Saturday, May 23, 2009

The third interesting piece in the papers last week was in The Athens News and was a subscriber’s letter all about the blanket smoking ban in the UK and the effect it has had. Now I am not grinding a personal axe here but, if I were still a smoker, I would seriously consider suing the British government or the European parliament or whoever for denying me my unalienable right to smoke my self to death if I so wished and to inflict my secondary smoke on long-suffering members of the public sitting or standing close by. I know, it can be disgusting, I’m not arguing about that but there has never been any proof that secondary smoke actually causes deaths. The case of Roy Castle is always brought up, he dying of lung cancer and it being put down to his performing in smoky clubs, but what about the hundreds of other performers who played the clubs and pubs and didn’t get the disease? According to the law of averages a great many of them plus bar staff etc., should have succumbed. Maybe they did but not being famous jazz musicians their hundreds of deaths passed unnoticed. Why hasn’t the infernal combustion engine been banned? That is much more likely to be the serious cause of innumerable deaths from inhaling noxious fumes.
But here is some of what this gentleman wrote in his letter if I may be allowed to quote, because it is a very interesting letter. If I’m in breach of copywrite, sue me. If I can’t afford more than two newspapers a week you won’t get very much. He writes, ‘A May 8th letter (Non-smokers a minority) expressed its author’s disappointment with the “windows” in the coming smoking ban here in Greece.’ For those who do not live in Greece, probably next to China the heaviest smoker zone in the world, the Greek government have been very wise in not following the British example and bringing in a total ban. I feel quite sure that would have been unenforceable. “No Smoking” signs have been up in places like railways station, in banks, etc., for a long while but you are quite likely to see someone sitting right beneath the sign puffing merrily away, and that includes bank managers and staff and other public employees: in post offices, tax offices etc. To continue … ‘This correspondent was apparently looking forward with bated breath to the time when he could go into a taverna bar or club without the result of “stinging eyes, my clothes and hair stinking and the air suffocating me.” I have to say I had read and heard much of the same hysterical nonsense prior to the British smoking ban: many non-smokers shouting about their right not to have these dirty evil smokers inflicted upon them. These vocal anti-smokers also happily repeated the propaganda of the government and organisations it funds such as ASH, which stated there would be no loss of trade to pubs and clubs because the smokers leaving such establishments would be replaced by the non-smokers flocking back. However, now we see the true results of the British ban. Prior to the ban in 2007 the rate of pub closures across Britain was four every week. After the ban it rose to 27 every week as all those belligerent anti-smokers failed to return. Many bingo halls and working men’s clubs have also gone to the wall and tens of thousands of those previously employed in those places lost their jobs. Many pubs even lost non-smoker customers because they didn’t want to go to places now empty of their smoker friends. For those who have hung on we even have the ridiculous situation of non-smokers following smokers outside so they will still have someone to talk to. And perhaps they are right to go outside because the smells from the toilets and the stale beer are no longer disguised by the smell of cigarette smoke. Outside of course, they might also spot the owner of the pub who, having paid hundreds of thousands for the place, now cannot smoke a cigarette on his own premises. Such blanket bans are totalitarian. (but in my opinion typical of socialist thinking – do what I tell you or else. Is it true over seven thousand new pieces of legislation have been passed in the UK since New Labour came to power? Power … there’s a word to conjure with. There a concept to go to tiny talentless people’s heads, but I digress.) ‘The smoking ban in Britain was an unmitigated disaster and if enforced the same way here, it will kill tavernas, clubs, kafenios and restaurants. No argument, people will go out of business, jobs will be lost, the government will lose revenue and more freedom will be lost by an autocratic state.’
Fortunately I believe the Greeks have more sense, and why a blanket ban in the first place? The Brits really do go overboard. Two fingers should have been given to the EU if that is where it all started but, no, the Brits couldn’t possibly do that. When I travelled by Amtrak all over the United States I was a smoker and a compartment was sensibly set aside on each coach for smokers. When I travelled by train from Perth to Melbourne in Australia, part of a single coach was set aside for smokers. It meant a long walk down the length of the train to reach it but no one was inconvenienced. What do we have on British Rail? A complete ban, even on the open air platforms. Once you’re on BR or London Transport property you are a non-smoker whether you like it or not. I have to admit it does help solve some of the litter problem.
The airlines were cute; they brought in non smoking by degrees, firstly short hops, then slightly longer, then longer, and finally all out. The old days of smoking or non-smoking (your choice) are long since gone.
I believe the Chinese government is urging the population to smoke more to help the economy! Could that be right?

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