Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Final thoughts on the smoking ban

As several bloggers have noted, the smoking ban anniversary passed relatively quietly. Aside from a fake statistic from Public Health England, no fresh junk science was released. The BBC put as positive a spin on it as they could and ASH announced that the smoking rate had fallen in the last ten years, implying that this was due to the smoking ban. It was not, of course. There was no decline after the smoking ban and the drop in smoking prevalence since 2012 is mostly attributable to vaping.

Judging by the media coverage over the weekend, there seems to be two agreed facts. First, that the smoking ban has been bad for pubs. Second, that the real purpose of the ban was to force smokers to quit.

Although coercing smokers into quitting was not the stated intention in 2007, it suits ASH for people to think it was, because their agenda is now overtly paternalistic. They put out a thin document for the anniversary with a few policy proposals, such as banning people from smoking in their own cars when no one else is in them, which obviously cannot be justified on the basis of secondhand smoke.

Dick Puddlecote has written about the ASH report. Rob Lyons' has produced an excellent report for FOREST and Brendan O'Neill hits the nail on the head in this article.

I also wrote about the ban on Friday for Spectator Health...

Whatever scientific fig leaves were used to justify the ban, it is not difficult to discern the true motives of its advocates and supporters. Anti-smoking campaigners wanted it because it made life more difficult for smokers, and a significant number of nonsmokers were happy with it because they did not like the smell of tobacco smoke. You, dear reader, may be in the latter camp. If you’re thinking of writing an angry comment below the line, don’t bother. I’ve heard it all before. I know you think that smoking is a filthy habit. I know you like the fact that your clothes no longer ‘smell like an ashtray’ when you come back from the pub.

All I’m saying is that we didn’t need to make it a criminal offence to smoke in every single publicly accessible building in the country just because some people want to wear the same clothes two days running.

In a liberal society, you can’t go around banning things just because you don’t like them. But if we’re honest with ourselves, that is what we did with smoking ten years ago. It normalised coercive paternalism and validated the tyranny of the majority. This, I would argue, is the smoking ban’s most pernicious legacy.

Read the rest here.

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