Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Commentaries on five years of the Scottish smoking ban

Writing in the Herald, Harry Reid sticks his neck out by claiming that smoke-filled pubs are a sad loss in Scottish society. He takes a tour round places that he frequented pre-ban, and concludes:
The old Scottish pub was, emphatically, no place for a binge night out. It may have been filled with smoke, but it was also filled with wisdom, bonhomie, respect and – dare I use that often misused phrase – a sense of community.
(Yes he is right: we had a 'big society' before the public health community tore it apart.)
The best bars, and there were plenty of them, encouraged social cohesion. That can hardly be said of supermarkets, whatever their usefulness. 
Lindsay Moss's rather predictable piece interviews four people, 'smoker', 'publican' (against the ban), and 'doctor' and 'quitter' (supporting the ban), after the inevitably self-congratulatory comments from public health officials, Sheila Duffy of ASH Scotland and former public health minister Shona Robison. I can only agree with the comment from the smoker:
"The fact I have to go outside to have a cigarette is an irritation, but it's nothing compared to the sense of depression that there is no 'public' in Britain in terms of a public that organises its own affairs without having experts setting the agenda. [emphasis added]
(Who are these people?)

 We see all the boxes ticked, but the piece reads more like an extended press release from the tobacco control movement (albeit including some dissenting voices). A quitter supports the ban and won't let her husband smoke inside, and a doctor can't speak highly enough of the ban. Revolutionary stuff, but what about interviewing a health worker or non-smoker who opposes the ban, or even mention the chief constable who recently linked the smoking ban to increased domestic violence? The only people invited to criticise the ban are Forest, a smoker and a publican (and they would criticise, wouldn't they?)

(I prefer this as a comment on the fifth anniversary of the smoking ban in Scotland: it doesn't discuss Scotland but covers similar ground.)

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