The smoking ban: what a drag

I VOTED against a complete ban on smolking in public places and opted instead for what was actually in Labour’s manifesto in 2005 – a ban in those places which serve food. I think that was a reasonable compromise, although I accept it would have been difficult to enforce in practice.

Before I say what I’m going to say (and it’s not something I could easily have said while a minister), let me lay out my credentials: I’m a non-smoker and always have been (apart from a few ill-judged attempts to look cool while on holiday in Prague years ago – long story involving lots of nausea). I was brought up in a house where both parents chain-smoked and my mother died of lung cancer at the relatively young age of 70. So I have no love for the weed, I hope that’s clear.

But the Department of Health recently held a consultation on whether the smoking ban should be extended into people’s private vehicles and homes. Now, I know this caused a great deal of perfectly understandable outrage among a lot of people. So let me make this clear: the government will not, under any circumstances, legislate to stop people smoking in private. It would be a crazy move and, believe it or not, ministers are not crazy people – they’re politicians and they recognise political realities.

And if they did attempt to legislate in this direction, I would risk the wrath of those who don’t believe Scottish MPs should vote on English matters by voting against it.

But as I say, I won’t need to, because it’s not going to happen.

Which leads me to ask the question: why on earth consult on such a move in the first place? We end up getting all the grief for absolutely no political gain.

Anyway, hat-tip to Iain Dale for raising this matter today.



Filed under Banned, Government, Labour, Parliament

27 responses to “The smoking ban: what a drag

  1. davidc

    1 sadly tom, stupidity has never been a bar to public office.

    2 when in a hole stop digging (d healey) but this excellent advice seems to be ignored these days with the results we can all see !

  2. It’s highly unlikely to happen but there seems to be a reasonable case for telling people not to smoke at home if they have children. Similarly there was a bloke on Wireless Five this morning risking the wrath of the no-nanny-state / absolute-freedom brigades by suggesting, perfectly reasonably I thought, that letting one’s children get obese is as bad as malnourishing them.

    It seems eminently reasonable to me that the nation should take an interest in the health and wellbeing of its children.

    There is this awful idea around that children are, in effect, their parents’ possessions to do with as they like rather than human beings in their own right. There is arguably more legislation about how people should treat their pets than about how they should treat their children…

  3. richard

    Given Labour’s predilection for ignoring manifesto committments nothing would surprise me at this stage.

    The fact that pubs are shutting down at a rate of approx 1 per day (+ bingo halls at a rate of 1 per week) is testament to the fact that the ban on smoking was ill-conceived and has massively damaged the hospitality and gaming industry.

    We were told that it would boost pub attendance but the simple truth is that many smokers would rather stay at home, not to mention the collateral damage caused by home-drinking and the use of outdoor heaters.

    I can only hope that an incoming Conservative government will take a more sensible attitude…

  4. Zorro

    Tom, It’s very good to hear an MP and very recent minister say something so very sensible.

    I have to re-iterate your own question though. If you’re so sure they wouldn’t dare do such a thing, why go tto the bother of consulting? How much does all this consulting cost?


  5. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom you are so right ( not wing that is). We were in a pub the other day it was empty as everyone was in the garden with their smoking friends. I think it is so sad that more accomodation was not given to smokers. They have changed it in Germany, as I knew they would, so small bussiness are not bound by the law.
    Its this sort of thing that has done for the Labour government. So much is not what we want.
    I to am a non smoker by the way. Appart from my monti cristo cigars now and again. Why do you interfear in peoples lives so much you just cannot leave things alone. This is not what a British government should be about.

  6. I was thinking about this issue last night as I read the local paper… “Smoking teams begin” – basically FOUR ‘anti-smoking enforcement officers’ have been appointed by the council to ‘ensure smoking restrictions in enclosed public places and vehicles are obeyed’. Each officer has the ‘power’ to fine individuals £50 and companies £200.

    This town has just 11,000 people, so probably fewer than 3,000 smokers. It is a ferry port, so I expect these ‘enforcement’ officers will be eagerly awaiting each ship docking, salivating at the thought of catching a lorry driver have that cigarette in his cab that he wasn’t allowed on the boat.

    I have kept a copy of the local paper from June. On the front page is a headline, “Bin your butts and keep out of court” and two pictures of the same man wearing a blue T-shirt.

    On the front in large letters it says:


    And on the back, a picture of a cigarette end and the words:

    £50 FINE

    Council employees walked round town handing smokers Stubbi pouches for extinguishing cigarette ends.

    There was also a warning in the paper that if the person dropping a cigarette end ended up in court, a fine of £2,500 and a criminal record could be the reward.

    Next to this article on the front page is the headline “Youth group will shut after staff funds run out”. Society getting its priorities wrong as usual.

