Nick Hogan, landlord of the Swan Pub is leading the fight against the smoking ban which comes into force on the 1st of July. Nick says: "This protest is growing and we are still a month away. It is a -protest against dictatorship. It is not about being pro-smoking. It is about the freedom to choose." The Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, is calling the ban: "a triumph for public health (which) will protect everyone from the harm of secondhand smoke".
Now, I smoke and yet I agree with banning smoking in certain places, but this ban is going too far and is infringing on our civil liberties. In the beginning you could smoke at your desk, your workbench or wherever you applied your trade, as long as it was safe to do so. This was very correctly banned as non-smokers had no choice but to endure secondhand smoke. Then we had smoking rooms which tended to be away from non-smokers and well ventilated. Now this is where I start to disagree with the ban. What is wrong with a well ventilated room that non-smokers do not enter? I'm struggling to see the health risk. Why have smokers been forced to stand outside their places of work, when they have suitable indoor facilities that do not risk the health of non-smokers? I can't think of an answer to that one, apart from: because the government said so.
Another great idea was to put restrictions on the outdoor shelters that could be erected outside workplaces. What you are allowed is basically an open Bus Shelter. Can someone please tell me why these shelters must be open to the elements when non-smokers will never enter them? is this some kind of smoker's punishment? I cannot understand why the government have banned smoking or imposed regulations in areas that non-smokers do not frequent. Surely the same logic could be applied to banning Elephant hunting in Barnsley.
And then there's the pub issue. Pub landlords should have the right to allow smoking on their property. If I walked into a bar, and several of the clientele were partaking in an activity which I found unsavoury, I would turn around and find another bar. But what about the Bar staff? I hear you say. There are many jobs where not only your health, but your life is at risk, mine is one of them. I choose to do the job I do, just as Bar Staff do. That's freedom of choice, something which is slowly but surely being taken away from us.
Wouldn't it have been better to leave this to market forces? If non-smokers were so sick and tired of smoking in pubs, wouldn't we have non-smoking pubs popping up everywhere? But no, instead we have the government forcing this law upon us without any consultation of the people. I find this trend to pass new laws and invent new taxes which are obliged to honour very disturbing. I'm trying to see where democracy comes into this governments policy. The government are saying: you will behave like we tell you and we will take your money by further taxation without representation, if not, you will be punished.
What makes things worse is that I understand this government directive is now going to cost the tax payer £1.6 billion to implement. Also I'm led to believe that 1,200 compliance officers (compliance, that's got a ominous ring to it) are to be paid £22,000 a year to hand out 'on the spot' fines. That's more than a front line soldier gets! Oh, and get this: prisoners can smoke in their cells. Marvellous.