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Just say no to the authoritarians

There is a new outfit calling itself the Smokers Liberation Front which is taking a no retreat, no surrender line regarding the ‘health fascists’ (taglines are: “No More Passive Smoking. Welcome to Active Smoking!” and “Separate & Ventilate. Don’t Legislate!”).

My view is that if you are on private property (and that includes businesses), and if the owners elect to allow smoking there and you think this could damage your health, feel free NOT to go in or take a job at that place. Simple really.

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41 comments to Just say no to the authoritarians

  • Bernie

    4. The SLF is militantly opposed to:

    Any form of repression via anti-smoking legislation which does not take into consideration the rights of smokers as individuals.

    Any institution of a public nature in which such repressive leglislation is enforced.

    Any public or private individual who is responsible for the implementation, enforcement or support of such a legislation.

    “Any public or private individual who is responsible for the implementation…. of such a legislation”

    Not such a good idea. I’m a smoker but I do not consider I have the right to smoke in someone else’s property without their permission. The issue is purely property rights and the diminution thereof.

    Having said that it is still good to see some opposition however misguided.

  • Bernie, my understanding of that line is that they oppose people who tell you that you can’t smoke on someone else’s property, regardless of what you and the property owner think about the matter. For example, the cop or “health inspector” who would put a bar owner out of business for allowing people to smoke, not the bar owner who is forced to ask people not to smoke even though he know it’s hurting his business.

  • My view is that if you are on private property (and that includes businesses), and if the owners elect to allow smoking there and you think this could damage your health, feel free NOT to go in or take a job at that place.

    Exactly. The problem seems to be that people seem to think that visiting bars and restaraunts is some sort of inalienable right and that the owners must cater to their whims.

  • Verity

    Interesting that the excessive and zealous authoritarianism of Blair and his thugocracy is inadvertently encouraging self-help organisations dedicated to defeating their legislative programme.

  • Apparently smoking is not going to be banned in prisons,so if one is desparate for a gasper,light up in a library,get fined,fail to pay the fine,get banged up and happily smoke yourself to death.

  • The point is that the new legislation is as oppressive to the private owners of establishments who would like to allow smoking – a perfectly legal habit – on their privately owned premises as it is to the smokers themselves.

    If I charged three quid to have tea in my lounge then I should have the right to permit smoking. I wouldn’t – it’s a disgusting habit and my wife would kill me – but I should be allowed to if I so wish.

    GM

  • Bernie

    Gary there is nothing whatever disgusting about tea drinking. Unless you mean strawberry, or some herbal concoction that goes well with crystals.

  • Paul Rattner

    Way back when Los Angeles banned smoking in bars there was widespread disobedience I remember going into a bar at the time and sitting down.

    The bartender saw the pack of cigarettes in my pocket and produced an ashtry. Pushing it forward to me, he said, “smoking is prohibited in here.”

    That was amusing for awhile, but the cops started fining bars that still permitted smoking. I doubt there are many left that dare flout the law.

    You brits are in for a treat if you can’t stop this nonsense. After your foul smoking habit is fixed, they’ll want to move onto other health improvements. Fried fish and potatos aren’t healthy either.

    I’m just waiting for a study that says airborne grease from fryers clogs the arteries of innocent bystanders. It’s coming–you’ll see!

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    Why is it only English speaking countries that get so caught up in trying to control each other’s behaviours? I simply can’t imagine the French trying to tell their fellow citizens where and when they might light up, or that it is unhygenic to allow dogs in restaurants. Continental Europeans may live in a socialist paradise, but at least they have a healthy attitude towards vices.

    It almost makes me want to take up smoking just so I can defy the stupid law.

  • Johnathan

    Brendan, interesting point. The French sometimes are much saner on these sorts of issues, though their record on civil liberties is not very good, to be polite about it.

    I think the Anglo-Saxon lust for such pettifogging controls stems from puritan Christianity. Not the whole explanation I know but the best one I can think of.

  • I have never understood why more businesses, off their own back, provide smoke free restaurants, bars etc – there’s certainly a market for it I’d say. Bizarre.

    And if there is a market failure – surely we can incentivise the market to provide a better balance of non-smoking values rather than ban smoking? seems more practical. e.g. local authorities could ensure that there are 30% or 50% of licensed premises that are not licensed to permit smoking. They could offer these licenses at a cost discount to the smoking ones.

  • “Not the whole explanation…” But a big part of it. Remember Monica? It could never happen in France:-)

  • snide

    And if there is a market failure

    Meaning not enough people do what YOU want? Not satisfying you is not a market failure.

  • Pete_London

    Angry Economist

    How’s about people stop poking their noses in and let proprietors decide how to run their own businesses?