    In my opinion, it is not about health anymore, it is about:

    a) inventing crimes to raise revenue from fines and more worryingly,

    b) letting the public know we are being monitored (the dog-fouling warden up the road has a video camera fitted to his cap).

    As much as I hate litter (I really do) and I don’t want to step in dog poop (honestly), but I don’t want to live in a country full of snoopers. It is not a price worth paying.

    Oh, the newspaper says that cigarette ends can take up to two years to decompose.

    Mightn’t the council be better off employing these ‘enforcement officers’ by giving them a brush and shovel?

    Only in the real world where public servants serve the public, not wage war on us.

  7. joe bonanno

    So let me make this clear:
    Let me be quite clear that do I not like this phrase – ghastly politician-speak. When people speak in cliches I assume they think in cliches.

    Message to you and your colleagues – instead of saying, ‘let me make this clear’, or similar, just…be clear. It’s not hard. Rant over.

  8. joe bonanno

    in Labour’s manifesto in 2005 – a ban in those places which serve food. I think that was a reasonable compromise
    ‘reasonable compromise’, my keister. That was all about exempting that focal point of Labour’s heartlands, the Working Men’s Clubs form the legislation. How sad it was to hear Patronising Pat the (alleged) Secretary of State for Health pretend that somehow the argument to exempt members’ clubs was finely balanced. And then to hear Reid bore on about ‘the working man’ and his fag and his pint.

    If (as we are told) the measure was introduced to protect the health of employees, God alone knows how one could make a ‘finely balanced’ argument that the presence of food or otherwise makes a blind bit of difference.

  9. Madasafish

    I don’t know how much thsi is costing the Department of Health…. but it is a waste of a time of strain on finances.

    Someone should be fired … but will no doubt not be…

    Typical government waste.

  10. I live in Munich at the moment and you can still smoke in certain bars, these bars just have to apply to the city council to become smoking clubs, it seems to work well, you can make a choice where you go, if you want to have a smoke and a drink you can.

    My sister in law is a singer in northern ‘clubland’ in the UK and the smoking ban has not only decimated ‘clubland’ but also her livelihood. Nice one Caroline Flint et al.

  11. Johnny Norfolk


    The problems the Labour party had in the past is because they basicly only represented trade unions.A minority group. Today the trade unions have a little less say, so Labour has switched to other minority groups, anti smoking, anti hunting, anti car, anti rubish removal, etc the list goes on and on. What you have totaly failed to do is represent the silent majority ie the workers and tax payers. That is why you have the problems to day. oh yes anti England,anti freedom, anti plane,

  12. Johnny Norfolk

    Oh I see you now want a smacking ban. There is a huge difference in smacking and realy hurting children. You are now taking over from parents to bring up their children. Just leave it alone, stop it.
    It just makes you sick.

  13. Chris' Wills

    Brian Hughes,
    …………It seems eminently reasonable to me that the nation should take an interest in the health and wellbeing of its children…………

    Children do not belong to the State, heavens do you want all children raised by the loving hands of political quangos. Visions of Communism & Fascism are raised by such blithe statements.

    Children are the legal responsibility of their custodians (normally the parents) not jumped up state busy bodies.

    You know very well that the proposal will appear again this time with some NuLabor minister saying their pollls say that people want it.

    Statism at its crudest and, in your heart you know this is true, you have aided and abetted these interferences by supporting them (at least by your silence) when they get discussed and voted on.

  14. May I suggest that the increased prevalence of smoking at home is a direct consequence of the ban of smoking in public places?

  15. See also Philip Larkin’s famous “This Be The Verse”!

  16. Martin Cullip

    Right, this is going to be long, sorry, but hopefully still to the point.

    Nice to hear that you would stand up for my rights in my home and property Tom, I am sincerely grateful (that is not sarcasm, believe me). BUT … isn’t it an incredible situation where you should even feel the need to state that? Surely it should be a ‘given’ that an MP would do that!

    Here’s the problem, you said: “So let me make this clear: the government will not, under any circumstances, legislate to stop people smoking in private. It would be a crazy move and, believe it or not, ministers are not crazy people – they’re politicians and they recognise political realities”

    Unfortunately, THIS Government ARE crazy, they DO NOT seem to recognise political realities, for example, Alan Johnson on the smoking ban’s impact on pubs “There has been little negative impact on the hospitality industry, in fact, we have seen a largely positive effect”. Errr? Here’s the figures Alan. In 2005; 102 pubs closed, in 2006; 204 pubs closed, since the smoking ban, 2,500 pubs have closed. Tom, the fact that the smoking ban is decimating businesses IS a political reality, yet the likes of Alan Johnson can’t see it. Is he incompetent or a liar? It’s one of the two.

