Stick this in your pipe and...

Government both local and central have a knee-jerk reaction to smoking-related problems. It's becoming a real drag...

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Are smokers a pain in the... butt?
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Christiana Hambro
On 6 July 2011 09:38

Last week, a local councillor in Stony Stratford announced that he intends to initiate legislation which would ban smoking in all public areas in the town. Councillor Paul Bartlett has argued that,

"Stony Stratford is a historic town which is blighted by cigarette butts… The plan that I am trying to put forward is for smoking to be banned in public in the High Street, surrounding streets, and preferably elsewhere as well… Why should people be able to smoke in my face?"

He certainly seems like a man on a mission. However, the reasoning he gives for his point of view could surely be solved without resorting to a full on public ban.

Most notably, the problem of cigarette butts is much more of a litter issue and could simply be improved with very little effort by providing more bins in the town, rather than banning smoking. Councillor Bartlett may wish to take notice of Hammersmith and Fulham’s innovative measures to address this problem, resulting in a 40 percent reduction in cigarette litter in just a few months in early 2010.

Furthermore, if Mr. Bartlett’s plan is passed, smokers lighting up on the streets of Stony Stratford could face on-the-spot fines and this would mean more work for an already overstretched police force.

At this time of austerity, I think most people would rather the police of Stony Stratford were focusing on more critical areas of law enforcement. A quick look at crime figures for the area show that they already seem to have their hands full.

Obviously there is an issue when it comes to passive smoking, particularly where children are concerned. Whilst many studies have been done on this topic, a number of reports have been criticised and accused of overstating the effects of passive smoking.

Despite this, a study produced by the World Health Organisation, at the end of last year, estimated that, worldwide, nearly 165,000 children die of smoke-related respiratory infections every year. 

Furthermore, the report found that children were more exposed to smoke than any other group and, crucially, that this exposure occurred, ‘principally in their own homes.’

Surely, the primary concern here should be to ensure that children aren’t heavily exposed to passive smoking. It therefore strikes me as counterproductive that people should be campaigning to create a situation whereby one’s home will be the only place they can legally smoke.

Surely, if we ban smoking in pubs, cars, and outside in public spaces, the only place left where people will be allowed to smoke is in their own homes, with their children.

Readers may find it interesting to discover that I hate cigarettes. I am not just a non-smoker; I have actually never smoked in my life – I am in fact allergic tobacco. I too, like Councillor Bartlett, hate smoke being blown in my face. However, despite personally benefiting from many aspects of the smoking ban, I am opposed to it on a matter of principle.

Fundamentally, I believe that adults are capable of making their own choices in life, and yes, part of making choices is dealing with the consequences.  It seems unlikely that, in the age of vivid photos of blackened lungs gracing the covers of cigarette packets, smokers are unaware of the health issues associated with cigarettes.

Most things in life come with a risk and that goes for anything from skydiving to walking down the street. If people are aware of the risks and still chose to undertake an activity, I see no problem with that - it always struck me as ironic that the heaviest smokers at university were the medics.

Both on a practical and on a moral level, a ban on smoking in public spaces would be hugely detrimental. Contrary to much of the justification behind the move, it would not help protect children, but would instead make them more likely to suffer at home, in a confined space.

On a moral level, cigarettes have come to represent a key symbol of individual freedom against the state. The freedom to smoke is part of living in a free society; we must not vilify smokers and force them to retreat back to their homes and families every time they want to light up.

Christiana Hambro is the Development Manager for The Freedom Association

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