Wednesday, February 15, 2006

but i like smokey pubs!

Well as you know yesterday the government voted for a blanket ban on smoking i n pubs and clubs. Before I go into my political position on this let me start by explaining my personal vantage point. I have nearly all my life been a non-smoker. Recently i decided i like the odd cigar when go out to pubs (a bit fucking poncy i know) but this has not really effected my position.

To be honest i think the government has gone overboard - and that the actual aim of the decision was to move towards a de facto ban on smoking (ie a society in which it is so uncomfortable and annoying to be a smoker that people stop). We all know that smoking is bad for your health. Yet it is - or at least can be - a pleasurably activity. We are constantly faced with decisions where we have to balance the need to protect our health against pleasure. Drinking as much as I did last night was probably not good for me healthwise but i made a decision that the enjoyment i got out of getting fucked outweighed - for me - the damage i may be doing to my liver. A similar argument applies to smoking. In fact i find the idea that each cigarette takes 20 seconds off your life quite appealing - it means if I smoke a whole pack i'll probably shit myself one less time before i die. Of course smoking and drinking are not completely equivalent - most obviously second hand smoke can damage your health. What this means is not that we need a blanket ban of smoking of deference to non-smokers but instead that we need to provide opprotunites both for people who choose to smoke and those who do not to enjoy themselves. We could for example liscense a certain number of smoking pubs for each locality hwile keeping the others smoke free. This is similar to the way things worked on trains with smoking cars. To be honest I do not understand why we no longer have smoking cars. In fact I do understand - it's because the neo puritans pushing all of these restrictions are hiding behind the passive smoking argument. The reality is that they cannot bear wto see people choosing to harm their health and regard it as their right to intervene.


Martin Wicks said...

Reuben, when you've seen somebody die from lung cancer maybe your point of view will change.

If somebody wants to ruin their health I don't have a problem with this, just so long as I don't have to breath in their smoke.

Remember those big monopolies we socialists want to get rid of. The Tobacco industry has killed more people than virtually anybody else. And the bastards covered up the research which showed the harm cigarettes did. These companies have murdered people to make their bloody profits.

I must confess when I heard they were going to ban smoking in Irish pubs, I thought there would be a real furore. In fact it has been largely accepted.

Inductance said...

This is also a Health and Safety issue. Workers in pubs and clubs are the ones who suffer the most from passive smoking.

"A 2003, TUC co-published report stated that every year 1,200 people in the UK - three a day - die due to passive smoking at work."

1,200 worker deaths a year instead of more profits for the pubs - I

AN said...

I totally agree with Rueben.

I am not very impressed by the argument that it is all a conspiracy of capitalist monopolies, given that the best smokes in the world have "hecho on Cuba" written on the box, and Habanos SA is the world's top producer of quality tobacco.

The truth is that smoking is enjoyable, as is drinking, and lots of other dangerous animal pleasures.

Part of the giovernement's obsession is the desire to control our lives, but it is also part of the ideology that we should have a sanitised, shrink wrapped, pre-processed risk free life

Jim Jay said...

your pleasure though is a risk to my lungs isn't it?

but more importantly its the workforce that can be subjected to far more smoke than is pleasurable even for smokers - and the constant expose to secondary smoke is thought to be a health risk.

for a workplace to pose such a risk to workers is unexeptable.

you may think that bar workers should just fuck off and die but i don't see this as a particularly reasonable attitude.

AN said...

Firstly - to Martin again.
I resent the world weary condescention of "when you've seen somebody die from lung cancer maybe your point of view will change". As if anyone who adopts a permisssive view must be wet behind the ears.

When I was a teenager my granddad stayed with us while he died of throat cancer, and I used to have to get up in the middle of the night to help him go to the toilet becasue he couldn't do it on his own. he never for one moment regrestted his pipe smoking which contributed to his liklihood of cancer, as it was one of his most impornant pleasures in life.

We are are all going to die, and individuals should be able to make an informed choice - I hardly think anyone takes up smoking nowadays unaware that it is addictive or unhealthy? But it is highly enjoyable, sexy and is proven to make you look 80% cooler.

