passive smoking debate
Legislation against smoking can only be legitimately justified on the basis of any harmful effect the activity has on others, primarily those exposed to heavily smoke-laden atmospheres for extended periods of time. Accepting the premise that continued exposure to a heavily smoke-laden atmosphere can cause harm (a reasonable premise when "continued" and "heavily smoke-laden" are properly quantified), there must be a point at which lowering the frequency of exposure to, and/or the concentration of smoke in the atmosphere, reduces the risk of harm to insignificant levels. It is nonsense for the anti-smoking lobby to claim otherwise, and their stance demonstrates that their campaign is more about ideology than it is about health.
Here the anti-smoking lobby reveals its true colours and tends to put forward arguments in pure black and white. The information is also often distorted to the point of falsification and becomes mere propaganda, see for example comments on
" Better Off Dead: Lies, damned lies and statistics only serve to cloud the whole debate about smoking "
in the British press by George Szamuely back in Jan'01. The picture alongside accompanied the original article with the title " Hollywood star Marlene Dietrich is one of those perceived to have boosted the glamour of smoking. Health Authorities now worry smoking scenes are on the rise again in box-office hits, but should society be concerned that cigarettes are sexy once more? "
The article (Nov 2004) by Tim Luckhurst in another British newspaper highlights similar concerns about the misleading use of smoking statistics. He says
"The anti-tobacco lobby exaggerates how dangerous cigarettes really are.. "
See also, Sue Jeffers, with criticism of the American Lung Association's approach to interpretation of passive smoking statistics - She says -
" (The supposed high toxicity of) Secondhand smoke will someday become known as the biggest fraud to ever be forced on the American public."
And on the same theme, see this damning appraisal of the science behind the health impact of secondhand smoke, published in Spring 2007 from a former Deputy Director of the Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention at the National Cancer Institute USA, on why the perceived hazards of secondhand smoke have little foundation at all.
There are countless articles in the media criticising the way the health issues associated with smoking and passive smoke are misrepresented by the anti-smoking lobby. However, they just ignore or shout down the criticisms and refuse to enter into (and actively try to prevent) any balanced public discussion. Any scientist with integrity who tries to bring some truth into the debate will likely face career limiting sanctions and cessation of future research funding. As scientists rely on such funding for their employment and to progress their careers, not many are willing to take on the anti-smoking establishment.
They cannot be allowed to get away with this attitude any longer.
There is no room for complacency: The anti-smoking industry is as determined as it is fanatical and if you still need to be convinced look at the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium (TCLC) website and its comprehensive set of publications to see how well organised the anti-smoking lobby is - it provides advice on how to ensure you can successfully obtain legal bans on smoking and describes how to manipulate government and the public to avoid the common pitfalls, threats and challenges.
Many anti-smoking campaigners, seeing passive smoking as an area where most fog can be produced and where they can muster support from impressionable and often well-meaning individuals, have gone so far as to suggest that there is no safe limit for passive smoking. They promote the view that secondhand smoke is harmful in practise to everyone at vanishingly low levels of concentration.
Common sense implies this is untrue. Also, toxicity testing research shows that a "J" shaped response curve (see: Deadly Poisons Reveal their Friendly Side) is commonly found, where below a certain concentration the contaminant appears to have a positive and beneficial effect (an effect known as hormesis). The reason for this is unclear, but one hypothesis put forward suggests that at low concentrations the body's repair mechanisms are stimulated to repair the damage, and once having been stimulated may mop up other damage in the process.
As ever, there are differing scientific views with the "establishment" generally disputing its validity and usefulness, but others, for example, arguing that ignoring the issue may be missing opportunities to improve our understanding of how toxins at low levels affect health and how best to advise on avoidance and treatment.
Could this be the reason behind increased asthma rates in children not sufficiently exposed to dirt/germs, and behind those epidemiology results which show that passive smoking for children WHO review 1998 actually protects them from getting lung cancer?
Despite many years of manipulation of the statistics these results have never been definitively refuted and even as recently as June 2013, wider research reported in the National Cancer Institute, and covering a larger group of people, showed "No Clear Link Between Passive Smoking and Lung Cancer".
The position is eloquently summarised here.
Nevertheless, even if second-hand smoke were to be as toxic as suggested at vanishingly low levels (which it isn't), the same logic of total control would then have to apply to other contaminants such as car exhaust particulates, industrial smokestacks, pesticide/fungicide residues, animal hormone supplements, heavy metals, radioactivity, etc., etc. All processes on which our society depends would then come under renewed scrutiny for the harm they cause at even vanishingly low levels. This is not the approach adopted by government for these other pollutants, so why is environmental tobacco smoke treated differently?
The answer lies in the ideology and fanaticism of the anti-smoking lobby and the way they have manipulated political and public opinion.
The whole issue of alleged harm arising from SHS comes down to a matter of degree, and should be dealt with in exactly the same way as we deal with other polluting activities:-
"Society controls polluting emissions by ensuring that the residual environmental concentration of any contaminant emitted is kept below a level that is considered harmful to man and/or the environment."
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3. The travesty of reasoning and debate behind the enactment of the current anti-smoking legislation
The argument which carried the recent Irish, Scottish and English bans on smoking in all public buildings was ostensibly based on the health and safety aspect of employees within the working environment. However, if you listened to the embarrassingly naive and bigoted debate in the various Parliaments, the logic applied was clearly corrupted by the thinly veiled overriding agenda to ban smoking in public places regardless of the facts or the issues. (Scottish debate was so uncompromisingly antagonistic it earned them the title of the "Tartan Taliban") And, with notable exceptions, most of those who surely must have known better failed to raise their heads above the parapet......
