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A thought on smoking bans

Just before Christmas, I spent a few days in Belgrade and Budapest. It was extremely cold, and I had quite a bad cough and sore throat. As a consequence, beautiful as these cities are when covered with snow, I was inclined to stay inside.

No real problem there. The Central Europeans almost invented the cafe, and the options varied from little places that you enter by stumbling down a set of stone steps that lead to a cozy basement, to huge, spacious places that have ceiling murals that appear to have gotten a little lost after being originally planned to decorate the Sistine Chapel. (These specific ones tend to be more in Budapest than Belgrade, The Austrian Empire persists).

In any event, in both cities, cafes, bars, restaurants and taverns seem to invariably be filled with smoke. I am not a smoker, and although I generally prefer a venue without tobacco smoke, I am capable of putting up with it. However, with my sore throat, being in a room full of smoke led to quite a bit of discomfort. It would have been nice to find a cafe which was not full of smoke.

Of course, home in London, there is a complete smoking ban in bars, cafes, and restaurants. I would have been fine, but a smoker looking for a place to smoke that was not his home and was not indoors would have been out of luck. One cannot smoke even in premises specifically designed for the benefit of smokers: smoking clubs and cigar clubs are essentially illegal. Proponents of anti-smoking laws who claim that an exception for smoking clubs would be taken advantage of to allow smoking in other venues are correct of course. In places (eg Bavaria) where there is a smoking ban and an exception for smoking clubs, paying what you think is a cover charge when entering a jazz club, and discovering later that you are now a fully paid up member of a smoking club is not an unknown experience. On the other hand, I am hard pressed to see how this matters. There is no shortage of genuinely non-smoking venues in Bavaria.

When I go to Spain, I find what appears to be a far more satisfactory experience. Spanish law does not impose a complete smoking ban in bars, restaurants etc. The law there states that large venues shall be non-smoking, but there may be a smoking room. With respect to small venues, the owner of the property may decide whether smoking is permitted or not, and there shall be a clear sign near the door stating whether it is.

I find this a very satisfactory outcome. If I want a non-smoking venue, I have little difficulty finding one. I doubt smokers have much difficulty finding a venue that allows smoking, either. If I am in a large party of people that contains both smokers and non-smokers, then I can be away from smoke and smokers are free to go off and have a smoke in the smoking room. If I am in a small party of people that contains both smokers and non-smokers, then we can choose our venue between us. The non-smokers can choose to put up with some smoke, or the smokers can decide to refrain from smoking indoors for the evening. Non-smokers can freely associate with smokers, or not, as they choose.

However, there is still a slight problem. The Spanish legislation is far less heavy-handed than the British legislation. Requiring cafe owners to put up signs indicating whether smoking is allowed is far less objectionable than forcing a non-smoking policy on everyone, willing or not. Allowing smoking rooms is less heavy handed than insisting that entire venues are non-smoking. However, there is still coercion. The owners of private property are not entirely free to run their businesses on that private property as they please.

My gut feeling is that a genuinely free market would result in a situation similar to that existing in Spain, without any coercion at all. Some venues will allow smoking, and some will not. Different customers will choose to patronise venues with different policies, and different venues will cater for these different customers. In short, greater freedom will lead to greater choice.

And yet, in places like Belgrade and Budapest, this is not what seems to happen. Virtually all venues allow smoking, and as a customer I have little choice. Do cultural factors overwhelm freedom? I certainly hope not. Or are there some other regulatory or legal factors that lead to uniformity rather than freedom. I would be interested in people’s opinions on the matter.

76 comments to A thought on smoking bans

  • SporkLift Driver

    Do cultural factors overwhelm freedom?

    Almost always.

    One reason we Americans are putting up with the loss of freedoms to government edict is that the edicts often only replace what society had already ordained.

  • Richard Thomas

    Without getting into the specifics of whether anti-smoking laws are right or wrong (they’re wrong), the simple fact is that if you exclude smokers from your establishment, you pre-emptively forfeit the custom of not only the smoker, but also their friends and associates. Since, for most people (without downplaying those who have serious health issues), the presence and effects of smoke are generally tolerable (particularly with decent ventilation), unilaterally banning smoking is (or is perceived to be) a losing proposition for establishments.

    The only way for it to occur naturally (other than in niche cases) is for smoking to drop below a “critical mass” such that banning it brings a net benefit to the establishment owner. Without legal intervention, this may very well be a chicken and egg problem.

  • Michael Gersh

    Freedom is the right to open a restaurant and create the environment of your choice. If cultural factors dictate that there are no customers for your environment, you have the freedom to go out of business. In Budapest they commonly have non-smoking areas in the larger restaurants, and while I have never seen one, I am sure that there are non-smoking establishments somewhere in town. I also heard that they are about to ban smoking in the larger restaurants, so prohibition marches on, even in Budapest.

  • Well no.

    In a free market, there would be none of this nonsense. You can’t just change one veriable; everything would change. You can only have a free market in a free society which is at least minarchist. In such a society there would have been no Temperance Movement, no mithering hypochondriacs, no concern about smoking, or drinking, or singing vulgar sea shanties in public, or anything else. People would just go to the pub and have a ciggie with their beer, and that’s it.

    Living under puritism, one striking element is how they redefine the social discourse, or whatever you want to call it. They bring in some fucking stupid thing that nobody wanted- smoking restrictions, drug bans, an “obscene displays act”, the “you can’t buy a beer after 11pm” bullshit, or a ban on shoes, or something, then it becomes fixed. It has this “may not be removed for the next thousand years” label on it, and afterwards people start talking about “well, what would we do instead?”; that is, they have accepted the utility of the Fucking Stupid Thing.

    “Well, what would you do about padded bras for 11 year olds?” say the Puritan Cunts, and we fall into lockstep and say, “oh well, in the free market there would be a choice for parents and economics and, gold standard, fractional reserve, something, something” isntead of saying “look, it doesn’t fucking matter, fuck off you obsessive compulsive, anal retentive bastards” which is the correct response.