And Jim. You don't object to the pubs selling alcohol then? Despite the dangers of mental illness, drunken driving, loutish behaviour, domestic violence and abuse. Alcohol is in many ways a more dangerous drug than tobacco.

The governement's manifesto commitment, that the PM, chancellor etc have reneged on without a blush, was to allow choice. Within a pub that permitted smoking there should have been improved legal requirements for extraction ventilation, and a ban on smoking at the bar, which are adequate safeguards for the health of staff.

There is BTW rank class hypocracy behind the born again life-style fascism of new labour. A few years ago they voted to ban smoking in nurseries, but to continue to allow smoking by registered child minders. So their kids would not be exposed in their £7k per year nurseries, but working class families owuld have no choice.

Despite the ban on smoking even in private clubs, the ban will not cover bars and common rooms in the pallace of Westminster. (Pehaps that is one way of getting Galloway to spend more time there)

AN said...

And to Jim again.

Do you think it is conducive to friendly debate to accuse anyone who adopts a libertarian attitude to smoking of being a callous idiot. Your words: "that bar workers should just fuck off and die but i don't see this as a particularly reasonable attitude. "

There are perfectly "reasonable" arguments in favour of choice and keeping the state out of the private affairs of individuals.

And forgive me if I am cynical about the sudden concern in parliament about health and safety from the same parties and politicians who have resisted strengthening the law on corportate manslaughter. And who oppose setting the minimum wage to a decent level - condemning millions to the ill health effects of poverty.

Alister said...

I think that in a few years we will find it amazing that people were allowed to smoke in pubs, just like we find it amazing that people once smoked in planes and cinemas.

The truth is that this is a small step, but a necessary one. When you look at the health figures there is a gross inequality of health. Basically if you are poor you will die earlier. The worst figures are in Scotland where we have appalling rates. In one postcode in the East End of Glasgow the average male mortality rate is 54.

Why? Because they drink more, have an unhealthy diet and smoke more. Like most of the measures that the left propose, this is a band-aid for the problem but a necessary one.

The real solution lies in eradicating the gross inequality that our society continues to suffer from.

Jim Jay said...


yeah my tone was too strong - I apologise. swearing is of course big and clever, but it's more than understandable that the context would have implied i was more angry / aggressive than i felt and that it was aimed directly at you - black mark in my book fully warranted!

But to continue the content of the argument - whatever damage a drinker is doing to themselves by drinking they are not forcing the bar worker to drink copious amounts of alcohol as part of their job.

Of course alcohol is dangerous and people should be aware of it when they make a decision about whether they want to drink or not, and those who are addicted should have help not moral lectures - i agree -and smokers should be aware of dangers too...

but there is a fundamental difference between me sitting down with a friend who lights up getting 2ndary smoke from that and someone whose workplace is consistently full of smoke for their entire shift, every shift.

They are being subjected to hazardous materials and should be afforded reasonable protection - in that context i'm pleased with the new law, if not new labour's record on almost everything else.

AN said...

No Jim,

This underestmates the social consequences of drink, including the effects on the "passive" victims.

Drunken drivers causing accidents that injure other drivers and pedestrians.
Drunken attacks on strangers, including assaults of bar vstaff, as well as assaults on taxi drivers, NHS staff, et al.
The victims of drink influenced domestic violence, and those effected by drink induced mental illness.
It is also intimidating for those people who live near or on the route home from rowdy pubs, who experience noise, vandalism and occasional violence.

It is also true that many workers in manufacturing (including companies I have worked at) deal with poisonous fumes and vapours much worse than tobacco fumes, but this is dealt with by proper extraction, containment, etc.

Jim Jay said...

no andy,

attacking bar workers is rightly against the law already. so is drink driving, assaulting nhs staff, domestic violence (apparently) and all kinds of social behaviour that people get upto when drunk.

society does not tolerate that kind of behaviour. at least it tries not to.

if the government had chosen instead to insist on all pubs or other workplaces that were allowing smoking to have a specified level of air filtering / extraction, etc. I would be interested in these proposals as an alternative..

But seeing as the cost would be prohibative for the small publicans strengthing the hand of the big business chains I don't think that would have been a preferable solution.

Ed said...

