No ifs and no butts; the smoking ban…

BRENDAN O’Neill believes the success of the Irish smoking ban is more to do with what he calls ‘Post-Traditional Stress Disorder’ than anything else. This new Irish politically correct agenda, he explains, is why the anniversary of the smoking ban was celebrated more than the 1916 rebellion this year.

O’Neill writes:

This helps explain why it [Ireland] has embraced – more fervently than any other state in Europe and perhaps the world, as Irish ministers keep reminding us – the new PC health agenda. The war on smoking allows Ireland’s scandalised ruling class to appear serious and concerned; it is a national campaign through which they can present themselves as altruistic, as having the Irish people’s best interests at heart. And crucially, they instinctively recognise that lifestyle politics, the regulation of people’s eating, drinking and other habits, is one area where they might win some public consensus.

The reorientation of Irish politics and society around anti-smoking (seriously) is a sober reminder for why we should oppose the public smoking bans creeping into effect across Europe and the USA. Not only because they are illiberal and intrusive measures that set a dangerous precedent for other government clampdowns on various ‘lifestyles’, but far more importantly because of what they reveal about our political culture more broadly. When outlawing the evil weed can become the stuff of national politics, and can be accepted by an increasingly conformist public mood, it doesn’t bode well for anyone who thinks politics and change should be about more than whether and when individuals can puff on a Silk Cut. The Easter 1916 rebels summoned all Irish people to the flag, to ‘strike for freedom’ against British rule; all Ahern can promise ‘future generations’ is that pubs and restaurants will be smoke-free.

Ireland’s smoking ban has allowed a corrupt and decadent establishment to reinforce its grip over an atomised public. If an official in a town or city near you proposes a similar ban, be sure to blow smoke up his arse.

  • Imeallach

    I’m sick of reading this kind of “save us from the nanny-state” nonsense. Of course it’s a simple issue of free choice if you want to smoke. But the workers in pubs and clubs had no free choice in the past.

    I do agree, however, that the government used it as a kind of smoke screen to divert attention from the real issues, especially in regard to the health service. But that shouldn’t detract from the fact that this is a good law – the kind of no-brainer practical measure which makes a difference. (Although I still don’t understand why we need an Office of Tobacco Control, when it could be policed by the Gardai, or Health and Safety Officials)

  • Davros

    But the workers in pubs and clubs had no free choice in the past.

    They were forced in at gunpoint?

    I don’t buy that at all. In my local all 4 bar staff smoke. It’s a legal activity. Like drinking. Causes less mayhem than drinking as well. IF most people really were all that fussed there would already be dozens of no-smoking bars across NI that would have most of the trade and the pick of all these non-smoking bar-staff.

    A small and vocal minority who are zealous about smoking are imposing their will on a largely indifferent or mildly supportive public.

  • maca

    Dav
    But the workers in pubs and clubs had no free choice in the past.
    They were forced in at gunpoint?
    I don’t buy that at all.”

    I worked in a nightclub, the smoke at times would really choke you. My choice was simple, work or don’t work. As a student (and later when I was unemployed) what choice did I have, I needed the cash 😉

  • Alan

    And what if you are a smoker working in a bar and you decide to give up smoking for the good of your health or your children’s health – do you give up your job, or should the bar make reasonable adjustments (such as imposing their own ban) to meet the health needs of their staff.

  • Gerry O’Sullivan

    Davros

    IF most people really were all that fussed there would already be dozens of no-smoking bars across NI that would have most of the trade

    To many bar owners, the decision to go non-smoking would be difficult to contemplate while all around remained smoking. Failure could have disastrous consequences, and most proprietors wouldn’t be preapred to risk their businesses in such an experiment.

    However, a chain of pubs can try it out on a limited basis, as it doesn’t put the entire business at risk. One chain of pubs in the UK, JD Wetherspoon, has introduced smoke-free within its estate. The initial test in seven pubs has been hailed as a success, and a further 60-odd are now earmarked for conversion, with the entire estate going non-smoking by May 2006.

    Incidentally, a poll taken at the time of the first anniversary of the ban in the Republic showed overwhelming support for the move, even among smokers themselves.

  • Davros

    To many bar owners, the decision to go non-smoking would be difficult to contemplate while all around remained smoking.

    Nope. That doesn’t work. IF as claimed most clients and most staff WANT no-smoking environment that bar owner surrounded by smoking bars would have his pick of the bar staff and most of the customers. That this didn’t happened in most places* makes me think that most customers aren’t that bothered.

    * It’ll be interesting to see if Wetherspoons drive all their competitors out of business now they are going no-smoking voluntarily.

  • Gerry O’Sullivan

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t most pubs in NI owner-occupied? Going non-smoking on your own is a radical step, and in general, publicans aren’t known for making radical decisions. Most would err on the side of caution. If it didn’t work, the pub would quite possibly shut down. However, it could be a huge success.

