Tuesday 2 February 2010

Are you listening, Burnham?

[This is a guest post from Klaus K, who brings news from Denmark which hasn't been reported elsewhere. Denmark's genuine, evidence-based review of the smoking ban is very different to Britain's kangaroo court which I mentioned yesterday. A Smokefree Future says: "We will also review how 'smokefree environments' are implemented and managed in other countries (p.45)." Andy Burnham take note.]

Our law allows smoking in smoking rooms and in bars under 40m2 serving area. The law was reviewed after two years as planned in December 2009, and the ruling majority did NOT tighten the ban as everyone expected. Now a new review has to be made in another two years.

The health authorities were shocked and caused much hand-wringing alarm in the press for several days after the decision, claiming that government was "killing people".

The reasons they did not tighten the ban here was:

1. Several other European countries relaxed their ban in 2009 because of financial trouble in the hospitality businesses.
Liectenstein, Croatia and Bayern all relaxed their bans and the Czech Republic voted against a ban. Greece relaxed its ban and while a total ban was announced in Spain I don't think it will come there either. Politicians are very likely to do what other countries do.

2. The health authority
could not show any fewer heart attacks in the 2 years after the ban, which was reported to the parliament. The Health authority had expected this would happen - they almost promised it - and so some politicians felt they were misled.

3. The anti-ban folks here made sure, that the politicians knew about these things in detail - delivering also the truth about the heart miracle studies from
you and Dr Siegel. It was (is still) almost impossible to get this information through to the media, so they bypassed the media. A few truthful stories got in the media, though.

4. One of the two hospitality organizations here said that all the small smoking bars would close, if government would tighten the ban further. They are now working to have further relaxing of the rules - i.e. to make it legal to serve in the smoking rooms in restaurants within the limits of the law.

Interestingly, it looks as if the politicians don't really like the situation either, because they feel the health authorities are spamming them. One of the leading health-politicians from government said of the top high-profile and highly annoying female anti-smoking lobbyist: "She is just saying the same thing every day in the press". The Danish politicians in fact welcomed the view of the anti-ban people.

I think that you Britons have a chance to get your ban relaxed, if you get through to your politicians and let them know all this. Why should Britons not have "a Danish solution" - ie. all bars under 75 m2 exempted? Why should you not have allowance for smoking rooms in restaurants? (note: you should avoid a rule, that no one must serve voluntarily in the smoking rooms, because a restaurant owner will not make a smoking room, if he is not allowed to serve there. That's their business. And that's what we have seen happening here)

But remember the most important thing: Be heard. 

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