The End of a Pint and a Fag?

I can understand people not wanting smoking in restaurants but what possible objection can there be to pubs being allowed to have smoking and non-smoking areas if they wish?

Yet according to the Observer today the government is minded to ban smoking in all ‘public places’:

(John) Reid, a former smoker, had mooted the idea of a ban, but exempting pubs that didn’t serve food. But the consultation document is understood to discuss whether a full ban in all public places – including pubs – would be easier and cheaper to impose. It is understood Downing Street now feels this offers the most practical way forward.

It might well be easier and cheaper to impose but that doesn’t make it right. There are two points that should be considered here:

First of all – if a group of people enjoy having a cigarette with a drink then what is wrong with that? Those who don’t like smoke can go in a no-smoking area and not be effected at all. Banning smoking at the bar area (common informal practice in many European countries) would get rid of the concern that staff would be affected by secondary smoke. We smokers have got used to having to huddle in designated areas in airports and other places and I am sure we could cope (and so could everyone else) by doing so in pubs. Also what would be wrong in leaving some pubs to go non-smoking and others to remain free to smokers? I thought this government liked the market?

Second – what will the impact of a blanket ban be? There are thousands of pubs, particularly in small communities and villages, which are struggling to survive. Given that many people will opt to stay at home and have a few beers with friends in the last remaining environment where they can choose whether or not smoke, you can be sure that many pubs will go to the wall. They will close because government decided that they know the pub’s customers better than the pub owners.

The same will go for many other establishments – why should I take my morning cup of tea in a greasy spoon if the owner is to be forced to stop me having a fag with my brew? I think I’ll have a fry-up at home where no-one can stop me from enjoying a cigarette afterwards.

A blanket ban will be bad news for a lot of businesses but it would be bad for society too. Such a ban will encourage thousands of people to stay at home at a time when so many are lamenting the decline of community spirit.

I think the government might be in for a shock with this. The average Brit might accept ID cards, congestion charges and other infringements of individual liberty but take away his or her right to have a pint and a fag down the boozer and you might just discover the line you shouldn’t have crossed.