    So, in a free society the answer is, nobody would care about smoking, and people with sore throats would realise that they are ill and need to be tucked up at home in bed with a hot toddy and that latest Harry Potter, and wouldn’t dare look so foolish as to mither about other people, because they would be laughed at and told to fuck off.

    That’s what would happen.

  • navy island

    The numerous bars on Broadway in Nashville Tennessee are either smoking or non-smoking. There are enough of each for some one to spend the evening bar hopping in the climate they want. As a smoker I’ll even pop into the non-smoking bars afor a while. It works out great leaving it up to the bar owners and patrons.

  • The other point here is religious and geographic. Countries like Spain and Belgrade are Catholic, or possibly Orthodox, I get a bit confused East the English Channel.

    Puritism is the most extreme form of a religious fundamentalism called Protestantism, which primarily affected the cold, wet, parts of Europe, because we were more miserable to start with. The Temperance Movement and all its brethren- greenism, anti-commercialism, anti-fattism, population controlism, breastmilkism, etc etc, are Protestant social formations; specifically Puritan formations, the Puritans having resurged in the ninteenth century in britain and spread like a ghastly virus across the Anglosphere.

    So that’s why it gets less daft as you go further East. We have a puritan heritage. They don’t. They had a counter-reformation thing, but it was a bit limp. Hence, game shows about tits routinely on the telly in Catholic Italy and Spain, and “what can we ban next, think of the children!” in Puritan England and America. And we’re the only fucking pathetic armpit of a nation that terrifies its citizens into standing in the pouring rain just to have a fucking cigarette.

    Pathetic bloody country, England. I’m really starting to detest it.

  • PaulH

    We had an essentially free market in smoking for hundreds of years (at least with regard to where you could smoke). In all that time I’m not aware that we arrived at a situation like Spain’s, and I’m not sure we’d ever expect to. Perhaps if I had equal freedom to spray Lynx deodorant in bars (a substance which, to the best of my knowledge, is not proven to be more harmful to an individual or others than smoke) we might arrive at such a situation. Either that or a lot of fights.

  • Kevin B

    The first time I had to go outside for a ciggy was in a Wetherspoons pub before the UK brought in the complete public smoking ban.

    For those who don’t know, Wetherspoons is a pub chain with outlets all over the UK. They decided first to try non-smoking areas in their bars and then go completely non-smoking.

    It worked for them, and then the banners came along. Perhaps W’s were doing too well and the government needed to ‘level the playing field’.

  • knirirr

    So, in a free society the answer is, nobody would care about smoking, …

    I suspect that quite a few people would object to tobacco smoke, although probably not enough for it to be generally considered to be worth accommodating them. At present it looks like we’re unlikely to find out.

  • James

    Do cultural factors overwhelm freedom?

    All the time.

  • Kevin, Wetherspoons are progressivists. They introduced a smoking ban before the State one, when it was already on its way, to win brownie points. They then withdrew their unilateral ban until the State one, due to a loss of sales. There is not, and never has been a signfiicant demand for smokeless pubs; mainly because the joyless shits who want them don’t pollute the temples of their bodies with beer, either.

    I suspect that quite a few people would object to tobacco smoke, although probably not enough for it to be generally considered to be worth accommodating them.

    Without the Temperance Movement with State backing, things would return to a tiny handful of miserable prune-faced arseholes, wrinkling their noses, and everybody else taking great delight in ignoring them.

  • Just to clarify, second part of above comment was address to knirrir, not kevin.

  • Phil J

    Kevin B-for your information Weatherspoons tried a self imposed smoking ban and it failed dismally which is why they knocked it on the head pronto. They tried the ban idea because Tim Martin was so far up Blairs a**e it seemed the PC thing to do! Now, Weatherspoons are getting by with selling breakfasts and turning pubs into all day cafes that happen to sell beer!

  • Petronius

    I think one reason smoke-free areas in cafes and bars failed was that, short of a hermetic seal, there is no effective way to keep the air from mixing.

    I think the edicts against smoking wouldn’t work if the general populace hadn’t already turned against smokers. Only about 22% of the adult populace smoke in the US, and the number won’t get much belos that. However, the tolerance of the other 78% has reduced dramatically. I am amazed how much burning crap I put up with breathing in various public venues in the past, as a non-smoker. Over here at least smoking is no longer respectable, and cigarette use is considered now akin to the use of chewing tobacco as a disgusting habit like nose-picking. That’s where the impetus is coming from.

  • Yes Petronius, the demonisation campaign has been highly successful. It’s how the bastards work. They learned from alcohol prohibition that they hadn’t done sufficient demonisation first, and it failed. The tobacco campaign has been successful thanks to years of villification which has successfully turned the weak-minded into Temperance footsoldiers.

    It works by increasing the general population’s arousal to a thing, until they come to believe that their hatred of it is their own idea. That’s where the “impetus comes from”. It’s a very easy technique; you play on people’s fears (in this case deep seated puritan fears regarding dirt etc) and keep pointing the thing out until hatred is engendered.

    It’s similar to the “look at the dirty Jews, they’re like lice” technique that was successfully implemented by some other evil people. In that case too, before long, the “impetus”was coming from the general population too. Hate is much easier to whip up than love and tolerance, history tells us.

  • Here’s the ever-prophetic GK Chesterton in 1922-

    Nothing marks this queer intermediate phase of industrialism more strangely than the fact that, while employers still claim the right to sack him like a stranger, they are already beginning to claim the right to supervise him like a son. Economically he can go and starve on the Embankment; but ethically and hygienically he must be controlled and coddled in the nursery. Government repudiates all responsibility for seeing that he gets bread. But it anxiously accepts all responsibility for seeing that he does not get beer. It passes an Insurance Act to force him to provide himself with medicine; but it is avowedly indifferent to whether he is able to provide himself with meals. Thus while the sack is inconsistent with the family, the supervision is really inconsistent with the sack. The whole thing is a tangled chain of contradictions. It is true that in the special and sacred text of scripture we are here considering, the smoking is forbidden on a general and public and not on a medicinal and private ground. But it is none the less relevant to remember that, as his masters have already proved that alcohol is a poison, they may soon prove that nicotine is a poison. And it is most significant of all that this sort of danger is even greater in what is called the new democracy of America than in what is called the old oligarchy of England. When I was in America, people were already “defending” tobacco. People who defend tobacco are on the road to proving that daylight is defensible, or that it is not really sinful to sneeze. In other words, they are quietly going mad.

