Friday, 25 March 2011

Smoking bans from Scotland to China

BBC News reports:
Experts have hailed Scotland's ban on smoking in public places as a "big public health success story", as its five-year anniversary approaches.
The ban spread to Wales on 2 April 2007, and England on 1 July 2007. The BBC will no doubt celebrate those anniversaries in due course. For now, they proudly declare that
There has been a 15% drop in hospital admissions among asthmatic children and a 17% fall in heart attacks among bar workers since the ban on 26 March 2006.
Now, I wouldn't trust these figures for a moment, but even if there was a strong causal relationship here, rather than a dubious correlation, I'd still be opposed to the smoking ban. I say this as a non-smoker.

Partly, there is the fact that whatever benefits we've seen must be weighed against the costs:

the Scottish Licensed Trade Association said the law change had resulted in the closure of hundreds of pubs and the loss of thousands of jobs.

Its chief executive, Paul Waterson, said the predicted upturn in new customers attracted by smoke-free pubs had "simply not materialised".

Mostly, though, I object to the ban as an unwarranted restriction of rights and freedoms: the right of proprietors to decide whether to allow smoking on their premises, and the freedom of adult customers to enjoy an indoor smoke in places that allow it.

A colleague visited China recently, and was stunned by the sight of people smoking in bars and restaurants. There were some respects, it seemed, in which the Chinese enjoyed more freedom than we British. Yesterday, though, the BBC was delighted to relay that this freedom will be imminently curtailed:
According to the Health Ministry, the new regulation will come into effect on 1 May in public places including buses, restaurants and bars.
The new regulations also include a ban on cigarette vending machines in public areas and a call for programmes to warn about the dangers of smoking.
As the Chinese gradually emerge from communism, it's a shame we can't provide a better role model.

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