Friday, 19 February 2010

Smoking bans on the ropes

It's been a bad few weeks for smoking ban lovers. After events in Croatia last year, Macedonia's exceptionally draconian smoking ban — which includes some outdoor places — is coming under severe pressure. The law came into force last month, with a predictably devastating effect on trade. Now, even the Public Health Committee is having second thoughts:

The Macedonian parliament's Public Health Committee Wednesday endorsed the ruling party's motion to amend the strict anti-smoking law that has angered the country's many smokers since its introduction in January.

No wonder. Businesses are so angry that they closed down en masse for a day last month in protest.

The amendments come after the Macedonian Tourism Chamber revealed a survey showing an astonishing 90 per cent drop in profits among café and restaurant owners since the new law entered into force.

90 per cent? Ouch! Don't they know smoking bans are good for business?

In Poland, a proposal to 'protect' bar-workers from secondhand smoke has been opposed by... er, bar-workers. With a nice line in irony, the Polish Bar Tenders Association are asking the government to protect them from the smoking ban...

Polish bar tenders have addressed a dramatic appeal to Parliament warning that the planned ban on smoking in restaurants and pubs will cause many to go bankrupt.

The Polish Bar Tenders Association, which wrote the letter to the lawmakers, says their profession needs to be protected against the impact of the anti-smoking legislation.

In Cyprus, a group of MPs are organising to get the smoking ban overturned. The reason, of course, is that the Cypriots have seen the usual fall in bar trade:

Themistocleous told the Cyprus Mail yesterday, “This law does not just attack the tourist trade and bar and restaurant owners: it attacks all Cypriots. We hope to change the law by April and in any case before July.”

In a survey of bar owners last month, some estimated that their revenue had dropped by up to 40 per cent. Yesterday, however, one owner of a popular Nicosia bar said that the worst affected have reported 60 per cent losses.

And in Bulgaria, the smoking ban has been liberalised before it's even been introduced...

Bulgaria's ruling party ready to qualify ban on public smoking

Amendments aimed at qualifying the full ban on smoking in all public places in Bulgaria, due to come into force on June 1 2010, will be introduced by ruling party GERB, Bulgarian media said on February 18 2010.

The full ban, it was believed, would undermine Bulgaria's tourism and restaurant industry. The amendments will be more flexible to enable restaurant and bar owners to comply with the ban.

This now looks like a done deal, but the leader of the right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria is nonplussed, saying that it is...

"not a European thing to do"

Which should remind us what this is really about. It is significant that these countries are recent EU member states or are hoping to become members (see also: Turkey). Smoking bans are the easiest way to win gold stars from the EU mandarins, but, as time goes on, the claim that business will be unaffected becomes more and more difficult to sustain. Which is why a growing number of countries including Croatia, Portugal, Liectenstein, the Czech Republic, Greece, much of Germany and now Macedonia and Bulgaria have either voted against a ban or have amended it. As I reported recently, the ban in the Netherlands is being widely flouted, while the Spanish are going cold on bringing in "comprehensive" legislation.

But in Britain, despite a looming election, none of the big three parties are giving the public any reason to believe they will amend the law, despite overwhelming evidence that it has decimated the pub trade. The Tories don't see it as a vote winner and are terrified of announcing any policy that might be in the least bit controversial. 

Seems to me that announcing a modest amendment that would allow smoking in some rooms or venues would win them votes from people who wouldn't normally vote Conservative, whereas it's hard to believe that many people are so intolerant as to vote against them just because they propose a little accommodation.

Whatever the case may be, it will be interesting to see if Gordon Brown cites the smoking ban as one of Labour's achievements when the campaign begins proper. He might do, but then he's not the politician Tony Blair was. A shrewd operator to the end, Blair quit four days before the ban came into force.


RDP said...

Chris and readers, you might be interested in the Kimball Physics antismoking policy which rests on tobacco smoke residues (‘thirdhand smoke’). Most interesting is that this policy began in the early-1990’s – nearly 20 years ago.

Current Kimball Physics website:
Both facilities and grounds are totally tobacco-free, and tobacco-residuals free, see tobacco policy below.

Kimball Physics Tobacco Policies

Please note that Kimball Physics has some unusually strict tobacco policies. The policies were voted into existence by employee co-workers; and they apply to everyone.
First: No tobacco use is allowed inside any Kimball Physics building or motor vehicle at any time. Further, no tobacco product is to be brought into any Kimball Physics building or motor vehicle at any time.
Second: No tobacco use is allowed anywhere outside on Kimball Physics grounds (including entry areas, parking lots, picnic areas, grassed areas, fields, and hundreds of acres of woods). No tobacco use is allowed inside any motor vehicle, irrespective of ownership, while located on Kimball Physics grounds.
Third: No tobacco-residuals emitting person, article of clothing, or other object is allowed inside any Kimball Physics building. This restriction also applies to anyone or anything emitting characteristic tobacco odors. Anyone who has used a tobacco product within the previous two hours is automatically to be turned away, unless measures have been taken such that residuals-sensitive persons are not exposed. The determining factor, regarding allowable residuals levels and/or exposure durations, is whether anyone is either significantly bothered, or even worse, made ill.
Fourth: The policies apply to all. Policies are enforced by co-workers -- at the discretion of each individual co-worker. However, it is the responsibility of the controlling co-worker to minimize the exposure of residuals-sensitive persons. Tobacco policies are not enforced during emergency or crisis situations.

