Monday, 17 May 2010

Smoke, Fish, and Football

I don't like smoking.

No, I'll rephrase that. I really detest smoking. It is, to my mind, a disgusting habit. The act itself produces a noxious smoke that (literally) turns my stomach. The after-effects of the act leave a pall over wherever it is done. The walls are left greasy, sticky, and brown, the air is left fetid, and many of the smokers are left yellow in tooth and claw, prone to belching out yet more of their malodorous effluent on the thankfully rare occasions on which they manage to summon the lung capacity necessary to breathe deeply. I can hardly believe that they enjoy it. I simply cannot understand why they pursue this habit.

So, obviously, I am wholly and utterly opposed to the smoking ban.

No, you read that right. I am opposed to the ban. The reason is quite simple; I have my own very excellent means of protecting myself from the (alleged) effects of second-hand smoke. I keep this means with me at all times. Indeed, you could say that it and I are joined at the hip.

Literally, joined at the hip; it consists of a pair of legs. Light up next to me, and I walk off. I leave. I take myself somewhere that the air is clear. I use my own personal freedom in order to allow others their own personal freedom. I have no more right to dictate their behaviour in public than they do mine. So no thanks, Nanny, I neither need nor want your protection from their smoke.

Why? The alert amongst you will have seen the reason already: I do not understand why they pursue this habit. Therefore, they must know something that I do not. It is quite possible that I am wrong and that they are right. Given that they are causing me no harm that I cannot reasonably avoid, it is wrong that I and others should prevent them.

Then, there are the inevitable side-effects of the ban, most of which you find being discussed over at Leg-Iron's place. Like all legal measures that are at heart wrong, the smoking ban needs a range of intrusive rules and has a range of undesirable consequences. As an example of the rules, take my office. It is non-smoking; it always has been. If anyone in the office were to light up, they would find themselves being ejected in short order. It therefore has an elegant brass sign on the front entrance; it bears the usual no-smoking sign, and is fitted neatly into the door frame. It is accompanied by a second no-smoking sign mandated by the legislation; large, white, obvious, and as ugly as it is unnecessary, I hate it. There because our old sign is slightly too small to comply with Nanny's rules, it stands there as a reminder to me that our own efforts do not count; they are are of no consequence. Only Nanny in Whitehall knows what sort of sign is adequate to stop people from smoking in my office.

Then, the side-effects. So many Brits go to the pub for a drink and a smoke. Now, they cannot. Did New Labour really think that they would obediently go the the pub for just a drink? If so, why? Everyone else knew that they would buy a drink from the off-licence and drink at home. So the pubs have shut. Well done, Nanny; you have been very effective in protecting me and the bar staff from second-hand smoke - I cannot go to the pub and they no longer have a job. Nice one.

Meanwhile, the smokers are at home. With their children, if they have sufficient fertility left. Oooh, that was clever - the bar staff who had a choice are protected, but the children who do not have a choice are not.

More seriously, there are plenty of other things that I find irritating. Football, for instance. Why, really, does it matter whether eleven men who you have never met and who did not grow up near the place where you probably weren't born managed to kick a ball into a net more often than eleven other similar men. Why? Why does it excite such passion, such excitement, such willingness to pay over the odds for brightly-coloured shirts that were never going to fit someone as unfit and overweight as the person who is usually wearing it?

Or fishing. The opportunity to spend all day sitting by a river waiting to inflict pain on an innocent fish. Sitting there, outdoors, in a peaceful enclave of English countryside, away from nagging wives and rowdy children ... oh, ok, fishing I can understand, but you get my point. There are plenty of things that I do not want to do and which I find annoying, but that is no reason to ban them - even if they hurt the people that do them.

If you don't agree with me, then take a good hard look at yourself and what you enjoy. Is there no-one that finds some aspect of your life annoying? If you can honestly answer that question with a "yes", then you either need to learn a little more self-criticism, or you need to get out more.


  1. I would like to agree with respect to the smoking ban. However, there have always been places where you can't simply get up and walk away. Like the railway station. Because no matter how many times you get up and walk off, someone else would always wander up and smoke near you. No amount of asking railway companies to stop smoking on platforms did anything - it was only when they were forced to by government to do so that they acted.

    Restaurants too used to exhibit signs of market 'failure'. Because restaurants feared telling some of their customers that they weren't allowed to smoke more than they were frightened of other customers not eating there. I once left a restaurant without paying because they didn't give me the no-smoking seat I had asked for (well, they did, only smoke tends to drift...). But I expect my particular brand of extreme pig-headedness is fairly rare.

    Instinctively, I feel that government wimped out and used 'elf and safety to bludgeon through a ban it was too timid to push through elsewhere. So, private businesses are no longer free to determine what's best for their staff and clientele. But in truly 'public places' such as streets and parks people can smoke with abandon. Given that my local council has already taken it upon itself to ban drinking in streets and parks, I wonder why government was scared of smokers. Meantime, I will continue my campaign to ban smoking in the local children's playground. Apparently that's what it will take to stop people doing it.

  2. I too am a non-smoker and opposed the ban. Most smokers that I know are considerate and would never have thought of lighting up near me if they thought it would cause offence. The pub I visited most frequently was very well ventilated, and unless someone was right next to me I rarely noticed the smoke. Now it looks as if it will close; the non-smoking customers like myself can't afford the increase in prices to compensate for the loss of profits from smoking customers, and without these profits the pub is no longer viable.

    I also detest the notices. Smoking indoors in public is now against the law. Why do we need signs? We don't have signs down the High Street saying "No mugging" or "No bag-snatching"; everyone knows they are against the law. So why single out smoking with "No smoking" signs.

  3. You mean to tell me you haven't put up this notice in your office?

    Given how many times we were told under the last government "No X!" or "No Y!" it's surprising they didn't just pass a law saying "No!"

  4. Yes, Albert, that notice is indeed pinned to the noticeboard in my office, and has been since I wrote that post.

    EP - my experience is the same. I'd much rather have the nice pub where the smoke is not really noticeable, than no pub at all.

    FCA - there is always a choice though. If the restaurant can't provide you with a pleasant atmosphere, you should leave. Don't think of yourself as pig-headed, think of yourself as a means of communicating to the restaurant how they can improve their service.

    I'll accept that train platforms are an example of something that is harder to avoid, but I financed my first car just from the cost of the weekly return ticket that I was buying to see the future Mrs P at the weekends. The trigger to buy it was a train journey where I was forced to stand for an hour in a smoking carriage. There is always a choice.

  5. It is not illegal to smoke in Football grounds as they are outwith the definition of " enclosed areas".

    The Football bosses have however bent to government and the anti-smoking lobby pressure and don't allow it, on threat of eviction from the ground.

    This situation is crazy when you consider the huge clouds of smoke produced when fireworks are set off in the ground, a cloud so thick that you can hardly see the fans never mind a lit cigarette.

    Come on Footy Smokers stand up and be counted.