    The Wetherspoon experience has shown that non-smoking pubs can thrive, even when other pubs around still allow smoking. That should give heart to any publican in NI who is thinking of going non-smoking.

    The simple fact is that the tide is turning against smoking in enclosed public areas. More and more countries are following the example set by the Republic.

  • Davros

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t most pubs in NI owner-occupied? Going non-smoking on your own is a radical step, and in general, publicans aren’t known for making radical decisions.

    Yep, I think you are right and most are struggling and most are run by people who know their customers ….and that’s why they don’t go no-smoking voluntarily. They know it won’t give them an advantage, it’ll do the opposite.
    This has nothing to do with concern for people’s health, it has all to do with politics and health-fascists. The only good thing is that it shows politics can be non-sectarian 😉

  • Henry94

    Davros

    The term health-fascists is hysterical. With support for the ban running at over 90% this is a case where democracy can better reflect public opinion than the market can.

  • Davros

    The term health-fascists is hysterical.

    I don’t think so Henry. These people make how the Unionists treated the minority they had under their thumbs look benevolent;) Still, I can take comfort in the fact that if and when they get their way on smokers the next group in their sights will be drinkers and all the smug gits who want to deprive people of their quite legal pleasure will find themselves without pubs ….

  • Ringo

    Davros –

    The same arguments you make for tobbacco can also be applied to dope – nothing wrong with a responsible gent like yourself enjoying a nice toot and a pint in the comfort of his own local – not doing anyone any harm are they?

  • Davros

    I used to know a few pubs in London where that went on Ringo, but there is one huge difference – dope is illegal. We are talking about something which is legal. As someone who rarely drinks these days I’ll happily point out that NI and the rest of the British Isles would be a whole lot better off if they allowed smoking in bars and stopped the sale of alcohol 😉 The trail of Carnage, illness and criminal activity associated with booze does FAR more damage than passive smoking.

  • Ringo

    Not anymore. The same powers in the Republic that be that have decreed that dope is illegal have now decreed that tobacco smoking in the workplace is also illegal. The law may be less restrictive, nonetheless a limited prohibition backed by law exists. My point is that I think smokers have very little solid ground to stand on, on this issue. Either we champion personal liberties or we use laws to curb individual behaviour in the name of the greater good. The alternative is inconsistencies based on the wishes of lobby groups.

    As for the drink issue – I agree with you. We have a horrendous problem and it needs to be tackled somehow, but I can’t see anything being done – its way to sensitive an area for ‘the Nanny’ too go meddling in.

  • Davros

    Not anymore.

    there’s a huge difference here ringo. it’s not WHERE you smoke it that makes having a Joint illegal.

  • Davros

    its way to sensitive an area for ‘the Nanny’ too go meddling in.

    I’m not convinced sensitivity enters into it Ringo.
    Huge vested interests as with the petrochemical Industry – that exposes millions to air-born pollution every bit and more hazardous than passive smoking – would be closer to the mark.

  • Ringo

    there’s a huge difference here ringo. it’s not WHERE you smoke it that makes having a Joint illegal.

    I accept there are differences, but within public houses – where your major gripe lies – smoking either is illegal.

    I’m not convinced sensitivity enters into it Ringo.
    Huge vested interests as with the petrochemical Industry – that exposes millions to air-born pollution every bit and more hazardous than passive smoking – would be closer to the mark.

    Indeed. You just have to look at the successful lobbying of the Irish government by the Wrigley Corp via the US Ambassador in the past few weeks in order to head off a ‘chewing gum tax’ to see how easy it is.

    But I think the real obstacle is on the ground. Any politician that was prepared to take any meaningful steps would be accused of high treason on day-time radio and all chances of a rational debate would be out the window. It would be political suicide.

    In the Republic the smoking ban would never have passed if Fianna Fail had been in opposition -and Fianna Fail would have set the hounds on any such bill brought forward by Fine Gael/Labour. If the Greens were party to it it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

    So at least down here, any major review of the licencing laws will require a FF government, and probably a PD coalition minister taking responsibility, for FF cover. The difficult bit is getting a situation where major changes would be of benefit to Fianna Fail backbenchers and local-level politicians . And I can see absolutely no scenario at the moment where that could happen.

  • Stewie

    Davros am I right in saying you are a smoker yourself? I’m sure you have mentioned this fact on previous posts on slugger. In my experience, the only people who disagree with the smoking ban are smokers themselves. And even a lot of smokers now agree with the ban.

    Let me address the main points that you raise:

    1 – Is anyone pointing a gun to the heads of bar staff who have to work in smoke filled environments?

    No – but the capitalist society we live in dictates that people must work for a living, in order to feed, cloth and keep a roof over the heads of themselves and their families. Some people have absolutely no choice but to remain in their jobs in bars.

