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October 03, 2005


Andrew Duffin

None of your proposed alternatives would actually stop people smoking in pubs and bars. How on earth would you charge smokers more, anyway?

This is one case where it's "principles be damned" - bring on the ban, the sooner the better. I want to be able to go for a pint wihout my eyes stinging and my voice going hoarse and my clothes stinking.


Congrats to A. Duffin for a precise statement of why smoking in bars and restaurants is objectionable, without wandering off into the uncertain health effects of passive smoking. Mind you, to turn me back into a pub-goer, they're going to have to ban bloody recorded music too.

Paddy Carter

Isn't this an example of a market failure of some sort? I'm just making assumptions here, so I could be plain wrong - but aren't there very many non-smokers who would prefer smoke free pubs? Enough demand, one might have thought, for many successful smoke-free pubs to have sprung up? But few non-smokers wish to exclude their smoker friends (going to a pub is supposed to be an easy going sort of affair, after all) so pubs stay smoking by default, even though only a minority really want things that way.

It's all very well saying this ought to be symmetrical (why aren't smokers equally reluctant to exclude their non-smoking friends with their obnoxious smoking) but life's not like that.

This is not to argue that state intervention is necessarily the solution, just that letting people ('the market') sort things out of their own free will might not always lead to an optimal outcome.

Are there other example of this sort of thing? (assuming I'm not just talking shite)

John East

Paddy says, "...aren't there very many non-smokers who would prefer smoke free pubs? Enough demand, one might have thought, for many successful smoke-free pubs to have sprung up?...letting people ('the market') sort things out of their own free will might not always lead to an optimal outcome."

I think your lack of faith in the market is unfounded. The fact that the market doesn't give you what you think it should is not proof that free markets don't work. Don't you think it's more likely that you have misinterpreted what "the market" wants? I know of several pubs in my town, and I’ve read reports in the media of others nationwide that introduced smoking bans only to reverse them once they were staring bankruptcy in the face. Your image of a majority wanting smoke free pubs, but somehow lacking the backbone to stand up for what they want is fanciful. If there was a desire, the market would satisfy it.
You should also ponder the implications of a society driven, not by the random supply and demand of free markets, but by diktat from lobby groups, do gooders, and control freaks who would jump at the chance to tell you how to run your life (Nulabour?). Would you really prefer this? Andrew Duffin seems to fit this category with his comment, "This is one case where it's "principles be damned" - bring on the ban..."

Andrew, would you find it unacceptable if pubs provided areas for smokers such that non-smokers, and bar staff were protected against passive smoking. I ask this because it’s always at this point in the debate that a control freak suddenly changes the argument from, “I must be protected from passive smoking” to one of two new arguments, “I must protect the smokers from themselves”, or "They cost the NHS too much". Which argument are you going to fall back on?

Paddy Carter

John I think you have misread me. First of all I said that I was making an assumption that could be plain wrong: that a majority would prefer smoke free pubs. Second, nowhere did I suggest intervention of any sort is desirable. Thirdly your observation that the pubs in your town reversed their no-smoking policies in response to falling trade is entirely consinstent with my hypothesis. The point of it, in fact.


The economic failure is this though:
Smokers drink more than non-smokers and also have more friends and sexual partners*. Women who smoke are more sexually licentious.

So for a variety of reasons if there's a choice between going to a pub with or without smoking, people will pick the smoking pub (to pick up loose women, because their smoking friends are there, to not be around the middle-aged men doing their crossword like dearieme)..

Once the choice is removed, people won't complain. No bar worker has ever got any illness from breathing alcohol fumes :P
I think Chris is clutching at Jack Straws over reasons to oppose a smoking ban.

*Smokers have smaller penises, more chance of erectile dysfunction, so this is probably a mixture of pyschological compensation and the fact they never get second dates. Note the use of footnotes in the style of Chris himself!

John East

Paddy, I enjoy putting up a robust argument if favour of freedom of choice, but I am in little doubt that the powers of compulsion will win out in the end.