This is a workers' rights issue in my opinion - pure and simple. You should not have to work in an environment which endangers your health.

When people say, 'well, smoking's not as dangerous as drunk driving and not as damaging to health as petrol fumes' they are absolutely right. But since when has it ever been a convincing argument to say that x is Ok because it's not as bad as y? I think murder's worse than GBH but I don't think that GBH should be legalised.

AN said...

Hang on Jim.

The negative consequences of drink are inherent in the way our culture uses alcohol. Formally outlawing the conduct that flows from excessive drinking, while at the same time permitting the conditions that make it inevitable, is not a serious approach to the problem

The government’s response to binge drinking has been to make it the responsibility of bar staff not to serve people who are already drunk, which is obviously in opposition to the pressure they are under from their management to serve more drink.
The government specifically decided not to make pub owners legally or financially responsible for the costs associated with drink related crime to which they had contributed. Precisely because they were influenced by the big chains.

In any event, smoking is a legal activity, whereas the things you have mentioned are illegal whether or not they involve drink. (Drunken driving being the partial exception). So the legislation deprives people of the choice of where they carry out a perfectly legal activity.

And yes of course the alternative proposals of tightening requirements for extraction and ventilation address the real health and safety concerns, but were not developed as an alternative because the health and safety of bar staff was never the real concern of the supporters of the ban, merely a convenient argument because it allowed them to pose as more caring than the pro-smoking lobby. It is also true that the alleged link between passive smoking and cancer is much less firm than they make out, no one would doubt that actually smoking is linked to cancer, but whether that translates to passive smoking is much more anecdotal. (Bear in mind that cancer also occurs randoonly in the population independent of any smoking)

And why the concern about bar staff, and not other occupations that have a much more well established link with cancer – for example the elevated risk of breast cancer among air crew, or the overall lower life expectancy for people working in chemical research labs. Agricultural workers and trawler (wo)men have by far the worst health and safety, much worse than bar staff. I cannot take the anti smoking lobby seriously because they state the alleged risks to bar staff as if they were incontrovertible, and without presenting any evidence comparing them for example to farm workers

And I cannot seriously believe you are arguing that we should tolerate a restriction of our civil liberties in order that we are not unfair to small businessmen. It is almost as weak an argument as Martin’s that people only smoke because they have been tricked by big business.

In any event this is all irrelevant to the real issue which is whether or not people should be allowed to engage in activity that they enjoy doing but which is risky. And whether we as a society want to legally prevent people from being anti-social, and therefore enforce stultifying social conformity.

Jim Jay said...

Actually it's your list - I just repeated it because you were saying all those things happened so why can't we smoke.

Whether something is a legal activity or not depends on the context in which it is done - if you read whilst drunk this is ok - driving no. Using the phone whilst driving is bad, in your kitchen, that's fine. Throwing stones into a lake for fun is ok - throwing stones into a crowd for fun is not.

Smoking in the majority of places in this country is fine - but creating a workplace environment that might have long term health risks should be covered by health and safety legislation.

Passive smoking evidence is not anecdotal - the medical establishment feels it is a real issue. Don’t tell me you’re one of the nutters that deny that smoking is a health risk – please.

Some workers have worse health and safety than others, so if you are not in the most dangerous job you mustn't care about the potential health risks of your job? Not very convincing I'm afraid.

We should address all health and safety issues that we can. You say you are libertarian - I say you're laissez faire and clearly don't care about the consequences of your actions on the civil liberties of others.

I am happy to support small businesses in this specific sense.

If we are against multinational corporations taking over the world and molding every town with the corporate image it is important to support locally owned independent businesses against every aspect of this hegemonic encroachment.

I prefer to drink in a pub that is owned by the landlord and has some character than in a chain that has one mission pack 'um in and take their money. This is not a pro-capitalist argument but a pro-human one. Workers control for every industry is the aim – but it is an irrelevant slogan in this context.

No one is making smoking illegal - so no one is stopping anyone doing something they enjoy - they just have to show consideration to others - shock! I am not in favour of a ban on either smoking or drinking but I’m not going to argue that just because I enjoy a particular activity (like drinking) I should be at liberty to do it at any time and place and sod everyone else.

AN said...

