Monday 27 March 2017

The decent and tolerant people of Wales

Given the state-funded hate campaign against smokers that we have seen over the last ten years it is remarkable that the majority of people remain sensible and tolerant when it comes to smoking bans. Every survey that gives people the option of designated, ventilated smoking rooms finds a majority of smokers and nonsmokers in favour. This has been shown yet again in Wales - see Taking Liberties and Dick Puddlecote for details.

Twelve months ago, to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban in Scotland, we commissioned a poll of 1,000+ adults living in Scotland.

One of the questions we asked was:

Do you think pubs and private members’ clubs, including working men's clubs, should or should not be allowed to provide a well-ventilated designated smoking room to accommodate smokers?

The response was clear:

Should be allowed 54%
Should not be allowed 40%
Don’t know 6%

Two weeks ago, to mark the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban in Wales which falls on Sunday April 2, we commissioned another poll.

We asked 1,000 people living in Wales exactly the same question and got a very similar response:

Should be allowed 58%
Should not be allowed 37%
Don’t know 5%

It has always been thus. As Simon Clark says, 'These polls are staggeringly consistent.' As I mentioned when the IEA conducted a poll on lifestyle freedom in 2015, the anti-smokers only manage to make smoking bans look popular by giving people a choice between a total ban and totally unrestricted smoking. This was noted by YouGov's Anthony Wells way back in 2005:

In the first group there is the recent BMRB poll commissioned by ASH, but there are also several polls commissioned by non-partisan companies. In an ICM survey for the BBC back in July 2004 they asked whether “the Government should ban smoking in enclosed public spaces such as pubs and restaurants” – 65% of people thought they should. A second ICM survey for the Guardian, in October 2004, asked if respondents approved or disapproved “of a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places, such as pubs, restaurants and offices?” 66% of people approved. A YouGov poll for KPMG found almost identical results – 64% supported a ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants. So, all the recent polls seem to agree on a figure of around two-thirds support.

Meanwhile, if you ask people how they would like to see smoking in pubs dealt with, and give them a list of possible options including things other than an outright ban, you get very different results. The Office of National Statistics carry out an annual poll that asks about attitudes to smoking. It shows that around 65% of people would like “restrictions” on smoking, but asked what sort of restrictions people would like to see only 31% say they would like a complete ban; most people prefer separate smoking and non-smoking areas.

Populus have done at least two polls with this sort of question design. A May 2004 poll on behalf of Forest found that only 24% of people supported a total ban, a May 2005 poll, this time for the TMA, found that only 26% wanted a complete ban. In both cases respondents were given alternative choices to a straightforward ban, and in both cases respondents preferred to have smoking and non-smoking sections in pubs. If you ask the question in this way, then support for a total ban stands somewhere between a quarter and a third.

You won't be surprised to hear that ASH's chief harridan, Deborah Arnott, has responded to the new survey by saying: 'The benefits of smoke-free laws are not a matter of public opinion.' Perhaps she could stop wasting taxpayers' money on rigged opinion polls then?

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