If there is any health justification for minimising passive smoking, then a regulated environment is the best way forward.
Here we must now give three cheers (perhaps a little muted!) for the former British Health Secretary John Reid for at least trying to apply some common sense to the issues and not buckling completely under sustained pressure from the anti-smoking lobby to follow the Ireland and Scotland approach. The White Paper on Public Health planned to make most enclosed public areas, including offices and factories, smoke-free. Only private clubs, where members voted to allow smoking, and pubs which do not serve prepared food would be exempt. This was after all vaguely in line with the approach agreed in Labour's election manifesto. Even this cobbled together and inadequate solution was in the end thrown out.
It was sad to see how the argument went, and even those who wanted to uphold some individual freedoms (surprisingly NOT the Liberal Democrats, who almost to a man promoted the ban!) gradually succumbed to the pressure.
The whole debate was a shameful political spectacle - having little basis in logic and mostly driven by mis-guided emotion, the ideology of the anti-smoking lobby and headline-grabbing misrepresentations of the statistics.
Three key principles of law-making were ignored by the politicians in the debates on smoking in public places :-
These three issues were sidestepped and for this reason the current anti-smoking legislation MUST be revisited.
The politicians involved should be heartily ashamed of themselves.
To redress the situation, the Government should commit to new legislation for buildings open to the public which allows for the installation of appropriate air extraction facilities to keep the residual level of ETS below that which would harm workers employed there.
Meanwhile, smokers will have to see how businesses respond to the current legislation and positively boycott those not supporting smokers by providing them with comfortable, heated and partially enclosed outside areas.
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4. The Impact of the Smoking Ban
For most smokers the impact of the ban on their social lives has been devastating.
For many, social activities such as meeting up with friends in cafes and pubs, taking partners out for an evening, going to the Bingo hall or just relaxing having a quiet drink and read of the newspaper are now a thing of the past.
The social fabric of their lives has been destroyed - and all on the false premise of the health risks of Second Hand Smoke.
Social isolation is known to affect a person's health and life expectancy, particularly for the older and more vulnerable members of society.
The pain and disruption the smoking ban has caused many families, as well as individuals, cannot be underestimated.
It is disgraceful that those promoting the legislation seem to have no regard for this and no willingness to even attempt to understand why people smoke.
Here are a few typical examples (from the FOREST website) of the impacts on the social life of smokers :-
Ban has hit the most vulnerable the hardest
I am currently practicing as a mental health social worker. Before that I was a social scientist and a professional musician. The ban has hit the most vulnerable in society the hardest, those in rural areas with few pubs losing what venues they could socialise in, landlocked locals, estate pubs, working men's clubs, bingo halls, shisha bars. All these venues supplied a crucial social and cultural function. They created and sustained communities where people from all backgrounds met and socialised. This is no longer the case. The ban is creating social exclusion, loneliness, unemployment etc. Many of these people are lifelong Labour supporters. Like me, many of these voters will not forget what Labour has done to their private lives. 21.06.2008
Little daily ritual ceased
For years I used to frequent my local pub every afternoon, for a quiet pint, sitting smoking roll-ups, and gazing meditatively into space, occasionally engaging in conversation with anyone who cared to talk. It was a little daily ritual, a tranquil refuge in an otherwise busy day. It was a way of keeping in touch with village news and gossip. I was well known, and cheerily greeted by name. All that ended with the smoking ban. My little daily ritual ceased. And anyway I now felt that smokers like me were unwelcome. The "No Smoking" signs plastered everywhere may as well have said "No Smokers". I lingered on outside in the pub's large garden through the autumn, until it got too cold, when I ceased to go at all. And through it all I felt a terrible rage that this was being done to me, and to millions of smokers all around the country.
No more coffee breaks - or bingo
I am a housewife. I used to go into town for a coffee with friends once a week. I no longer do that since the ban was introduced. I used to play bingo once a week but I refuse to have to go outside to have a cigarette, so I don't go any more. I will only holiday in a place like Majorca that allows me to have a choice. I have always voted Labour but I will never vote Labour again in my lifetime.
There are many more examples.
Why are the anti-smoking supporters so callous and brutal in their treatment of smokers?
Libertarians would be up in arms if any other sector of society was treated in this way.
Non-smokers should try to understand the reasons why people smoke
(Only 30% of smokers actually try to give it up - that implies 70% want to continue....even in the face of constant propaganda about imminent disease and/or death).
The impact of the ban on parts of the entertainment industry, particularly pubs, cafés, clubs and restaurants, has been to reduce the number of customers and increase closures and bankruptcies, destroying many employers' livelihoods - with all the heartache, pain and government financial and social support that goes with this, not only for them but also all their employees and other local support services.
Pubs have been particularly severely hit, as smoking and drinking together is part of Britain's traditional culture. A vast number of traditional British pubs have been forced to close and continue to do so. The widget below shows the number of pubs closed since the ban was introduced in 2007.
This ban has been responsible for the virtual dismantling of Britain's pub heritage.
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5. Summary argument against the smoking ban
The key reasons for objecting against the smoking ban are clear and simple :-
It made a mockery of the judicial integrity and heritage of this country.
Those who wish to base their position on the facts rather than the propaganda and prejudice of the anti-smoking lobby should go to the "Smoke Free" link below and take the REALITY CHECK on why Passive Smoking cannot be used as an argument to restrict smoking in a social environment.
With so much power to affect the lives of everyone, politicians in particular should investigate the scientific evidence for themselves and not just accept being manipulated by the propaganda issuing continually from the well funded (mostly from taxpayers) illiberal anti-smoking industry.
They will be surprised what they will learn.