In response to Alister

I am already amazed we aren't allowed to smoke in planes and cinemas.


AN said...

But serioulsy

No one is disputing that smoking may be injurious to the health of the smoker, although there is some cod-science that elevates the risk, whereby for example all lung cancer is ascribed to smoking, and all illnesses by smoking assume a causal relationship.

The issue of the risk of passive smoking is hard to determine, because of classification issues, in terms of degree of exposure in time, and the severity of the exposure. Some studies suggest a correlation, some do not. It is of course an emotive issue and has been cynically used by the anti-smoking lobby. We are in a dangerous mind set if we assume that second hand reports of controversial medical research cannot be questioned without being described as a nutter.
And research into ppassive smoking is very difficult – because active smoking can be defined, but passive smoking is a subjective category for research.

Only 24 out of 147 studies have shown an increased risk from passive smoking, and some of the biggest trials have not. For example, according to the NHS National Electronic Library for Health.
James E Enstrom of the University of California and Geoffrey C Kabat of the State University of New York reviewed evidence collected as part a larger cohort study covering 39 years (1960-98) and followed up 118,094 adults from California who had enrolled in the American Cancer Society cancer prevention study (CPS I). The particular focus of this report was on 35,561 never smokers who had a spouse in the study with known smoking habits.
No significant associations were reported between current or former exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and mortality from heart disease, lung cancer and COPD. Active cigarette smoking was found to have a strong, positive, dose-response relationship with death from coronary heart disease, lung cancer and COPD.
The researchers concluded that their data did not support a causal relationship between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality although they did not rule out a small effect. They claimed that the association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than is generally believed.
This was a serious study, and although some objection may be made that it was funded by the tobacco companies, the report did accept that active cigarette smoking was found to be strongly, positively associated with death from coronary heart disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
To quote Joe Jackson’s argumentative but useful essay:

“The largest study to date on levels of SHS exposure was published by the US National
Centre for Environmental Health, which studied 10,000 exposed nonsmokers for levels of
cotinine (a nicotine derivative which is thought to demonstrate the level of tobacco smoke
exposure). The mean cotinine level of the nonsmokers was 1/500th of that of the active
smoker. And by the way: (a) there are other sources of cotinine, including, for instance,
tomatoes, and (b) showing that people have small amounts of cotinine in their blood is not
the same as demonstrating that it’s doing them any harm.”

So according to trade union research 3000000 in the UK exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, of whom up to 300000 are in the pub and restaurant sector. “University College London measured the levels of exposure to passive smoking amongst London's non-smoking bar workers. It states that bar workers take in amounts of environmental tobacco smoke over 10 times higher than the average non-smoker”

Now the estimated figure (on what evidence) of 1200 work related deaths related to inhilation of tobacco smoke is debatable on a number of levels. Where does this number come from, how are we to establish causality?

Even were it true, the elevated risk is based upon current legislation that does not require active countermeasures to reduce smoke, such as ventilation and extraction. Modern extraction systems can clean air down too 0.30 microns, about three times more efficient than necessary to make air clean, and air in a smoking environment with a good extraction system can actually be cleaner than air without an extraction system where smoking is banned.

And even if totally true, the alleged increased risk is admitted to be only 0.04%, which given what problems of methodology, causality, etc is statistically insignificant (unless you are someone who wants to abuse the science to support a political crusade against smoking)

But of course the real issue is that the smoking ban is designed not for the protection of the passive smokers and the bar staff at all, but as part of a social engineering project to remove smoking, and all “anti-social” behaviour, so that we reproduce, work, consume and die in our own private boxes.

Look at the context, the government sandwich the smoking ban into bringin in ID cards the day before, and introducing a thought crime of “glorifying terrorism” the say after.

The evidence of health risk from passive smoking is tendentious, it is a civil liberties issue.

Martin Wicks said...

What is the point of this discussion, Andy? Are you proposing a campaign in the unions against the smoking ban?

This has got nothing to do with civil liberties. As someone who has spent many hours in smoky labour movement meetings, but who developed a hyper-snesitivity to cigarette smoke, I do not see why I should have to breath in smoke, which as you well know contains carcinogenic substances.