    (My emphasis). We need to be clear that America has done more to drive the destruction of everyday liberties than any country on Earth; though Britain runs a spirited second. We are the puritan heartlands; the wellspring. If the new global civilisation is a terrible, antiseptic dystopia, we two nations will have been more to blame than any other.

  • Magnetic

    (cont’d)4

    Secondhand smoke, a hitherto background phenomenon, has been manufactured into a critical foreground phenomenon. The constant play on irrational fear through inflammatory propaganda promotes anxiety reactions, e.g., heart palpitations, chest tightness, throat irritation. The anxiety reactions which are psychogenic are then viewed by those that helped produce the psychogenic reactions as “evidence” for the physiological effects of SHS. Eugenicists have no scruples (although they constantly “moralize”). Their only interest is in how to effect a particular social change within the “herd”. Lies are standard fare for eugenicists, as long as this helps policy-makers choose the “right” policy. Individual autonomy, or honestly providing accurate information to the autonomous individual, does not exist in the eugenics framework.

    So, if you watch pre-1990 movies, there is no evidence that typical nonsmokers were bothered by ambient smoke whether it was cooking, heating or tobacco smoke. People dined with ambient smoke and were not bothered – it didn’t even come to mind. Yet a few decades of one-sided, unquestioned, inflammatory propaganda – a constant play on fear and bigotry – and there are now many that are utterly “bothered”, even “traumatized”, by any hint of SHS exposure. Even the “smell” now is overbearing. The shift has been entirely a psychological one. The eugenics onslaught has produced a bigotry bandwagon effect. The more people are “bothered”, the more “superior” they appear to the “inferior” smokers. Many societies have degenerated into dangerous superficiality.

  • expat with reason

    Had some personal experiencew with smoking bans long before the legislation.
    Rural village I lived in then had four pubs. Broadly speaking 2 catered to country folk & 2 catered to the commuting fraternity on the new housing estates. Not a great deal of mixing.
    Some of the more vociferous regulars in one of the commuter pubs got it into their heads that a smoking ban would improve the place & eventually convinced the landlord to give it a try. The first Friday night of the ban all the anti-smoking fanatics were complimenting themselves on the clean air & smokers were staying for a quick pint then sliding off to one of the other pubs. Saturday night the place was half empty. Just the no-smoking lobby really. By Sunday it was nearly empty. Not only had the smokers deserted it but most of the non-smokers had as well following their friends down the road. The smoking ban ended the next week.

    From this I come to the conclusion that the purpose of the ban has little to do with smokers freedom to enjoy a smoke free environment. When given the choice they don’t take it. It is about compelling smokers to adopt a different lifestyle irrespective of their wishes.

    And yes it is different further south if not east.
    Just enjoyed a few drinks in a local bar with the usual couple of cigarettes & on the way home enjoyed the services of a charming little blonde whore. 40€. She was happy. I was happy. And it’s fuck all to do with anyone else.

  • Magnetic

    I’m hoping that the webmaster will publish the first three parts of my post.

  • David

    Petronius – ‘I think the edicts against smoking wouldn’t work if the general populace hadn’t already turned against smokers.’

    The edicts are the leading causes of anti smoker sentiment. For example, the scaremongering BS that is ‘there is no safe level of exposure to ETS’. Or the latest crap re third hand smoke. Even by their corrupt standards the risks are barely measurable, if at all. Unfortunately most of the flock have swallowed the propaganda hook, line and sinker. What they fail to recognise is that the same criteria is now being applied to alcohol and diet. Sooner or later, unless people wake up, everyone will suffer from the relentless assault on personal liberty.

  • Magnetic

    See
    http://www.tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com
    for just the latest in antismoking lies coming from supposed “reputable” organizations such as the US Office of the Surgeon General. Many organizations (e.g., US Surgeon General, Royal Society of Physicians) have been aligned to the eugenics ideal of a “SmokeFree” world since the 1960s. As such, these organizations are propaganda outlets when it comes to tobacco. Their conduct is fraudulent because they are making propaganda appear as “scientific”. This fraud attracts obscene levels of funding and direct access to policy-making.

  • Magnetic

    For anyone interested in the origins (under the auspices of the World Health Organization) of the current antismoking crusade.
    See the Godber Blueprint
    http://www.rampant-antismoking.com

  • lukas

    I have observed that most non-smokers will put up with smoke, if there is no other way of socialising with their smoking friends (who, in turn, will not put up with going out into the rain to smoke as long as there are alternative venues). They detest the smell of smoke, they loathe carrying it with them in their clothes, and they complain vociferously about it, but they still go into smoke-filled rooms to avoid confronting their friends about their disgusting behaviour. They care about smoke, but they care even more about a harmonious social circle.

    Using the state to resolve their dilemma, then, seems to circumvent the confrontation they wish to evade. Without the help of those folks, the puritans could hardly have pushed through such intrusive smoking bans.

  • The puritans don’t need anyone’s help. They just need a political system designed to give them access.

    Consider; in a genuine democracy, you would need to persuade millions of people to actively support your cause. Hardly anyone can do that. How many people can get a million active supporters out on the streets? Hardly anybody.

    But in a representative pseudo democracy, you need the support only of (in the UK’s case) 323 representatives, most of whom are rather dim-witted and eager, due to a puritist ideological hegemony, to be seen to be “doing good”. With the whipping system, you need only subvert a couple of cabinet ministers.