    Richard, above, touched on there being 1 pub closure a day. Actually, the BBPA have estimated that it is 36 per week! More than 5 per day!

    As Benjamin Gray rightly suggests, the increased prevalence of smoking in the home is a direct consequence of the ban. That is nothing but pure common sense. ASH agree, Amanda Sandford said in The People on Mar 9th 2008 “Last night anti-smoking pressure group ASH told The People that the Government’s public smoking ban had made the problem WORSE for children – because it encouraged parents to light up at home instead of in pubs. .. ASH campaigner Hannah (sic) Sandford said the smoking ban had put kids at greater risk. She said: ‘We now have a situation where adults are protected from second hand smoke but young children are not.’ ”

    See? It’s all Labour’s fault Tom, YOU did it. YOU are killing kids, say ASH. But hold on ….

    … when they were telling you that a smoking ban was incredibly important and the possibility of this consequence came up, they said it was a MYTH and the complete opposite (they told the same lie to the Scottish Assembly), they were still saying this just after the ban: “The YouGov survey by ASH, Asthma UK and The British Thoracic Society asked those who were exposed to smoke before and after the smoking legislation about their levels of exposure to secondhand smoke at home. The results found that exposure had significantly decreased as the law encouraged people to make homes smokefree”

    You see, whatever ASH say, Labour do. And we don’t know which lie they will be using to manipulate you from day to day. It depends what they want.

    They have been banging this drum since 1975, but it’s not till this bunch of idiots came to power that anyone gave them any creedence. NOW they have the ear of the most illiberal bunch of control freaks ever gathered in one place, they are hurriedly pushing every piece of legislation they can get through Labour before the Conservatives come in and stop the scorched earth policy nonsense.

    Labour even regurgitate ASH soundbites. This one was coined in 1985 “There is no safe level for secondhand smoke” (Everett Koop, US Surgeon General). And now “There is no safe level of exposure (to second hand smoke)” (Alan Johnson 2008)

    WOW! Amazing! A unique substance then. H&S has safe levels of exposure to every substance known to man or beast but apparently, there is no safe level for smoke. Or is that another lie? Or is he just spewing out the ASH line verbatim?

    I could give example after example but the one thing that is certain is that Alan Johnson, and all the other Labour MPs involved in Health are nothing but glove puppets to these people.

    Banning smoking in homes and cars WILL come in unless this Government is kicked out. ASH have got smoking banned in pubs, then the age raised to 18, then gruesome images on packets, next is fags under the counter, lain packaging and a ban on vending machines, and before the dust settles on that, they are now starting on banning it in cars and homes. Then will come parks, beaches and the street, then total prohibition.

    Labour will follow every instruction to the letter.

    … then onto alcohol.

  17. Martin Cullip

    Sorry, one addendum. That quote from Everett Koop that Alan Johnson is so keen on regularly spouting. It’s not the result of a study or scientific examination. It was his opinion. It was founded on nothing but his own prejudice.

    See, MPs don’t have to provide any evidence of what they say in public. In fact, the wilder the lie, the more they seem to be believed.

  18. richard

    “the BBPA have estimated that it is 36 [Pub closures] per week!”.

    I stand humbly corrected. Clearly the scale of the government’s idiocy is far greater than I first thought.

  19. I am a smoker and although I reluctantly accepted the ban in public places the fact remains that this government is going too far. Plenty of stick and not much carrot and there will be a backlash by smokers at some stage.

    As I said over on Iain Dale’s Diary this is one of those cases where ‘tyranny of the majority’ is becoming very applicable.

  20. Babs

    How could a ban in private homes ever be policed ? Totally ridiculous of course. More people smoke at home since the ban than ever before. Most of these people have children and since they can’t go out any more and smoke more children are getting smoke blown on them than before the ban.
    Makes the ban look rather stupid and the idiots that implemented it even stupider !!

  21. Mandyv

    Tom, it gets harder to believe in anything anymore, this Country gets scarier every day. I would like to believe that choice will be restored, ventilation/airfiltration and non-smoking venues ect.
    I have put my social life on hold, (along with many others) I take my holidays, where my “smokers money” is welcome, I know I am not alone with this either.
    Propaganda has always been ugly and people are fighting back. For the elderly who do not use the internet, I cannot begin to imagine how they feel, without a voice.
    Great comments and article, thank you

  22. John

    You do your Government an injustice! According to the consultation at, “The Government
    has no plans for smokefree legislation to be extended to private dwellings.” (para 3.102)

    But let me answer the question.

    Perhaps because we have a responsibility to children who are brought up to be smokers? In my professional capacity (hence my anonymity), I recently attended a dinner amongst Conservative doctors. All were saying what a wonderful step forwards the Government had taken to tackle smoking – and how heart disease and cancer deaths were falling as a result.

