Thursday, 17 November 2011

The BMA's tactical victory

The BMA appeared to put their foot in it yesterday with their 'ban smoking in cars' media blitz. Firstly, they used a thoroughly discredited junk statistic. Secondly, they demanded that it be illegal for a person to smoke in a car by his or herself—a policy that most people rightly regard as the nanny state gone berserk.

All of this made it easier for those of us who discussed the proposed ban on television and radio. At the very least, we were able to make the public aware that the BMA's grasp of the science is weaker than is generally assumed. Readers of the Telegraph, the Independent, Spiked and Full Fact can consider themselves better informed than most.

But if relying on the absurd "23 times more toxic" canard was a blunder, I'm not so sure than calling for a total ban was also a cock-up. I tend to share the view of Simon Clark that it was a deliberate strategy.

My view, for what it’s worth, is that it’s tactical. The BMA’s declaration coincides with the second reading of Labour MP Alex Cunningham’s Private Members’ Bill which calls for a ban on smoking in private vehicles when children are present. It’s listed to be debated on Friday 25 November.

The BMA has possibly worked out that by calling for more extreme action, the coalition government may see a ban on smoking in cars with children as a reasonable compromise.

I may be right because, unknown to me (I have only just read it), the Huffington Post this morning published a piece by Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, entitled Calls for a Ban on Smoking in Cars Are Welcome, but Action on Children Is Needed Now. (I assume that my article is intended to be a companion piece.)

As we know (and I respect them for it), the tobacco control industry is very well coordinated. Alex Cunningham, the BMA and the BLF are not working in splendid isolation. They will be working together, I'm sure, and privately they will all be singing from the same hymnsheet. First, a ban on smoking in cars with children, then a ban on smoking in all private vehicles.

By calling for the latter now the BMA is trying to make a ban on smoking in cars with children appear more liberal. They will be delighted with that, believe me, because they know that, after that, a ban on smoking in all vehicles is only a matter of time.

There are two routes to prohibition. One is to move incrementally—the salami slice approach—as is happening with alcohol advertising. The other is to appeal to the public's sense of compromise by making extreme demands. Back in 2003, The Lancet called on the government to ban the sale of tobacco completely in an editorial titled 'How do you sleep at night Mr Blair?' Although widely derided, this editorial opened an Overton window which made a total ban on smoking in 'public' places—which had previously been seen as the most extreme measure available—seem almost moderate.

Let there be no doubt. The BMA believes it is perfectly appropriate for the police to stop and fine adults for smoking a cigarette in their own car, even when no one else is in it. They have the ethics of a rattlesnake and will undoubtedly campaign for a total ban in the future, just as The Lancet will one day renew its call for tobacco prohibition. Compromise in anathema to them, but expect them to suddenly present themselves as compromisers in the next days and weeks.


Anonymous said...

The most interesting aspect of this call for a blanket ban on smoking in cars is the reaction of the usually supportive centre right. The comments threads on the articles relating to this in the Daily Telegraph and the Independent are a revelation. I heartily recommend reading them. All of those "it is happening to someone else" merchants who saw pubs as nasty, dirty, breeding grounds of working class discontent are now howling about the infringement on their personal liberties. Love it, really love it. The fact that the publicans premises were frequently his/her own property seems to have escaped them completely, but now it is coming to a piece of property near you, oh my.

Curmudgeon said...

A problem with a ban on smoking in cars with children present is that it would be very difficult to enforce, whereas a blanket ban would be more easily policed.

Presumably they would be relying on social pressure to encourage compliance.

Ivan D said...

I am pretty sure that this is tactical and that the number that will be used to try to push forward on the cars with children option will be 7 times rather than 23. Or maybe something made up in between?

Sounds so much more reasonable don’t you agree?

You can respect them Chris but I value honesty more than organisation so will continue to despise them.

Should they succeed we will be subject to yet another piece of junk legislation that will serve only as another notch on their gun belts, another pointless “victory” the health benefits of which can never be measured.

Christopher Snowdon said...


It's not me who respects them, it's Simon. I think he respects him in the same way as one might respect Mussolini's competence in getting the trains to run on time.

As for picking a number between 7 and 23, that's exactly what they've done (see my latest post). Not sure why 11. As it happens, they could have gone for 25 now that they've abandoned their claim to be talking about realistic conditions.

Ken said...

I'd like to see the pro-freedom side moving the Overton Window by calling for the repeal of all smoking bans, everywhere, instead of petioning for well-ventilated smoking rooms in pubs.

Bill Gibson said...


I agree and have been advocating this since the very start of our campaign as the core issue infringes on the Liberties of many who are unable to fight their own corner. I am referring to those soules who are Mental Health Patients in longterm care.

Simply put, Smokefree Legislation is an infringement of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 yet nobody has caught on.

Chairman of TICAP

TICAP is an Organisation Member of the Human Rights Cross-Party Group within the Scottish Parliament

Bill Gibson said...

Scientific technology holds the key to success, the word "ventilation" is far too loose wherby zoning in on the scientific fact means that the other side cannot defend their case, especially technology approved by Government as far back as 2005

I refer to the Quest International "Air Manager" which is based upon Close Coupled Field Technology (CCFT)

Ivan D said...

Profuse apologies Chris. I was too busy taking the piss out of Australian politicians over at the Indie while looking up Stephen Williams blog to pay proper attention. I do understand what Simon means but just felt the need to vent re the dishonesty and futility of the whole thing.

I must make a note to try to do only one thing at once.

Bill Gibson said...

This week, I have been helping put the finishing touches to a lengthy response to a Legal Case in Northern Ireland, It has taken five years of processing through the lower Courts to reach the High Courts.

Confidence is running pretty high that we can blow the whole isuue of Smoking Bans wide open and expose the corruption that exists as all submissions must be recorded and placed on record.

C.A.G.E. said...

I haven't listened to any of the interviews except Simon's and it wasn't mentionned, but did you ask your opponents what happens if it is the minor rather than the adult smoking in the car?

When the Ontario ban kicked in, the legislation was ridiculed when a newspaper reported the case of a police officer issuing a ticket to a 20-year old who was smoking in the car with a 15-year old. While he was writing the ticket, the 15-year old stepped out of the car and smoked a cigarette in all impunity!

Iro Cyr

Xopher said...

C.A.G.E. - The answer is to simply adapt the current ban punishments -----
The smoker gets a £70 fine and the owner/driver gets fined £2,500.

C.A.G.E. said...

The minor would get a £70 fine? Good luck getting paid first of all, and secondly this changes the whole spirit of the legislation in that the law calls for people not allowed to smoke in the presence of minors not the other way around. Unless your proposed legislation is proposed or drafter otherwise.


Xopher said...

Iro, - under present UK legislation the smoker gets the 'minor' fine and they thoroughly screw our friend the landlord who never even committed the offence!
Much the same as 'we'll kill the hostage if you don't follow instructions'.
The action of true cowards.

C.A.G.E. said...

Oh I see what you're saying Xopher, you're drawing a parallel between the hospitality industry bans and the car bans. Sorry I was slow in catching on.

Anonymous said...

Using a child/car ban as a stepping stone to a full car ban would be difficult. It would more likely be a state of stable equilibrium, as smoking rooms in cafe chains were, and there would be little public support for moving to a full ban.