    From the Great Reform Act of 1832, our system was moulded into one which would be the bitch of the social reform movements which evolved into the modern left. The torrent of authoritarian legislation is the consequence. The use of massive propaganda on the general population engineers consent- or, rather, quiescence.

    They don’t need anybody’s help. In Britain, all you need on your side is a cabinet minister, one or two fuckwit MPs[1] and, just to be on the safe side, the editor of the Daily Mail.

    To give another example, the government has just decided to censor the entire British internet for “adult” content. Nobody much wants this or cares. But all it requires is one minister and one MP (in this case a greenhorn Tory fuckwit called Claire Perry). No MP will dare vote against it for fearing of looking impious. These things are easily done. (We’re at the Rule Of The THreat Of Law “we hope industry will respond” stage at the moment; give it a couple of years for it to proceed to draconian, unstoppable legislation).

    [1] The kind who say the phrase “name and shame” as three separate sentences.

  • lukas

    Granted, they don’t need help, but they do need at least acquiescence. And in this event, I suspect they have rather more than acquiescence. Most non-smokers (including me, and, I suspect, Mr Jennings) are happy to go out to a smoke-free venue without having to endure the nagging of smokers who would rather be in a place more accommodating to their needs.

    And so we acquiesce. Sorry, Ian.

  • michael farris

    The short answer is no, the free market on its own would almost never come up with something like the Spanish model. Make of that what you will.

    That is partly because the whole bar economy is biased around those who smoke (or have a high tolerance for the smell of tobacco). Those who don’t smoke just aren’t inclined to spend as much time in bars even if they’re pristine. Addictive behaviors tend to go together so pubic drinking and smoking tend to reinforce each other just as public smoking tends to spread by example. For the record, I think bars should be able to allow smoking on their premises.

    On the other hand, many smokers don’t get a basic fact: Most non-smokers just plain don’t like the smell of smoking. They’ll put up with it if there’s no choice but the more choice there is the less they want to deal with it at all.
    This isn’t puritanism or media manipulation, it’s basic …. hygene. Smokers (since their lungs are full of tobacoo smoke almost all the time) genuinely can’t perceive the stink that lingers after them. And for many non-smokers the after-stink is far worse than the real-time smoke.

    So let’s not turn smoking into some kind of heroic act of self-assertive individualism, it’s addictive behavior that literally stinks up the place and its enjoyment usually depends on other people not speaking up.

    All that said, if I’m a guest in a smoker’s house I would never suggest they not smoke or ask them not to. But if they’re a guest in mine I don’t want them smoking inside. If they can’t refrain for the duration of the visit I’m willing step outside with them for a few minutes (as long as it’s not too often).

  • that is partly because the whole bar economy is biased around those who smoke (or have a high tolerance for the smell of tobacco). Those who don’t smoke just aren’t inclined to spend as much time in bars even if they’re pristine.

    There are bars, there are cafes, and there are restaurants. In the English speaking countries (and I think in northern Europe more generally) we seem to maintain a distinction between them. Ideas of a “bar economy” perhaps apply in bars, but less so in cafes and restaurants.

    The distinction seems much less clear in southern Europe. Getting back to Spain, one is much more likely to go to the same place for a morning coffee, an evening beer, and also for lunch than one is in England (or, I suspect, Poland). The relatively happy outcome I have described in Spain may well be a consequence of cultural factors more than anything else. I don’t know.

  • hygene.

    Haha, spot the puritan. Guess who started the “hygeine movement”?

    Don’t worry mate. As Nixon said, “we are all puritans now”. The hard part is admitting it. It’s in our cultural DNA; two hundred years of education has made us this way. But we can at least recognise it, and then we can start to fight back.

    Seriously; nobody wants to admit that they’ve been propagandised; but we are all victims of it. We all want to believe our opinions sprung fully formed from our own spirit. The idea that a person may be sensitised to, say, a certain smell, by propagandist methods is one that most people reject. “I am nobody’s tool!” they cry.

    But sadly they are. They are a tool. It’s the admitting it that’s the hard part.

    It’s one of the general problems for libertarianism. We are, when one boils it down, telling people that they’ve been had; that they’ve been made fools of, taken in by propaganda and miseducation. Nobody wants to admit that. That’s one reason our job in general is so hard.

    Just remember, fifty years ago; people smoked everywhere. The majority smoked. Deals were done in smoke filled rooms; there were huge ashtrays on the cabinet table, and in every office in the land, and people smoked in every workplace. Nobody minded[1]. What happened? Why did people get so sensitive to a smell? Was it spontaneous? A genetic mutation? Or… something else…?

    [1] Bar a few obsessives at the very end of the bell curve.

  • michael farris

    Outside of Warsaw and Krakow Poland, unlike Hungary, has never had much of a going out culture, especially not a going out and drinking culture.

    Poles borrowed the English word ‘pub’ to refer to Polish establishments (nothing remotely like pubs) because all the local words for places to go out and drink and socialize referred to horrible disgusting places for alcoholics. Even I wouldn’t go to them (and that’s saying something).

    The most common place to go out in most of Poland is still the cafe (kawiarnia) for coffee and cake.

    Smoking is also decreased in recent years. I’ve been told in the 80′s university teachers couldn’t hold 90 minute classes (the norm here) because after 40 minutes the students were all jonesing so bad for some nicotine they couldn’t pay attention to the teacher.

    Now the number of students who slip outside for a smoke between classes (no smoking in university buildings thmselves!) is smaller and smaller.

  • Mr Black

    I second the comment above by Mr Farris. For whatever reason, those who go out more do tend to be smokers and thus contribute the major slice of revenue to the venue owner. Banning your major revenue source is business suicide. Apart from a very few places which would occupy a niche market for non smokers, smoking establishments would be more common and infact would be the default.

    As a non-smoker, I will tolerate the unpleasent feeling of inhaling second hand smoke now and then and I will also tolerate the offensive stink in my clothes now and then when it is required to enjoy the company of friends. I well remember the days before the ban though and going out to a club/bar was always marred by the fact I knew I’d have to suffer the discomfort of other people enjoying their “freedom” by polluting the very air I need to breathe.