Concepts of freedom, personal responsibility, and accountability are increasingly being seen as quaint Victorian abstractions to be replaced by the baying mob of the democratic majority. We all have "rights" now, and to hell with anybody else.
I would recommend that members of the ban smoking club consider what will happen next, once victory has been secured. Do they imagine that the vocal “ban this, ban that” minority will hang up their jackboots and cattle prods, or will these people move on to the next evil in society. Don’t forget that many of these crusaders are driven not by a love of their fellow man, but by their love of the control of their fellow man.
How about alcohol. All the same arguments apply against booze as against smoking including the personal health problems, drain on the NHS, and even “passive drinking” (Spouse abuse, child neglect, crime etc.).

Paddy Carter


I am not a member of the ban smoking club (although I would prefer smoke free pubs) but I will take up your challenge and consider what would happen next if the baying democratic majority ban-this-ban-that minority everybody has rights but to hell with your rights crusaders were to succeed in banning smoking.

there would be lower incidences of smoking related diseases. Some smokers would be displeased, some non-smokers would be pleased.

but I am facetious. what would they ban next, high on the vapours of success?

you suggest alcohol.

indulge me by plucking a number from the air - if smoking is banned, what's your assessment of the probability that the government would then go on to ban alcohol. Say, within the next 50 years.

me, I'm giving that a 0.05% probabilty

I think you can afford to relax a bit.

John East

You're correct Paddy, there is no doubt that I (and probably you) will be long dead before any alcohol ban appears. It would also require a continued drift in the direction of the nanny state, and it remains to be seen if there will be a backlash against government control of more and more aspects of our lives that we see today. However, I would remind you that in the 1950's the notion of banning smoking in pubs and bars would have been considered equally unthinkable. Now it is near to reality.

Andrew Duffin

John East, I accept your strictures, but I did say this was the ONE case where I was prepared to jettison my (normally impeccably libertarian) principles.

No I would not object if there were genuinely smoke-free areas in pubs, but I just have that feeling they would be based on 50%-effective technology and/or 10% effective procedures, and would not really be smoke-free at all.

On market failures, consider that the village where I stay is small (pop. 600). Frankly we're lucky that we still have one pub left. There's simply no way the landlord's going to make it smoke-free (or invest properly in making part of it smoke-free) when his competitors may well not do the same. He would lose custom as a result, and he can't afford to lose ANY, even if he gains mine as a result.

The best answer, I guess, is for smokers to be treated like drunk drivers, and to be so embarrassed and ashamed of the vile pongs and poisonous atmosphere they cause, that everyone voluntarily stops smoking in public.

Fat chance, I reckon.

btw I still think the whole secondary smoking health risk thing is nonsense. It's an argument we're doomed to lose, so I don't deploy it.

John East

The small village pub example you gave illustrates the difficulties which arise in special cases like this. I would imagine that if left up to the landlord and the local community a much more satisfactory outcome is likely to result than relying on the wisdom of central government. However, this is a special case, and should not influence how the country deals with this issue.
I'm convinced that for the vast majority living in towns and cities that either a selective ban (some smoking/some non-smoking pubs), or better still legislating for smoke free areas in all pubs is the best way forwards.
To suggest that smoke free areas wouldn't work is often used by anti-smokers who usually have more interest in persecuting smokers than in securing smoke free areas. (I'm not accusing you of this motive, just speaking generally). Technology to monitor smoke levels is freely available and inexpensive, and there is no shortage of town hall bureaucrats and inspectors who would relish the prospect of enforcing such regulations.

Innocent Abroad

Well, Andrew, I'm sure that the first conviction for smoking and driving at the same time can't be far away...

What I'm really looking forward to is the first social worker to refuse to do home visits on clients who smoke (because she's got a legal right to a smoke-free work environment). BTW, the standard private sector tenancy agreement now includes a clause prohibiting smoking.

John S

As far as restaurants bars and clubs are concerned, I think it is individual businesses that should be allowed to choose if they allow smoking or not, and there should be a provision given to businesses to make the transition so that both non-smoker and smoking customers can be accomodated. I myself have switched to an e-cig, so I dont have to worry about the bans. But I still think smoker's and business owners rights should not be trampled on. The brand that I like has a lot of info about e-cigs in general on their website - thevapormaster.com

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