RDP said...

From Kimball Physics website:
BACKGROUND: What are tobacco residuals? Why do they matter?
Tobacco combustion products do not suddenly disappear when a cigarette goes out. The chemical vapors and microscopic airborne particulates slowly dissipate, mostly by being blown away. However, fractions of these materials are trapped in a smoker's clothing, hair, lungs, etc., as well as on furniture, auto upholstery, and similar surfaces. Some of the vapors and particulates are then re-emitted over a period of hours (sometimes much longer). These re-emitted materials, plus any remaining not-yet-dissipated original smoke, are called tobacco residuals.
The chemical composition of tobacco residuals is related to that of the original tobacco smoke, but at an intensity which is considerably reduced. Unfortunately, when a smoker (no longer smoking) moves to a new location, the tobacco residuals he emits are often of sufficient intensity to cause both health problems and annoyance to individuals at the new location. Conversely (as is widely accepted), if an individual enters an area formerly occupied by a smoker, a contaminated automobile for example, the same effects occur. This sensitivity, of course, explains the need for non-smoking hotel rooms, non-smoking rental cars, tobacco-free taxis, and the like. A surprisingly large fraction of the population is sensitive to tobacco residuals.
Minor (and not so minor) illnesses which are caused by tobacco residuals include: headaches, stinging eyes, burning or constricting throats, chest congestion, hoarseness, coughing, nose bleeds, sinus problems, stomach pains, ear aches, asthma attacks, etc. The widely publicized tobacco-related major diseases like lung cancer presumably also occur at low exposure levels. However, they typically take decades to develop, affect only a minority of exposed persons, and have a causality which is hard to prove. The Kimball Physics policies are focused on lesser maladies, which occur in real time, where the cause-and-effect relationship is brutally clear, and where tobacco residuals are obviously the cause. Even if major illnesses were never encountered, it is simply not permissible to knowingly or carelessly make others sick, even mildly sick.

The Kimball bigots have obviously never heard of anxiety reactions or somatizing. The ‘minor illnesses’ indicated are classic anxiety symptoms. And there are tests to establish if the reaction is psychogenic. Kimball Physics is a reinforcer of multiple mental dysfunction that unfortunately has social and workplace ramifications.

RDP said...

Some more background on Kimball Physics and Weyco.

Kimball Physics seems to be run by self appointed ‘experts’:

“The [antismoking] policy currently in place at the Kimball Physics was developed in 1993 by the Policies, Ethics and Substance Abuse Committee, comprised entirely of co-workers. "If you're a machinist and you'd rather sit around a table and discuss substance abuse on company time for an hour or two, you appoint yourself and there you are," Crawford (a physicist) explained.

For Jarn Banzhaf the ⅓’s take on the conduct:,751&type=2

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)

Mark Wadsworth said...

Excellent news.

As to the last bit, you can always vote UKIP who appear to be most sensible about lifting the smoking ban.

DaveA said...

No further comment needed from me.

ASH news release: Embargo: 00.01 25 February 2003

Official - smoking bans are good for business. ASH accuses hospitality industry of "crying wolf".

Hospitality trade leaders in the UK are being challenged to reveal the hard evidence on which they are basing claims that profits in pubs, restaurants and bars will plummet if smoking restrictions are implemented in public places.

DaveA said...

While I am here one of the main academics in the UK involved in tobacco control is Dr. Anna Gilmore of Bath University. In the last 5 years she has trousered £9,000,000 in research grants from the European Commission, UK taxpayer and pharmaceutical companies. E.g.

"European Commission. Seventh Framework Programme, €3,000,000 (Grant), Health in Times of Transition (HITT), May 2009 - April 2012"

Anonymous said...

It's not all wine and roses for Anna. Some time fairly soon she has got to produce a paper which proves that the smoking ban has resulted in a decrease in heart attacks.

Kris said...

Next tuesday the verdict of the Dutch Supreme Court in the case of the smoking ban will be published.
That announcement came strangely enough on the same day as the Dutch government fell, but it`s a bit speculative wether the two things are connected.The original date was 30 march 2010 by the way.

Kris said...

As i feared the Dutch smoking ban has been reïnstated by the Supreme Court :(

Anonymous said...

"Decimated" the pub trade is sadly correct. 10% of pubs have gone in the last 2.5 years. Pathetic.

chris said...

Isn't it interesting how many of the countries that have fought this nonsense are places that have had repressive governments in the recent past. But the allegedly freedom-loving Anglo-Saxon world, which thinks it has a patent on liberty just folds up and accepts it.