    As Mr Farris rightly points out, smoking isn’t some noble strike against state control, its a noxious, polluting habit that causes considerable discomfort to everyone else in the establishment.

    I’m sure smokers would object if I filled a large bag with dog shit and stood next to their gathering in the pub yet by the logic of “suck it up, for freedom!” I should have every right to do so as it is only a smell, afterall.

    Non-smoking culture in public establishments should be the default, for the comfort of all. If smokers cannot control their addictions for the duration of any stay then I hardly see why the other patrons should be discomforted to satisfy their urges. The spanish model has it right.

  • David

    ‘I’m sure smokers would object if I filled a large bag with dog shit and stood next to their gathering in the pub yet by the logic of “suck it up, for freedom!” I should have every right to do so as it is only a smell, afterall.’

    I’d wager you’d be going home (or to hospital) smelling a lot worse than most non smokers….

  • Mr Black

    So you agree with me then, there isn’t a right to stink up the place and force everyone else to suck it up or go home.

  • Matra

    The numerous bars on Broadway in Nashville Tennessee are either smoking or non-smoking. There are enough of each for some one to spend the evening bar hopping in the climate they want. As a smoker I’ll even pop into the non-smoking bars afor a while.

    But by entering non-smoking bars covered in the disgusting, often suffocating, smell of tobacco you have shown the usual lack of consideration smokers are famous for as you’ve denied customers sitting near you the atmosphere they wanted in that non-smoking bar in the first place. Your statement sums up why smokers have lost the PR battle to the point where even those of us who use to oppose anti-smoking regulations on libertarian grounds have decided we can’t be bothered defending you. Smokers’ lack of consideration for others has played into the hands of those who would like to regulate more and more.

  • Sunfish

    Mr Black-

    Their offensive smell is an expression of liberty and freedom from puritanism. Your offensive smell is rude. Apparently there’s a moral difference between the two.

    In someone else’s home, I keep my mouth shut or just as likely don’t go at all. In my own I’m not nearly so polite as to confine my response to someone lighting up to holding a bag of dog crap.

  • John B

    Things are changing fast, especially since Spain got Socialism big time in 2004 and Europe is harmonising everything into its norms and soft totalitarianism. But Spain is a big place with a lot of depth and a lot remains.

    One thing I have found is that whatever changes have been made, the Spanish norm has been a kindness. Spitefulness is just not part of the approach to things. Nevermind how far that can be broken away from. That is the norm. I have never seen a Spanish rejoicing in another person’s misfortune the way I have seen it from what Ian might refer to as one of the more northern righteous, from Ian’s drab, gray rain-soaked wastelands.
    There is an innate kindness among the Spanish that if transgressed is done as a transgression and not as a norm.

    So where smoking might be difficult or offensive it is normally not done. But where it will not be so, it is engaged even against the rules. This is changing, of course, as Europe spreads it’s “righteous” shadow and applies to drinking, driving, and other social activities.
    I don’t think the spitefulness, or the self-righteousness that Ian sees as being part of the puritanical norm, was sown in western Europe by monotheistic religion. I think it predates that to a psyche that existed in the spiteful tribes of old, that influenced everything, including religion.
    Yes, Spain and Italy retained the Catholic, and western Europe substantially engaged Protestantism. But I don’t think that is the reason for the difference, either. If anything I think perhaps it is an instinctive hatred of God that is the problem, where a problem may exist.

    But so far, still, the thing that I like about Spain is a preference for kindness. Including its approach to smoking.

  • Mr Black

    I’m sorry, no matter how much you’d like to smoke in public you will never convince me that your liberty extends to filling the air with noxious smoke that I have to breathe. If you want to do that in your own home where you are the only person so affected then fine. But in public where your actions directly impact my comfort and health, I am glad that this disgusting and rude habit is being stamped out.

    It may not be the Libertarian thing to do, but it is the right thing to do and that is an important distinction.

  • Andy

    Mr. Black,

    If fanciers of dog shit found a congenial atmosphere, and an accommodating owner, in the Turd Cafe (not to mention that disco – The Coprocabana) that cafe would not be seeing much of me. I simply wouldn’t go there, no matter how hot the women were.

    The right thing to do would be to respect the rights of the other people involved.

  • marksany

    Smokers and non smokers don’t understand each other., that much is clear from this comment thread.

  • David

    Petronius – ‘So you agree with me then, there isn’t a right to stink up the place and force everyone else to suck it up or go home’

    No, I said that if you opened a bag of dog shit in a bar you’d probably pay the consequences. There is absolutely no comparison between dog shit and ETS. The analogy was puerile and unwarranted.

    When it comes to choice, having the option of smoking and smoke free facilities doesn’t appear to satisfy some anti smokers, for reasons that are not shared by normal. tolerant folks.

  • The need for a legally-enforced smoking sign on the door is about as necessary as legally enforcing a sign to say which brand of cola the place stocks.

    Want Pepsi? Ask at the counter.

    Common sense would suggest that the vast majority of businesses will be transparent so as to maximise the advantage of the decision they have made in regard to the business (brand of cola, beer, food, smoking).

    The rest? More fool them. Why bully the majority due to the foolishness of a minority? Oh, I forgot…

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Samizdata Liberals object to smoking bans. UK is wall-to-wall non-smoking.
    That’s just made my day.

  • Chris F.

    Apologies in advance for the rambling post below.

    I’m sorry to say that the happy solution you refer to in Spain was only temporary. Here is an extract of the changes that are taking place this January (2011).

    “As of January 2, smoking will be banned from all public catering establishments in Spain…Casinos, bingos and games halls will also have to become totally smoke free and smoking at any public catering establishment will only be allowed outside, in areas which are not covered, or if they are, only have two walls…Meanwhile, smoking is allowed in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, smoking clubs and in hotels, where 30 per cent of rooms can be reserved for smokers as long as they are isolated from the rest and have ventilation…It will also be allowed outside at sports facilities, in queues for cinemas and museums as long as they are outside and on campus at universities, but not in hospitals (outside or inside), parks or children’s play areas.”