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    I think the Anglo-Saxon lust for such pettifogging controls stems from puritan Christianity. Not the whole explanation I know but the best one I can think of.

    I don’t think it is just the French, most nations don’t even think about trying to legislate the activities of their citizens to the same extent as the English speaking nations.

    Does it perhaps stem from the differences between civil law and common law legal systems of individual liberty? I don’t have much knowledge of civil law, but the inheritance of the Napoleonic Code may have given much of Europe an advantage when it comes to liberty.

  • I don’t have much knowledge of civil law, but the inheritance of the Napoleonic Code may have given much of Europe an advantage when it comes to liberty.

    I would say quite the contrary. I think there is little to admire about Napoleonic Law. I think the problems are cultural: Anglosphere culture has much to commend it but it does have this nasty puritan segment which periodically becomes active.

  • rosignol

    Why is it only English speaking countries that get so caught up in trying to control each other’s behaviours?

    Where on earth did you get that idea? Trying to regulate individual behavior is something all governments do, if you don’t hear about it happening in other countries, it’s probably because such matters are not considered newsworthy enough to translate into a language you read.

  • MikeG

    The French government instituted a ban on smoking in bars years ago but the public just ignored it.

  • Sylvain Galineau

    Brendan, France is even more controlling of its citizens of their behavior. It’s just that there are so many rules nobody has the time to enforce half of them. Never mind that a lot of government employees smoke…

    And that’s why statism probably upsets more people in the U.S. or the U.K. than in France. The citizens of the former generally know that the new rule will be enforced. Citizens of the latter are less impressed by new regulation and will often wait for actual enforcement to protest.

  • The difference between France and the Anglosphere countries is that the Anglosphere lot are far more law-abiding. People generally actually pay attention to laws no matter how intrusive or daft. Of course, the more laws like this, the more temptation there is to break the law.

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    OK, so it’s been pointed out to me that the French love to legislate their citizen’s lives, but don’t actually bother enforcing it. Is a law not enforced really a law?

    Given a choice, I’d rather a state that was ineffectual in exerting force than one that has a highly efficient bureaucracy to enforce the law. It’s a pity that our socialist friends in Europe are paying more tax for an ineffective nanny state, whereas we in Britain, America and Australia are paying less for an effective nanny state.

    Of course, it goes without saying that I’d much rather the state keep the hell away from me.

    Vive la liberté

  • Verity

    France has begun to get serious and pettifogging about smoking and other mean-spirited little enforcements. When I first moved there, there were, of course, No Smoking signs up in the supermarkets. And Sorry – our animal friends cannot enter.

    But it was not unusual at all to see someone rooting around in the frozen food counters with a cigarette dangling out of their mouth, the ash falling on pizza boxes and packs of frozen peas. It never crossed the minds of any of the assistants to ask them to put their cigarette out. Nor was it unusual to see a dog being chauffered around in splendour in a supermarket trolley, surrounded with cans and bottles and frozen food and, quite likely, a loaf of unwrapped bread lying lightly against its side.

    Three years later, all that had changed – I think probably not at the behest of the French, who really didn’t give a stuff if there were a few dogs in the supermarket or if someone was walking around smoking, but to the pettifogging enforcers in Belgium. I think it is a N European – not necessarily Anglo-Saxon – problem. The N Europeans, and the Americans who have descended from them, love their rules.

    Unless something is causing visible harm or disturbance, the French themselves are very much a live and let live bunch. If you complain about something, they are likely to shrug and grimace in sympathy, while thinking, “What the hell was that all about?”

  • Barry Arrowsmith

    Isn’t the tobacco industry in France a nationalised concern? I seem to remember (admittedly from a few decades ago) that according to the official French mortality statistics of the time almost no-one died of lung cancer in France. To say otherwise might otherwise have affected sales – or embarrassed the government. Has this changed?

    Wonder if the UK government would be so keen to eliminate smoking if all the profits went to the exchequer? Unlikely, I think. They’d be expressing concern about unemployment figures instead. And note that no pressure at all is being placed on the manufacturers, they can continue to reap taxable profits – just so long as they sell their products elsewhere.

    Do I detect the fine aroma of hypochrisy?

  • JEM

    To get back to the subject of banning smoking in privately-owned publicly-accessible property–

    There is a precident from the not-so-very ancient past, which was the eventual acceptance of the ban on spitting in these sorts of place–and even in the street as well. The reason was, as with smoking, health related because the habit was considered a major factor in the spread of certain infectious diseases such as TB. The British campaign against public spitting began after WWI and was pretty much 100% accepted and effective by 1960. Spitoon sales had pretty much dried up by then…

    Anyone out there wanting to rehabilitate public spitting as an accceptible practice today?

