Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Dutch smoking ban partially repealed: BBC interviews all day

As reported here, the Netherlands has repealed its smoking ban for bars under seventy square metres with no employees. This has been announced with some media fanfare in the UK, with the question even being asked on air whether a partial revocation of the ban would work over here. (By over 'here', I mean the UK. I am sorry to say that this reversal in the fortunes of anti-tobacco has not been reported in the Scottish press [edit: see first comment]).

Interviews went on throughout the day. It started with a broadcast with Paul Greer interviewing Wiel Maessen and Cecilia Farren. The story in the clip is badly presented with nil research evident on how to spell Wiel's name or even what gender he is. But it's worth hearing the interview, in which Cecilia Farren (ASH) accuses opponents of smoking bans of conducting a campaign of terror. She also suggests that the tobacco-related interests of a single sympathetic MP outweigh the interests of around twelve hundred rebel bar owners, and are sufficient to characterise the reversal in the smoking ban as the result of tobacco industry lobbying.

A debate on Radio Five Live from 9 this morning (Nicky Campbell) was spirited and showed anything but consensus. Brian Binley MP, who has campaigned to reform the smoking ban, participated.

An interview on the World Service (start from 49) follows with Paul Greer interviewing Wiel and Southampton publican Simon Bell who runs Talking Heads and another pub in the city. Wiel explains the history of the ban's reversal, the huge losses that publicans had experienced following the ban. Simon Bell obligingly opines that the Dutch system would be adaptable to the UK provided that extraction and air cleaning were in place.

In The World Tonight (at 40.00), Paul Greer distresses Cecilia Farren by conducting a group interview inside a smoky pub. The locals' views reflect support for the move, commenting mostly on viability and an improved atmosphere, and the move is declared popular with English visitors. The landlady comments that people have clearly missed the experience of pub smoking and come into the bar because they see people smoking inside. Paul Greer again invites Simon Bell to reiterate that it would be possible in the UK to provide separate accommodation for smokers and non-smokers.

Finally BBC News 24 saw a head-on confrontation between Nick Hogan, the celebrated licensee of the Swan Inn in Bolton and the Swan with Two Necks in Chorley (both sadly now closed), and Paul Hooper of ASH. It happened at 9.30 pm, and is worth a look if anyone can find it. Nick does not flinch through Paul Hooper's denials that the smoking ban hit bars and the licensed trade, and his insistence that passive smoking kills and that heart attack rates have materially changed, but argues the point for a change in the law.

After a long day of interviews, Wiel's assessment surely gives grounds for optimism. The smoking ban and similar legislation are based on a failure to negotiate. The smoking ban has been defeated by people who know how to negotiate, and who will not allow doctrinaire attitudes to dominate. The solution to the smoking issue is not to be found in excluding part of the community but by actively resolving conflicting preferences. No solution that starts out by attempting to marginalise or denormalise is acceptable, and the Dutch have proved it.

What's the Dutch for Congratulations? Proficiat! And Cheers? Proost!


Belinda said...

BBC Radio Scotland covered the story this morning: (Good Morning Scotland) 1 hour 19 mins into the programme.

Belinda said...

Audience reaction same link: 1 hour 49 mins into the programme

Anonymous said...

The Morning Advertiser is also running the story.,BXFF,19L8DR,XR0T,1

Anonymous said...

Letters page of The Scotsman.

Dr. Brian Oblivion said...

Thanks for the links to the chat shows. And I'm happy to see that resistance hasn't died out in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Never give up

Never give in