There is such a thing as a considerate smoker. My partners' daughter is a good example. She acceptes that she can't smoke in the house when she visits us, but she would not in any case want to force somebody else to breath in her smoke. Sadly, in the labour movement many smokers have insisted that their 'democratic right' to smoke is inviolable, and if you have to breath it in then, tough. This was all part of the drink and cigarettes 'culture' of the labour movement - meetings in pubs etc.

Whether or not passive smoking might kill you, is not the point. What is uncontestable is that it won't do you any good. And if you don't like it (it does litterally stink) or you have a health problem, it is difficult to avoid.

As to the staff who work in such an environment, we know the argument 'find another job', but finding the job you want is not so easy.

It is not a civil liberty question that somebody should have a right which adversely impacts on other people.

AN said...


the point of the argument is that the law should not be used to regulate what poeple do just becasue some other people don't like it.

Labour's manifesto commitement was to allow choice - some pubs serving food and no smoking, and some pubs allowing smoking, so that people have a choice where they go to drink. It was a sensible policy, that has been derailed by ill-informed mumbo-jumbo, otivated by campaigners who woulf like to see smoking banned.

The argument about the health of bar staff is rubbish - becasue it could be addressed by ventilation -so your argument comes down to the fact that because you prefer pubs that don't allow smoking, you agree with banning all pubs having smoking, including private clubs with good vetilation, that you would never have wanted to go in in the first place.

Of course it is a civil liberties argument if the state passes laws about what individuals can do and where they can do it. rather than allowing individuals to choose for themselves.

And where this is going, is just that i am asking people to think - rather than accept the idea that their own lifestyle choices should be imposed on other people.

Martin Wicks said...

Final comments. Imagine "imposing their own lifestyle choices" on other people. That is what has been happening for years. Smokers have been forcing non-smokers to breathe in their smoke, or else avoid going to places where people smoke; most places in fact.

Trade union activists have had their right not to breath in smoke denied for years. It's not just a question of not liking it. Some people simply have to avoid it for health reasons. The right not to breathe in smoke in public places is a restriction of the right of smokers to smoke whereever they please. But it is necessary because it impacts on other people.

To say that the evidence of health risk of passive smoking is 'tendentious' is to ignore the reality. Ask anybody with any sort of chest ailment.

As for this measure being part of the government's attacks on civil liberties this is patent nonsense. Remember the Ecclestone affair? You are contradicting a previous post of your own where you said that the 'compromise' proposed by the government was 'reasonable'! Which is it?

They only gave a free vote because they could not carry their 'compromise' policy which was unworkable. They prevaricated for years so as not to offend their friends in big business.

Jim Jay said...

Andy said...

"i am asking people to think - rather than accept the idea that their own lifestyle choices should be imposed on other people."

That's what I say too. I'm asking smokers to think about how they are imposing their lifestyle choices on others.

I'm not for banning smoking, although I hear the argument for that, but I am for protecting workers rights.

AN said...

Sorry martin i was not aware that a medical qualification is gained by contracting a chest ailment, or that asthmatics are uniquely gifted in assessing scientific evidence of medicall causality. :o)

Had the government stuck to the common sense manifesto commitement it made to allow choice, then those with chest ailments could have avoided pubs that allowed smoking, in the same way I avoid pubs with that don't serve real beer, organise kareoke or have Bristol Rovers fans in them.
If the "reality" is that there is a proven link between passive smoking and ill health, then why don't you base your arguments on that research, rather than just repeating the moral panic as fact?

No one doubts the link to heart disease and cancer from actively smoking, but the argument that there is a causal link with ocassional exposure to levels of carinogens 1/500 as high as a smoker gets is very weak, as studies of never smokers who live with smokers have shown.

Note that on Saturday the Independent published a retraction of their front page article from earlier in the week - because two of the studies they quoted as saying passive smoking was linked to cancer actually concluded the opposite !!!

And I don't understand your point about me allegedly contradicting myself - denying all choice between smoking and non-smoking pubs is a civil liberties issue, because it means smokers can go to no pub nor private club and have a drink and a smoke.
If they still had a choice to do that then that would clearly have not represent the same level of state interference in private lives.