    No. I thought not.

    Thus will it one day be with public smoking. Both are disgusting practices to be around. Both are unhealthy for both those who indulge and those around them. It is this public health concern that makes the ban morally legitimate. However, I don’t think criminalization is necessary or desirable. Anyone who believes they were subject to passive smoking in premises where smoking is illegal should be able to obtain substantial civii damages from the owner or operator of the premises. After a few successful claims along these lines, I’m pretty sure there would be no more smoking in bars, etc. –and with no need to involve the criminal law or the police in this.

  • JEM

    Wonder if the UK government would be so keen to eliminate smoking if all the profits went to the exchequer?

    Profits? Peanuts. Small change:-

    About 80% of the cost of a packet is one form of tax or another. Clearly that does go to the Exchequer, so (regrettfully(?) in this instance) the hypocracy argument does not stand.

  • Both are disgusting practices to be around.

    The do not go places where people smoke.

    Both are unhealthy for both those who indulge and those around them. It is this public health concern that makes the ban morally legitimate

    Your logic is flawed. Unlike TB, which can infect a passer-by on a public street, smoking on private property (such as a pub) cannot effect anyone who chooses not to enter that private property. It is a private health matter, not a public health one. There is nothing moral about the ban.

  • JEM

    The do not go places where people smoke…. Your logic is flawed.

    Sorry, you are wrong on this.

    Private premises that are accessable to the public constitute a very long list indeed; not just pubs & resuarants, but shops, shopping malls, railway stations, airports, theatres, cinema, hospitals, schools, hotels, libraries, etc., etc., etc. Pubs are NOT in a separate catagory from the rest of these. After all they are public houses, which under the terms of their licenses are open to the public so that if it is determined that passive smoking (say) is a public health hazard, smoking could no longer be justified in a pub any more than in any of these other places.

    In other words, it is not the ‘job’ of the non-smoker to segregate his or her self from the smoker, but the smoker’s ‘job’ to segregate his or her self from the non-smoker. One way to do this would be a private club, perhaps. Mind you, I’d hazzard a guess that eventually serving food or drink will be banned even there by the public health inspectors on the grounds of tobacco smoke contamination.

    No, in the end I think the pro-smoking argument is unwinnable, just like pro-spitting would be now.

  • Johnathan

    JEM, iff I run a boozer and the sign outside says: “No spitting, swearing, wearing of football shirts,” then I can do so. The property is mine, period. If would-be spitters or swearers are upset, they can go somewhere else. It is really pretty simple. There is no need to re-invent the rules of civil society or launch a bunch of lawsuits either.

  • Pete_London

    Wonder if the UK government would be so keen to eliminate smoking if all the profits went to the exchequer?

    The government doesn’t want to eliminate smoking in the least. As always with such people, the need is to show how concerned your earnest, bleeding heart is and that you’re doing something about it.

    Like fox hunting – where more foxes are being killed than before the hunt ban was introduced and in slower, more painful ways – the actual effects of ill-thought out, ignorant and vindictive legislation are of no consequence.

    So now the principle of private property is to take another one amidships, all because the simple-minded souls in government must be seen to do something, that’s all.

  • JEM

    The property is mine, period.

    At least in the UK, NOT ‘period’.

    A public house (‘pub’ for short) is public space. You may own it, but to operate it as a place where alcohol is sold, a license is necessary. Under the terms of that license, it is open to the public, so the rules regarding spitting–or smoking–are not determined by you but by the licensing authority.

  • So, JEM, since the licensing authority sets the rules regarding what is acceptable in a pub, is there any principled reason why that authority couldn’t ban on pub premises any statement that is derogatory of the current government? If not, why not?

    If you are willing to rest on a statement that speech is in principle different from other kinds of behavior such a smoking, I will pose a variation:

    It is illegal to bring into the pub any kind of written material that is derogatory to the current government. This would include wearing any clothing bearing such messages.

    My point is with respect to the licensing authority is that its authority is obviously not unlimited, and so any exercise of that authority, including to ban smoking, needs to be justified.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    R.C.Dean’s points to JEM are dead-on and cover a lot of ground. I’ll add a few more:

    It is of course regrettably true that the rights of property have been violated in this country by licenses etc. for years. That does not mean that further incursions are justified. Arguably, the ratchet needs to be pulled the other way.

    I also do not accept that just because a pub or a shop is a “licensed” premise that the State is entitled to dictate how people behave in it. After all, in a free market where there is plenty of choice, people can and do patronise places to their liking. Some pubs play loud music, some permit smoking, casual dress, etc, and others have restrictions on such things. That is how it should be a free society. Vive le difference.