    2 – You have tried to indicate that the next step after a smoking ban would a ban on drinking.

    The whole reason for a smoking ban is so that people are not exposed to harmful smoke against their will. That argument doesn’t follow with a drink ban – unless you consider guinness farts to be harmful :-). You are entitled to smoke away to your hearts content (or in reality, malcontent) – what you are not entitled to do is make other people breath that smoke. The arguments of “Work somewhere else” or “Don’t go to the pub” are extremely ignorant and inconsiderate.

    Smokers are unfortunately blinded by their addiction – it makes them completely inconsiderate of the rights of other people.

    The fact of the matter is that the Irish smoking ban is here to stay and this will inevitably follow in other countries as they become more enlightened.

    And that’s as they say, is that.

  • Davros

    Your “There’s no drinking equivalent to passive smoking” rather falls down if you look at drink driving or visit an A&E at a week-end or look at domestic violence Stevie.

    Yes, I smoke, along with a lot of other people. The difference between us is that I believe in choice. In what I propose there is genuine choice. Bars etc can choose whether they wish to register as smoking or non-smoking. Being a tolerant sort of person I wouldn’t make smoking compulsory in Smoking bars 🙂

    Smoking bar staff ? They can work in smoking bars.
    Non-smoking staff ? They can work in non-smokers.

    Isn’t that easy ?

    The problem for the zealots is that they know that
    a lot of non-smokers would still choose to accompany smoking friends on occasion to smoking premises. I would go with non-smoking friends on occasion to non-smoking bars and pop outside. It’s their choice in my world. Even at present I don’t smoke cigarettes in non-smoking company in places where smoking is allowed and nobody else is smoking.

    But I wouldn’t have a problem if the Government outlawed smoking full stop.I would accept a democratic decision, just as I’ll accept a democratic decision over smoking in pubs. It’s this stinking hypocrisy over drink and taxes that chokes me.

    Cheers.

  • maca

    “It’s this stinking hypocrisy over drink and taxes that chokes me

    That’ll be the smoke Dav ;))

  • lamh_dearg

    You’re just wrong, wrong, wrong, Davros.

    There is the human rights issue, you have a right to use a legal substance but your right ends where my nose begins,

    and there is a Health and Safety issue, the bar owner employing staff has a responsibility to protect the health of his employees (would you state that coalminers with pneumoconiosis can’t complain because they chose to work in a coalmine). One of the important findings of the review of the Irish ban was that the average level of carbon monoxide in the blood of bar staff dropped by more than 50%, CO is causally linked to chronic lung diseases.

    Your arguments are as credible as those of Victorian bosses sending children up chimneys.

  • Stewie

    Davros:

    “Your “There’s no drinking equivalent to passive smoking” rather falls down if you look at drink driving or visit an A&E at a week-end or look at domestic violence Stevie.”

    A very flimsy argument – you are talking about 2 totally different issues, which require 2 totally different solutions.

    “Smoking bar staff ? They can work in smoking bars.
    Non-smoking staff ? They can work in non-smokers.”

    By your logic, being a smoker would be a pre-requiste to get a job in a smoking bar? What if the person then wanted to give up breathing? would they have to quit their job? Or must they continue to breath smoke against their will

    Davros you are a good debater, but you are flogging a dead horse on this issue. As a smoker, you are blinded by your addiction, into ignorance and lack of consideration.

  • Stewie

    that should read: “give up breathing smoke”

  • Alan

    Davros,

    I saw your picture in the run up to the launch of the latest Dr Who. You’re not what anyone would call an advert for fitness and vitality.

  • maca

    Dav, run for the hills, they’re tuning vicious!! 😉

  • Margaret Hogge

    Has anyone mentioned every body’s rights to clean air? Clean water, clean air – every body’s inalienable rights. You wouldn’t accept it if a barworkers or customer dumped poison in your Guinness would you? Why put up with the stinking poisons in secondhand tobacco smoke?

  • fmcd

    stewie may be right in his conclusion that I may have no right to inflict my smoking habit on some one else. But the fact is that some one else does not have to stay in the same area/room as me. He/she can find a job elsewhere, starve, be homeless, or make a sacrifice and work to support his family. As for his comments on drinking, that is, that it does not effect others (ie. no one is holding your mouth open and forcing booze down your throat), is total nonsense. People are killed instantly by drunk drivers, property is destroyed every night by drunken idiots on their way from pubs, and the cost of lost labor, sick pay that has to payed to drunks, lost production due to hangovers etc. costs every one. The comments regarding civil liberties and the loss thereoff, are right on the mark. What is next? One only has to look to the US and the problems that environmentalism and political correctness has caused there. On the other hand it may be a good thing for Ireland and the UK. You could get rid of the catholic church as well as the church of england and the monarchy!