So, here we are, exactly 10 years since the smoking bans were fully implemented across the whole of the United Kingdom. This started in Scotland on 26 March 2006, followed by Wales on 02 April 2007, then followed by Northern Ireland on 30 April 2007, then last of all in England on 01 July 2007. Also, exactly 10 years to this day, Network Rail banned smoking on all railway station platforms across England.
That day, relative to each country in the UK, was the day when smokers woke up to another strange parallel world where only the day before they could sit in a pub and have an uninterrupted conversation with a friend. A world before where smokers could go somewhere and spend a good 8 hours without ever having to leave the building, where smokers could go on a night out and enjoy the night out, and most of all, where smokers really looked forward to a night out. Suddenly pubs, social clubs, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, airports, offices and any other place away from the home became daunting and unwelcoming. Smokers could no longer relax anywhere and have not been able to since.
What people have forgotten is that, before smoking was legally banned here in the UK, it was already more or less banned voluntarily with a few exceptions. This meant that smoker’s needs could at least still be catered for. The leisure industry, being the industry for leisure, provided more for smokers, while the rest of places provided a few smoking rooms, but that was it. There were even some non-smoking pubs while others had no smoking sections. Today, anti-smokers will often dramatize how they had to put up with smoke so thick they would suffocate, though many of those same people would often choose to spend their holidays abroad in places where smoking is prevalent. They also chose to go out with their smoking friends instead of just going to a no smoking pub and then for some reason expected their smoking friends to cater for them. If they did not like smoking that much, then they obviously did not like smokers that much, so why did they have to insist on hanging around with smokers?
Pubs overnight became a fossil of what they once were, with bare tables devoid of ashtrays and customers. To ban smoking in a pub is to ban cakes at a tea parlour or popcorn at a cinema. A pub is a pub, not a hospital, gym or health spa. If someone is that pedantic about their health then they clearly should not be in a pub in the first place.
Members clubs suddenly had to force many of its elderly members to face the elements outside, apparently for their own health.
Nightclubs, irrespective of how they were before, ceased to have any real atmosphere or feel of hedonism, due to the nanny state making its presence known loud and clear. A nightclub could have the best DJs and the friendliest staff but it could not change the fact that smokers were no longer able to be themselves and let their hair down which is the whole point of a nightclub.
Restaurants and cafés no longer even had the option of providing a separate smoking area. Those on a social evening out could no longer end their meal with that gratifying cigarette or cigar with their coffee. Greasy spoon cafés could no longer offer a refuge to hard working manual labourers who smoke, and spend all their working hours outside bearing the elements.
Shisha café owners suddenly found themselves renting indoor floorspace which served no purpose.
Private functions such as weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries etc stopped being private functions, having been gate-crashed by the state.
Huge buildings became instruments of torture. No more could the smoker just nip off to the nearest smoking room or lounge. Office workers who smoked suddenly could no longer function normally during the day as they had to spend half their day navigating lifts and corridors. Airline passengers who smoked suddenly had to endure another 2 hours or more of stress on top of their flying time, as if that was not stressful enough. Train commuters in England could no longer have that needed cigarette before work while waiting for that delayed train, despite being in the open air.
On that day across pubs and restaurants, many non-smokers gloated to smokers as they pointed to the door. So, the smokers did what they had to do and took their pint or whatever else outside. The few pub owners who could afford to stay in business, did what they could, to ease the suffering, by building shelters with patio heaters. Soon the smokers found themselves once again stalked outside by all the non-smokers who had somehow got the strange idea that al-fresco was the latest must do fad. Now, again the zealots are laying yet another territorial claim, this time to the outdoors, though they would have no interest in drinking and dinning outdoors if it was not for the smokers being out there in the first place.
It was claimed at the time by those behind the UK smoking bans, including Deborah Arnott of ASH, that the smoking bans were not about persecuting smokers but were necessary to protect the health of all employees from the so-called dangers of “second hand smoke.” Deborah even reassured smokers by stating “Smokers should be allowed to carry on smoking if they want to, as long as the health of others is not put at risk” This is the same Deborah Arnott that now supports the banning of smoking outdoors. The same Deborah Arnott who is largely responsible for prison convicts and mental hospital patients being denied a smoke 24 hours a day 7 days a week and now also wants all new council housing tenants to have the same applied to them in their own home. Obviously, this was never about the so-called dangers of “second hand smoke” which, if true, could and can be easily solved with ventilation systems. No, this was to dehumanise smokers by displaying them out in the rain, snow and wind where non-smokers could see them from within the comforts of the “civilised world.”
Today, though many pubs have officially been closed down, pretty much all of the rest of them have unofficially closed down and reopened as restaurants and cafes that have a bar. The anti-smokers who said they would come flooding into pubs after the ban never liked pubs to begin with, with or without smoking, but they do seem like museum pubs where they don’t have to socialise with, what they see as, the local “riff-raff”, or anyone else for that matter, except for their own tiny group at their own table for the one hour a month.
Though many smokers claim they are now used to the smoking ban, many of those are just “social smokers” who probably would not even object to full tobacco prohibition, while in the meantime they thrive at play acting the role of naughty school children. Some smokers even have the cheek to claim the smoking ban is a good thing, as if somehow smoking outdoors will improve their health. Many other smokers have just simply forgotten the once good times and accepted their aggrieved lives in the same way Third World sweat shop workers accept theirs, as they do not know any better. The point is that this oppressive law was wrong then and it is wrong now; people’s attitudes may have changed towards tobacco but tobacco has still not changed. All in all, the smoking bans brought in a slight convenience of preference for the many while having no consideration for the few who have been left to somehow make the best of the unnecessary adversity imposed on them.
10 years has gone by and the challenges facing us at Freedom2Choose are much larger but we will not backtrack. Our stance remains the same. As before, we demand that the United Kingdom smoking bans are amended, so a balance is reached to be inclusive for both smokers and non-smokers.