    This change was brought in after many restaurant and bar owners (of the larger places) spent considerable amounts of money adapting their establishments to accomodate smokers and non-smokers under the temporary legislation which produced the conditions you described in your post.

    Personally I am in favour of establishment owners being able to make up their own mind, but I do not think that a purely free market solution would produce the Spanish result – that was the result of legislation.

    A purely free market result would be closer to what we had before everywhere before all the anti smoking legislation, ie smoking was permitted in all bars and restaurants (perhaps with no-smoking sections in the larger venues). When I lived in NY, and smoking was still allowed, there was a small restaurant downtown called “No Smoking” that catered to a very specific audience – ie primarily non-smokers with a penchant for vegetarian food. Despite the owners having decided that they did not want anyone smoking inside their restaurant, they set up a comfy sofa, table and lighting outside so that smokers accompanying their non-smoking friends to the restaurant would have a comfortable place to indulge. This was one of the only totally no-smoking restaurant/cafes at the time and it was full. The owners knew what they were doing.

    Generally however, it does seem that smokers are the life blood of places that are primarily bars/pubs and without the smokers these places are having a hard surviving. I do believe that it should be up to each individual establishment owner to decide what they want to do and who to cater for. If they choose wrong and lose customers, they can at least change their minds. If there are enough non-smokers to keep non-smoking places alive whilst they compete with smoking places, more power to them – I am all for choice.

    Just as disclosure, I was a smoker for 30 years and stopped 18 months ago. My wife still smokes happily, though I am increasingly less inclined to accompany her outside whe she goes out for a cigarette when we are out and about, especially in winter.

    Increasingly we have found that we would rather invite people over rather than go out so as not to have to deal with the hassle. This is especially true of the pub and even of restaurants unless we are in the mood for something really special.

    I think that that there are more and more people thinking this way and it would ultimately in the interests of the bar and restaurant trade to try and stand up to this kind of restrictive legislation rather than lamely accept it.

  • guy herbert

    @Tim Carpenter:

    The need for a legally-enforced smoking sign on the door is about as necessary as legally enforcing a sign to say which brand of cola the place stocks.

    Necessity has little to do with it. There would be effective politics in the model of clear labelling, and it would give some benefit to each premises and its patrons.

    In Britain currently we have an insane law which requires that all publicly accessible buildings and places of work (including all vehicles, phone boxes, enclosed bus shelters) must display signs in an exactly prescribed official form stating that smoking is illegal there. The signage serves no informational purpose, since one is forbidden to smoke in any workplace or public place other than a prison (this is not a joke) or a specifically pre-designated hotel bedroom. They do serve the purposes of official finger-wagging puritanism and giving employment to local authority no-smoking enforcement staff in checking, but there is only cost and no benefit to anyone else.

  • Matra-

    But by entering non-smoking bars covered in the disgusting, often suffocating, smell of tobacco you have shown the usual lack of consideration smokers are famous for as you’ve denied customers sitting near you the atmosphere they wanted in that non-smoking bar in the first place.

    See the implacable hysteria of the anti-smoker here? Smokers must be segregated from decent folks even when they do not smoke!

    This demonstrates how the antis can never be pacified until the whole world is made to conform to their desires.

  • David

    one is forbidden to smoke in any workplace or public place other than a prison (this is not a joke) or a specifically pre-designated hotel bedroom.

    Rampton Hospital – though not a prison, it amounts to the same thing. TOTAL ban throughout all the premises. Patients have been FORCED to stop smoking IN THEIR OWN HOME. NO CHOICE WHATSOEVER. For spiteful, bullying or caring reasons – makes no difference to the victims. Perhaps you ‘liberal’ minded antis out there don’t give a shit. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

  • Chris F

    I just realised that I did not answer the question posed:

    Do cultural factors overwhelm freedom?

    I believe that the answer to your question is a resounding YES in any construct beyond a minarchist state.

    If there were an idyllic place where the prevailing cultural beliefs of the vocal few were not turned into legislation and regulation, then freedom and choice might stand a chance. As things stand now, there is no chance.

    This can be seen from the legislation/regulation surrounding everything from the traditional “vices” (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling and the sex industry) to education (the content of prescribed curriculums, the question of compulsory attendance at licensed and regulated school as opposed to home schooling, as well as the starting and finishing ages for compulsory education) to ever more intrusive and costly health and safety requirements. This is not even getting into the surveillance/monitoring role that the state has taken on and the curbs on freedom of speech/expression.

  • David

    Smokers and non smokers don’t understand each other., that much is clear from this comment thread.

    I fully understand non smokers, being one until recently. It’s the anti smokers that are totally responsible for the resultant social division. For the overwhelming majority, this wasn’t a big issue pre ban.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “Virtually all venues allow smoking, and as a customer I have little choice. Do cultural factors overwhelm freedom?”

    In other words, the pre-ban situation in the UK.

    Yes, cultural factors do overwhelm freedom – the cultural factor in this case being the over-riding selfishness of smokers, who genuinely cannot understand what all the fuss is about. After all, they can never smell or taste anything except tobacco smoke, so why would you mind if they impose that on you, too?

    If you don’t like it, you can always shower, change all your clothes and launder them when you get home. How could that be a problem? Why make a fuss about a little thing like that?

  • John B

    Chris F, your 10:34 post.
    Indeed, Europe is fast casting its gloomy shadow over Spain. Until recently, though, smoking has not been an issue.
    And, yes, when the Spanish embrace a law they tend to go at it in a very major way.
    Fortunately they also tend to forget about being too serious about silly things when they realise how stupid they are.
    But, yes, Europe is there with its big stick, or should that be strangling rope? And things can only get worse.
    It is a shame that one of the last outposts of sanity is being broken down.
    But I think they may not take too kindly to going into that dark night.

