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Good intentions going up in smoke?

14 September 2011 by
Good intentions going up in smoke?

Antony Worrall Thompson is right to light up the case for smoking in designated areas, says Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock

Judging by the immediate reaction to Antony Worrall Thompson's campaign to petition the government to review the impact of the law that bans smoking in pubs and other licensed premises, he will garner a fair amount of support.

I know that many in our trade, including Caterer and Hotelkeeper itself, argued vigorously in favour of the ban before it came into force and I am among the ex-smokers who now appreciate clean air on my occasional saunters to the bar. Among publicans, however, there is clearly much bitterness as the ban has undoubtedly driven some of them out of business and pushed others to the brink.

There's little point in arguing in favour of a habit that kills people, let alone one that produces an objectionable pong for those outside its addictive clutches. But that is not what Worrall Thompson is saying. He wants our political masters to look at what the ban has actually brought about and I can't help agreeing with his logic.

The ban has forced those who smoke, currently a perfectly legal activity, to stand outside or stay at home instead of enjoying an evening with their friends in licensed, regulated comfort usually away from children.

It has crucified pubs and clubs in all parts of Britain and continues to do so. It is yet another example of the law of unintended consequences where an attempt to tackle one form of misery: death from passive smoking, has simply created a new one in its place: unemployment.

The management of our behaviour using legislation often seems to backfire, doesn't it? Older readers may recall how the Lord Chancellor's censorship of British theatre helped to produce the satirical boom, with performers finding clever ways to get round the rules using innuendo and mockery.

Drugs are banned in prison but by all accounts are in lavish supply there if you know how to pay for them. We work on a farm and sometimes see a colourful hunt race across the land, looking to the casual observer exactly like the crowd in pursuit of foxes we used to watch pre Blair & Co.

The word that features in a lot of the reaction to Worrall Thompson's crusade is choice. Shouldn't well informed adults have a choice if the market is able to provide one? We can choose whether or not to drink alcohol, eat saturated fats or climb scary mountains. Why shouldn't we choose whether or not we wish to allow smoking in a designated part of our pub or club if that's what customers want?

I don't suppose the petition has a cat in hell's chance of reversing the ban but I think it's right to pose the question before similar liberties are lost forever.

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Antony Worrall Thompson launches petition for smoking ban review >>

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