And Jim - you are totally sidestepping the argument that providing a state of the art extraction system and ban on smoking at the bar would provide clean air down to 0.3 microns, whereas the carcigens in smoke are 1 micron. Health and safety issue solved.

And no you are not asking smokers to think and be considerate, you are supporting a law that denies smokers the opportunity to even run club that is explicitly set up by smokers for smokers. If you are banned form doing something, you don't have the opportunity to use discretion.

Why not allow private clubs to offer smoking, and protect the staff with specific health and safety legislation??

The real reason for all this brooh hah hah about passive smoking, is that it is a moral panic stalking horse argument for banning smoking altogether, itself part of an agenda of state control (e.g. ASBOs) against any "anti-social" behaviour, which is any behaviour that is away from the celophane shrink wrapped all correct monogamous sober considerate sanctimonious bullshit of the idealised private llives we are all supposed to aspire to.

And saying you can smoke but not in a pub ignores the fact that many people - including non smokers - enjoy the atmosphere of smoking and drinking. it is like saying you can have sex, but only on your own.

AN said...

By the way - it is worth mentioning that persoanlly I am so amazingly considerate at not smoking when martin is about that he only recently found out i was a smoker - wheh i offered a cigar to one of his work colleagues after a meeting.

Jim Jay said...

I'm sure you are the most considerate of men in every aspect of your life.

I've not sidestepped the question of air extraction - I answered it but you didn't like my answer, that's not the same thing.

I said it was an interesting idea (I don't actually feel the need to gainsay everything you suggest) but am concerned that the costs would be prohibative for small businesses and strengthen the hold of chains over every aspect of my life.

Incidently my brother is very sensitive to smoke and he doesn't need a medical degree to understand that he has difficulty breathing in smokey environments.

AN said...

Well clearly if Jim's brother and Martin both find smoky pubs uncomfortable, then we had better stop any pubs or private clubs being open to the 11 million smokers in the country. Even if there were 11 million people who strongly dislike smoky pubs, then that would not be any reason for stopping ALL pubs allowing smoking - but it would be a reaso for allowing choice, and for Martin and Jim's brother to use the pubs that do not allow smoking.

At one moment I am being told that the medical profession has strong evidence that passive smoking casues cancer - now that would be a serious issue were it true, and if the risk could be demonstrated to be significant. But when i questuion where this killer evidence is i am described as a nutter, and instead provide examples dividuals who find it hard to breathe in smoky atmoshperes. Which is not the same as a causal link with cancer, however aggravating it may be for those individuals not to be able to go to their local.

Air con is not expensive, which is why I thought you hadn't answerred it - and it goes to the core of the issue. Had workplace health and safety been the real agenda of the smoking ban then the debate about extraction would have been addressed.

Patricia Hewett in the commons, said that allowing choice would put non-smoking pubs out of business, as the bigger market share would go to private clubs that allowed smoking, precisly becasue it would make economic sense to spend a couple of £k on extraction, and keep your customers. (And by the way I advocate such extraction ebing complulsory, so i am not laisse faire, I do believe there is a role for governement)
the chains are more likely to chase the non-smoking pound - as they would need to do so to sell food, and Witherspoons have already gone non smloking in many franchises.

Anyway - the governemnt itself has admitted that the real purpose behind the ban was to encourage a drop in the proportion of the population smoking from around 26% to around 21%, by making it more and more difficult to smoke.

Now that may be an admirable ambition, but surely it should be done by provision of information, and help with giving up smoking for those that want to, instead of crude social engineering against those who want to continue smoking.

The core issue is whether or not you believe government should directly regulate the private lifestyle choices of citizens.

AN said...

And Jim says: "I'm sure you are the most considerate of men in every aspect of your life."

thanks - but I am suprised you say this, as you have met me, and know it to be untrue.


Jim Jay said...

Hold on, hold on - I did not describe you as a nutter, that is just not true - I said "Don’t tell me you’re one of the nutters that deny that smoking is a health risk – please."

You DO accept that smoking is a health risk - but you have expressed doubts over the evidence on passive smoking - I find that faintly weird but I have yet to state whether I think that puts you in the nutter category or not.

Take a chill pill

I have met you and don't find inconsiderate at all.