  • The smoking bans here in the UK and elsewhere were never about the patrons. It’s always been about workers’ rights, and the unsafe workplace that results from exposure to second-hand smoke.

    That’s what we’ve been told by politicians and activists, anyway, and why would they lie to us?

  • Gareth

    Ian B said:

    See the implacable hysteria of the anti-smoker here? Smokers must be segregated from decent folks even when they do not smoke!

    This demonstrates how the antis can never be pacified until the whole world is made to conform to their desires.

    Why bother sharing the responsibility for the conditions in which you socialise when you can hide behind the State to get your way!

    The same is true on many issues where the State operates like a mafia Don. People go to it with complaints and if the favour you can do for the Don is agreeable you get what you have asked for. ASH and their ilk provide a foot in the door for greater interference and taxation. Perhaps the pub and tobacco industries were simply unable to provide a sufficient gratuity to the State.

  • ManikMonkee

    A funny thing about the Spanish ban is that initially everyone adopted it, lost money then changed to smoking venues six months later. Maybe smokers are more inclined to drink in pubs and spent time in restaurants and cafe’s than non-smokers as we are a minority but seem to have a more significant impact on these establishments earnings, Either way its a perfect example of the free market in action.

  • PeterT

    I agree completely with Ian B.

    The pro ban people are miserable MFs who should mind their own F business.

    It is surprising that some of the ‘pro ban’ commenters do not seem to understand that a pub, despite the name, is a private establishment and you are only allowed in it by the grace of the proprietor.

    I have a friend (sometimes I don’t know why as you shall see) who drinks heavily, ‘party smokes’, did a lot of weed in the past, and occassionally goes to see prostitutes. Guess who advocated a total ban on smoking, full stop.

    Smoke may not have smelled like freedom in the past, but it sure does now; and I am a non-smoker!

  • David

    The reduced numbers of non smokers using bars was certainly never envisaged by those who know better (e.g. ASH, who claim to to know everything about the hospitality industry). It was obvious to those with any sense that many smokers would opt to drink at home, and who could blame them? Smoke free bars seem soulless, made worse by the relative lack of patrons. I suggest that many non smokers unwittingly enjoyed the buzz of tobacco smoke, given that it must contain a certain level of nicotine. That draw now longer exists, hence the diminished numbers of non smoking customers.

  • Laird

    “And yet, in places like Belgrade and Budapest, this is not what seems to happen. Virtually all venues allow smoking, and as a customer I have little choice. Do cultural factors overwhelm freedom? I certainly hope not. Or are there some other regulatory or legal factors that lead to uniformity rather than freedom.”

    What a strange question for a libertarian to ask. Unless I’m completely missing his point, in the context of the quote Mr. Jennings seems to be asserting that his inability to patronize bars sans cigarette smoke somehow violates his “freedom”. The “freedom” of the bar owner to determine the conditions of his own establishment is somehow irrelevant. But it is precisely that “freedom” which is (or should be, anyway) the most important. The “freedom” of the patrons is in the choice of whether or not to enter the pub. If you don’t like smoke, go elsewhere or stay home. No one’s forcing you to go in.

    The only pro-ban argument which even approaches the realm of rationality is the health of the employees. However, the only reliable studies performed have concluded that “second-hand smoke” isn’t anywhere near as harmful as the anti-smoking zealots claim, and in any event the employees have the same option as do the patrons: leave. Find another job. No one’s forcing you to work there. If the owner suffers from a lack of patrons and/or an inability to find workers he’ll change his policy. If not, he won’t. Deal with it.

    Neither the patrons nor the employees has any economic interest in the pub. Their decision to leave is costless. The owner has no such luxury: he has a significant investment to look after, and he should be permitted to do so in the manner which seems most appropriate to him. No one else should have any say in the matter.

  • guy herbert

    @David, on Rampton:

    Well of course, all mental hospitals – though places where previously smoking was extremely common. Torturing those already subdued and unhappy individuals by depriving them is OK.

    Stop prisoners smoking though, and you have removed one of very few means of controlling them – through the flow of the tobacco ration – and would have to deal with the POA, whose members have an interest in that illicit economy.

    As so often in the regulatory state, the violent outlaw gets informal privilege of further exemption, the weak are picked out for particularly thorough exercise of power.

  • Unless I’m completely missing his point, in the context of the quote Mr. Jennings seems to be asserting that his inability to patronize bars sans cigarette smoke somehow violates his “freedom”.

    Maybe I was unclear, but no, that was not what I meant. My belief is that if owners of bars/cafes/restaurants are genuinely free to run their establishments however they want, there will be a mixture of outcomes, because there will be money to be made in opening new establishments which cater to tastes other than those that are already catered for. If all existing establishments cater to smokers, then there is money to be made opening establishments that cater to non-smokers, my expectation is that people would open such establishments if they are free to do so.

    The question I was asking is whether there are cultural and legal factors preventing this from happening. If, for instance, there is no easy way (for legal or cultural reasons – perhaps law enforcement won’t take you seriously) to prevent customers from smoking in an overtly non-smoking establishment, that would be such a factor and that would be a restriction on the freedom of the owner of the property. I am wondering if such factors do exist in a place like Belgrade.

  • Laird

    Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  • Smokers and non smokers don’t understand each other., that much is clear from this comment thread.

    What is rather clear to me from this thread is how effectively the divide-and-conquer strategy has been working for the ruling classes. And yes, it is true that smokers and non-smokers do not understand each other, just like employers and employees, rich and poor, men and women, parents and children and so on do not. Divide and conquer.

    And, what Laird said.

  • Kim du Toit

    As a lifelong non-smoker myself, I’d like to make a few points.

    1. Smoking is a disgusting, filthy and selfish habit.
    2. Smoking is also a sign that people are enjoying themselves (especially in pubs and clubs).

