Thursday, 14 July 2011

A nanny superstate

In my previous post, I noted that our government is unnecessarily illiberal even by EU standards.

Though there are good reasons to resent the restrictions the EU imposes on us today, we should be even more concerned about their plans for the future.

The Eurocrats are in the process of harvesting bad laws from across the continent, and elevating them to the European level.

The smoking ban is a case in point. Here it is, straight from the Eurocrats themselves:

EU countries urged to pass tougher anti-smoking laws.

The commission is calling for an EU-wide ban on smoking in public places by 2012.

Currently all EU countries have regulations of some kind designed to protect people from second-hand smoke and its harmful effects. But the rules vary widely from country to country.

The UK and Ireland have the strictest laws - a complete ban on smoking in indoor workplaces and public places, including public restaurants and bars. Bulgaria is due to follow suit in 2010.

Greece, Italy, Malta, Sweden, Latvia, Finland, Slovenia, France and Holland have introduced smoke-free legislation that still allows special enclosed smoking rooms.

The EU is now proposing that uniform laws be drafted for all 27 countries to regulate smoking more strictly in public areas and workplaces.

Second-hand, or passive, smoke has been linked to heart disease and lung cancer. Back in 2002, some 19 000 non-smokers are thought to have died in the EU due to second-hand smoke at home or at work.

Tobacco is the leading avoidable cause of death in the EU, claiming some 650 000 lives a year. One in three Europeans - about 170 million - uses tobacco.

As part of a new anti-smoking campaign, the EU is inviting people to upload videos showing how they kicked the habit. Hundreds have responded and their work can be seen on the campaign website.

For a life without tobacco

Bad laws entrenched at the European level are much harder to repeal. If 51% of MPs wanted to reverse the UK smoking ban, they could do it tomorrow. But if 100% of British MEPs wanted to reverse an EU smoking ban, they wouldn't be anywhere close to a majority in the European Parliament.

British MEPs control just 72 seats out of 736 (9.8%). Even if they were united on an issue, they would need to convince 297 of their European colleagues. For 60 million Britons to re-allow smoking in British pubs, we would need to consult the representatives of 440 million foreign residents, many of whom will never even visit Britain, much less live and work here.

Having sacrificed millions of lives in defence of our centuries-old freedoms, it is astounding that we have surrendered so much sovereignty without a shot being fired.

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