    We can’t stop adults smoking, but we can protect children. So isn’t this worthy of debate?

    I attended the launch today of the “Beyond Smoking Kills” report launched by Ash, the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK. At last some of these are reputable organisations whose opinion should be listened to.

    The report calls for measures to make it harder tor children to by cigarettes, such as an end to packs of 10 and an end to vending machines. It calls for more support for heavy smokers who want to give up – and who find the current alternatives insufficient to match their nicotine fix.

    And it calls for consideration of a ban on smoking in cars with children present. Worth doing? I don;t know. Worth debating? Yes.

  23. Put that light out!

    Don’t you know there’s a war (or two) on!

  24. Martin Cullip

    John said: “The report calls for measures to make it harder tor children to by cigarettes, such as an end to packs of 10 and an end to vending machines”

    If someone, anyone, can afford £2.50 for a pack of 10, do you seriously think that they won’t be able to save a bit more and pay £5? And if they do, don’t you think it is worse to have 20 at your disposal than 10? Stupid stupid stupid. They did this in Ireland and the average cigarettes smoked per day went UP from 16 to 17.

    End to vending machines? Why? I used one last night, I am 40 and make the choice to use them as a last resort (they’re bloody expensive). So I am to be punished because some kids get access to them?

    John. You are obviously a health professional and so bombarded with this utter nonsense on a daily basis so I can understand your state of brainwashing. The fact that you attended the launch of the latest ASH lunacy and posted about it at 7:50am proves you could even be an ASH employee as far as I know unless they hold their meetings before the sun comes up.

    I’d say you are a bit biased here.

    OK. Back to vending machines. Are you that shallow that the only thing you and ASH can think of is a complete ban on something that adults find useful and which is a business to some people? Obviously. So I shall educate you. In other countries, vending machines will only take credit cards which quite obviously can’t be applied for by minors. Other solutions include the machines taking tokens that are only available over the counter of the establishment for payment of the purchase price of the cigarettes. See? There are adequate controls already available if you have the common sense to apply them rather than just ban ban ban. As usual, new laws are not necessary, current ones can be enforced better.

    … just as there are multiple other solutions to the problem of smoking in pubs for those that don’t like it. It’s just that your sort don’t want a solution, you just don’t like it and your will must be satisfied.

    As for calling ASH & CRUK “reputable organisations”, are you talking about the ASH that said there would be no more smoking at home after the smoking ban so they could push it through, and then after the ban said there was more smoking at home as a result? And are you talking the same CRUK that regularly ask me to make my will out to them? If that’s reputable, I’d like to know what isn’t.

  25. Martin Cullip

    Oh yeah John, you also quoted this: “The Government
    has no plans for smokefree legislation to be extended to private dwellings.” (para 3.102)

    We’ve heard it all before from Labour.

    “A health department spokesman denied yesterday’s reports of a policy change: “The stories in today’s papers suggesting that the health secretary and the prime minister have decided to extend the proposals for banning smoking in public places are categorically untrue.

    “The consultation … will go no further than the proposals contained in the public health white paper set out last year. It will not contain proposals for a blanket ban.””

    Labour are completely trustworthy in everything they say, of course they are.

  26. Martin Cullip

    Sorry, but this occurred to me today. Why I haven’t noticed it before I don’t know. Perhaps all the lies are turning my head as well 😉

    “End to vending machines? Why? I used one last night, I am 40 and make the choice to use them as a last resort (they’re bloody expensive).”

    This is weird. Within the same legislation, Labour are going to tell us that packs of 10 being banned mean that kids can’t afford to buy fags, but at the same time tell us that banning vending machines will stop kids from buying them when they sell about 16 at over £6.

    Some logic that. Of course, it could be a load of typical control freak BS. Or perhaps the kids are NOT the target for this nonsense. A lie then.

  27. britishpolitics

    It would be nice to see any consulation remind people that the government collected £10.5bn last year from smokers. That is equivelent to 3% on the basic rate of tax if everyone gave up tomorrow. It is a pity, that this politically correct government sought to marginalise such a large proportion of the electorate with what ended up being new, draconian legislation, that went much further than it needed. The government compounds this action, with further moves at their peril.

    I did not advocate no action to protect non-smokers, in fact I was very much for a ban in the workplace and designated smoking areas, but in business I have always done this by vote and I can tell you that the majority of smokers supported such a ban, they did not have to be compelled. Moreover, in each place I put it to the vote, it was always a vote in favour of a workplace smoking ban. Why, because in my opinion, even prior to this governments intervention, the vast majority of smokers respected the space and rights of non-smokers, even if they resented being treated like lepers.

    Treating adults like children is likely to lead to a temper tantrum and no government, particularly one that is prone to look down its nose at the very people that are paying the bills, can afford to ignore the affects of such an action.

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