It’s been over four years since the smoking ban in England came into effect, stopping anyone from smoking in all enclosed public places and enclosed work places. Similar bans had already been passed in the more heavily smoker proportioned countries of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, up to a year before.
Looking back on it now, the smoking ban was, for the majority, a pleasant law enactment. It freed public places, pubs and family-focused outdoor venues especially, from that whitish fog and powerfully intoxicating aroma – not a bad smell to be intoxicated by, to say the least, but you always knew that breathing in something akin to burning wasn’t going to be that great for you.
…the ban itself has played an insignificant part…
That aside, the ban highlighted the Labour government’s consistent and stringent nannying technique, “if it’s not good for every single person then ban it”, and was seen by many, smoker and non-smoker, as another encroachment on civil liberties. With the amount of publicity there is against smoking, the ban itself has played an insignificant part in actual smoker reduction.
So, it should come as no surprise that today cigarette vending machines have been banned in England – it’s going first this time – with a fine of £2,500 brought on any establishment that dares to stock them. In one sense, it isn’t a surprise; if the Labour government had still been in power, that is.
…undermined the pub’s status as a key source of interaction…
The thought that such a draconian and market-backward idea has been undertaken by a Conservative government is quite frightening: they are going against their own policy of strongly advocating choice and civil liberties, and they are torpedoing small businesses (clubs and bars) by banning a healthy source of income (last year 35 million cigarettes were sold in vending machines).
Cigarette vending machines aren’t going to affect non-smokers’ health, so that argument is invalid, and with only a small percentage (11%) of smoking teenagers buying cigarettes through them, it is hardly going to stop youth-smoking. In fact, it is far more likely that those who smoke, especially from a young age, will choose to buy cigarettes and alcohol elsewhere, usually for a lot less, and socialise away from a community hub. Over recent years, increases in alcohol prices and the smoking ban have undermined the pub’s status as a key source of interaction between generations, creating great cultural misunderstanding and disrespect, and this latest policy will indeed drive more people away.
…it is their choice and they want people to respect that.
It is about time UK governments stopped their regimes of vigorous social engineering. People not smoking causes a much greater problem for everyone, not only in terms of money – less people die prematurely and therefore burden the state in later life – but because it shows that we, as a population, are too uninterested in other people’ choices: everyone knows smoking is bad, some people try to give up, and there is more than enough help out there to get off it, but others don’t, it is their choice and they want people to respect that.
We, too often, give our lacklustre support to a government’s weak arguments because it is easier to agree than disagree. This is a social philosophy that we must rethink right away, or next time the government may sign away something that you really care about. Support people’s choices, even if you can’t always understand them, or they won’t support yours.