    Property rights can be a solvent of conflict because they permit a plethora of different rules to suit different ways in which people want to associate with one another. There is no need for a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach of the sort being demanded by the UK government on smoking in pubs.

    The role of private property in resolving conflicts like this is one of its greatest attributes, and often ignored by the intolerant folk who want to ram their views down our throats.

  • John East

    Jem,
    You say, “……are unhealthy for both those who indulge and those around them. It is this public health concern that makes the ban morally legitimate.”

    Your argument applies equally to alcohol. Quite a few innocent people are murdered every year, not to mention countless hundreds assaulted, because of the effects of alcohol.

    Are you able to answer why one should be banned and the other not?

    Anyone fancy popping down the pub for a packet of crisps? (salt free, reduced fat of course) That’s all they will be selling soon.

  • Brian

    According to The Times today, smoking is to be banned in prisons in California, even for inmates on Death Row. The ban on smoking therefore clearly has nothing to do with health considerations. I wonder what the real reason is?

  • JEM

    R C Dean: So, JEM, since the licensing authority sets the rules regarding what is acceptable in a pub, is there any principled reason why that authority couldn’t ban on pub premises any statement that is derogatory of the current government? If not, why not?

    What people may do in a particluar location (eg., drink booze, smoke cigarettes, spit, etc.) and what they may say to each oher are entirely separate matters. We have had and by and large still do have this thing called, “free speech.”

    I was about so say I know of no case where restrictions have ever been placed on what people may say in a pub, and I’m pretty sure that is indeed true. However, i do recall that until I think about 20 years or so ago, singing certain partisan songs connected with the Republican and Loyalist sides of the Northern Irish Troubles were banned in pubs in Northern Ireland and the West of Scotland* because singing them tended to generate a riot or worse within minutes. But you could say what you like.

    * Because there were so many partisans for both sides of the Irish situation there, the same riot effect could be guaranteed.

    Johnathan Pearce: I also do not accept that just because a pub or a shop is a “licensed” premise that the State is entitled to dictate how people behave in it.

    But that is the entire and total purpose of the license in the first place. There is nothing new about this. In England, places where alcohol is sold to the public have been licensed by the local magistrates for at least five centuries. Even the Romans had a similar system, 2000 years ago.

    So I suggest you start accepting it. I doubt there has ever been any society with any pretention to be civilised that has not attempted to control drinking in some way or another for simple reasons of keeping the peace and keeping crime under control; why, in the US they even tried making alcohol consumption illegal entirely for a while–remember?

    John East: Your argument applies equally to alcohol. Are you able to answer why one should be banned and the other not?

    No, because that’s not what I’m saying. We are not talking about banning tobacco, just forbidding smoking in certain locations. Alcohol is already strictly prohibited in very many places. So there’s nothing new going on here.

  • Elaine

    My view is that if you are on private property (and that includes businesses), and if the owners elect to allow smoking there and you think this could damage your health, feel free NOT to go in or take a job at that place.

    I’m asthmatic & I agree fully with that statement. I use to be able to come to an agreement with the smokers I worked with if their smoking bothered me. Now, thanks to ex-smokers, I find smokers are much less approachable. They’re so use to being jumped on by those who don’t want any temptation around them.

  • Verity

    JEM – The heavy hand of the state doesn’t always work though, does it? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you one single word: Sweden.

  • rosignol

    OK, so it’s been pointed out to me that the French love to legislate their citizen’s lives, but don’t actually bother enforcing it. Is a law not enforced really a law?

    That is rather dependent on if someone in a position of authority is looking for an excuse to make someone’s life miserable.

  • JEM: but I do not accept that licencing is legitimate either. In highly alcohol regulating UK, drunkeness is far more of a problem than in more easy going Italy (for example). But then you do not actually think civil society either matters or works so your views are understandable.

  • I also could never understand the point of licensing of pubs and restaurants. But, I think some privetly owned public establishments should be regulated, and have smoking (and loud music, for that matter, which is very harmful to one’s hearing) banned. Supermarkets and hospitals come to mind. I am talking about places that people are likely to be forced to visit, as opposed to pubs, libraries or theaters that are normally visited as a result of choice, not of vital necessity.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    JEM, licensing, as I said has gone too far already and further intrusions into how places like pubs order their affairs are wrong. As others on this thread have said, at what point would you call a halt to all this nannying?

    Licensing has indeed been around a long time. So have many irksome assaults on property rights. Does not make it a good thing.

    You sound like an intolerant person who needs to realise that there more important things in life to defend than never breathing a whiff of baccy smoke.