Yeah butt, no butt

There’s no shortage of irony in the fact that smokers are set to become an endangered species by 2007. MPs voted yesterday to ban smoking in all ‘enclosed areas’, excluding private homes, residential care homes, hospitals, prisons and hotel bedrooms.

Thank you, oh mighty government, for not banning smoking in the confines of my own property! How magnanimous of you!

I’m in two minds about this subject. On the one hand, I understand the argument that people should be protected from smoking in their workplace and that, generally speaking, smoking should be discouraged wherever possible. Smokers (and I am one, on and off) are deluding themselves if they think that they have a ‘right’ to smoke – a nonsensical proposition, entirely negated by the ‘right’ of non-smokers not to have to share the secondary effects of their indulgence. You don’t have the ‘right’ to smoke any more than you have the ‘right’ to drink vinegar, cut off your own ears or nail your feet to the ground. These are all choices, not rights. Smoking, however, is a choice that has a deleterious effect on others, which creates an immediate conflict of interest. Speaking as someone who smokes but really wishes he didn’t, it’s probably a good thing that there’s one less place for me to do so now.

Then again, what we’ve got here is yet another example of our government treating its citizens (although technically we’re ‘subjects’, but that’s another rant for another time) like children. It’s the return of the ‘wagging finger’ government, which always knows best, making our decisions for us, which I find particularly nauseating as a liberal. Yes, this will benefit the health of people who work in bars and clubs. But again, these people are quite capable of making an informed choice whether to work in smoke-filled environments or not. Just as claustrophobics would probably not elect to work in a submarine, or people with a fear of heights would decide not to take that wire-walking job at the circus – if you don’t want to work in a smoky bar or restaurant, you don’t have to. And, if you’re a customer, you don’t have to frequent the establishment either. Surely individual choice is preferable to universal legislation?

So there you have it: two equally conflicting arguments and no actual decisive opinion. Maybe I should enter politics myself – I clearly have a thorough understanding of doublethink. And seeing as our government so often resembles Big Brother (see also the result on ID cards this week – I’ll be talking about this at some point soon too) this seems somehow appropriate.


Centrist. Atlanticist. Dry liberal. Anti-totalitarian. Post-ideological pragmatist. Child of The Enlightenment. Toucan.

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8 comments on “Yeah butt, no butt
  1. Geoff Champagne says:

    As another, casual ‘cigarette and a pint’ smoker, I for one will not be venturing outside the pub late on a Saturday night, freezing my Bensons off whilst I have a smoke, therefore I’m all for it. I was disappointed to hear though that they intend to ban it during the summer months. Why not at least wait until January when everyone’s trying to give up anyway?

  2. Laura says:

    I’m all for it, but on a totally selfish basis. The only place I smoke now is in the pub. I’ve stopped at home, at work, in the car etc. Bring on the ban. Although, perhaps legislation could allow for “smoking pubs” where staff can choose to work there but could also choose to work in non smoking pubs too. Like you say CS. It’s about choice non?

  3. Citizen Sane says:

    I agree with Geoff. Having the law come into affect on 1st Jan would be ideal as it would dovetail perfectly with all of us who give up after Christmas but crumble as soon as we go out for a beer.

    It should be about choice Laura, but our government prefers outright banning to accommodating choice.

  4. H says:

    Bizarrely – a word against choice!

    Choice, as an argument, is the retreat of any progressive liberal who has to choose between being progressive and being liberal and thinks it is ok to choose being liberal and hope that progress will sort itself out. Clearly we all recognise smoking is a huge threat to human health. So is murder. we don’t say that people have the right to choose whether they should murder people. We have laws which limit people’s freedoms for the greater good we don’t think twice about them. You are not allowed to have sexual relations with minors, even if those minors CHOOSE to have sex with you. Choice is not always the answer. Yes, people can choose not to work in a smoky environment, but then you are actually encouraging some people to put their finances before their health, and then in the end your taxes go to pay for that person’s emphysema – why can’t I choose that my taxes will not pay for the idiot choices of others? Sometimes, without being nannies, government’s job is to promote the public good. This is just one of those times.

  5. mAc Chaos says:

    Clearly we all recognise smoking is a huge threat to human health. So is murder. we don’t say that people have the right to choose whether they should murder people.

    Abortion comes to mind…

  6. ph says:

    I am also have contradictory views on this particular bill.
    However this ban seems to be just another in a long list of bans this government has adopted. The problem is that laws that are introduced without popular support (and by popular I mean acclaimed by those it effects) you are wasting your time.
    We have seen too many banning laws that are not policed, not accepted and ultimately make the law and the government look stupid.

  7. tafka PP says:

    Fabulous title to this post, btw.

  8. mAc Chaos says:

    I found this a relevant article in light of the smoking ban.

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