    As a one-time professional musician who played in innumerable clubs and hotels, I remember clearly how my clothes smelled of smoke the next day — hell, even my pillow smelled of smoke, from my hair.

    Yeah, it was unpleasant. I never cared. As far as I’m concerned, life is full of little unpleasant consequences from human interaction, and if we try to end them all and smoothe out all the rough edges of social behavior, we are (to paraphrase IanB), a useless bunch of controlling cunts who need to get smacked in the face every time we start this crap. And who the fuck wants to live in a vanilla, pablum-filled existence, anyway?

    I miss the smoke-filled pubs of my recent past, and especially so in Britain, the home of the pub culture. Whenever I walked into a pub, the smell of smoke meant that people were enjoying themselves. Alas, now it smells like… nothing.

    For the record, I’ve NEVER stopped people smoking in my house. Yeah, even though my furniture may smell a little in the morning, I just open a window and air the place out — and after a few minutes, the smell is gone. I enjoy having friends around too much to think of trying to tell them how or how not to have a good time. Ditto booze (we have a huge liquor selection) and guns (everyone who visits me is at perfect liberty to bring a loaded gun into my house, as long as they observe the usual strict caveats about safety).

    Of all the minor concessions we can make to accommodate other people’s behavior, putting up with smoking is one of the smallest.

    I’d rather knee an anti-smoking zealot in the nads than tell a friend he can’t smoke in my company. But that’s just me.

    Oh, and one last thing: if you stand next to me and want to smoke, go ahead and light up. If you stand next to me, open up a dogshit-filled paper bag and wave it in my face, I’ll throw you out the nearest fucking window. The two are NOT the same thing, even though a wrinkled nose and unpleasant smell may be the common denominators.

  • Kim, what do you play?

  • Ian, I really, really liked what Clint Eastwood answered why he is a libertarian. He simply said ‘everyone leaves everyone else alone’. That’s the beauty of it: it’s not about economics, or health/safety, or education – public or private, or religion, or whatever – as important as all of those things truly are. It’s about not sticking one’s nose into other people’s lives, however unsavory or stupid they may be.

  • David

    ‘Ditto booze (we have a huge liquor selection) and guns (everyone who visits me is at perfect liberty to bring a loaded gun into my house, as long as they observe the usual strict caveats about safety).’

    Guns, liquor and smokers…fantastic

    Have you got a rail outside where they can park their horses?

    Sorry Kim, couldn’t resist it…

  • pete

    Seeing how Spain’s been mentioned so often above & with particular reference to JohnB’s description of spanish ‘kindness’ I can’t help but notice that pretty well everyone & his dog smokes down here. Bearing in mind the tranquillising effect of nicotine I wonder if there’s cause & effect in play. Be a shame if post an EU inspired ban the spanish end up as wound up as us northerners.

    There’s also an odd observation to make: The bars I frequent tend to get a lot of Brit tourists in them. Not all of them smoke & one would presume their numbers are leavened by the usual proportion of tobaccophobes. Yet I’ve never heard a peep out of them. Not one word of complaint.

  • Kim du Toit

    Alisa, I was a bass player — haven’t played in years, though.

    Pete, this is Texas: horses are always welcome. Our lawn needs all the fertilizer it can get. Horses are generally spooked, however, by all the dead hippies swinging from the trees in our neighborhood.

  • Daveon

    It’s about not sticking one’s nose into other people’s lives

    The irony of this statement given the context amuses the he’ll out of me.

    It’s a disgusting habit, sorry smokers. Having lived at various times with smokers it was a miserable experience and in the first instance, my parents, one I couldn’t easily get away from. My mother is finding that her 60 a day habit for 30+ years is now catching up with her even though she gave up 30 odd years ago. My father died of a smoking related cancer.

    The market didn’t provide non-smoking pubs because the numbers don’t make sense. In any group of 3 or more going out one or more will be a smoker and in my experience they’ll rarely be happy going to a non-smoking establishment. So the non-smokers grin and bear it and have to shower and clean their clothes when they get back.

    Yeah, we do that for the buzz…

    Of course, the bans, especially prohibiting places where you should smoke (the nice cigar bar attached to one of my favorite steakhouses here springs to mind) but to label this a personal freedom issue?

    Funny thing. I thought your freedom to do what you like ended at my nose, ori this case, inside it.

  • It’s a disgusting habit, sorry smokers. Having lived at various times with smokers it was a miserable experience

    Story of my life too, Daveon, so what?

  • Laird

    Story of my life, too, Daveon. My father was a heavy smoker until it killed him. I’ve never smoked and dislike the smell (and don’t permit it in my house, Kim’s opinion on that notwithstanding). Nonetheless, your snide remark about “freedom ending at your nose” is completely misplaced. The only legitimate “freedom” at issue here is that of the pub owner, and that’s the one which has been eviscerated. If it’s not your pub, your “freedom” is to go somewhere else, and it’s entirely unimpaired. Use it, and stop whining (or employing the State to enforce your preferences on others).

  • David

    If you do things to excess, expect to pay the consequences, be it smoking, drinking, eating, exercising whatever. A 60 a day habit is, by any standards, excessive. Not sure how that has anything to do with rushing under the shower after a night out in a smoking bar. Is is to protect your health? If so, how? Anyway, I’d wager that the thought of doing so never occurs to the vast majority.

  • John B

    pete,
    Regarding the lack of remonstrations by Brits regarding tobacco smoke in Spanish bars.
    It’s amazing what a return of common sense can do for one’s perception. Deceit exposed evaporates!
    When people are not telling you what you must/ought to do or what you ought/must not do, reality begins to reassert itself, I guess?
    Thinking about the health side, I am far more concerned with exhaust fumes, diesel particulates, and heavy hydrocarbon or other industrial pollution than vegetable smoke.
    Perhaps I should worry what chemicals the tobacco is treated with?
    Seriously, I can imagine it is a health risk, but I am certain, like “global warming”, the reason such tobacco agitation has been created is not really about concern for people so much as about control.

  • There are numerous chemicals in cigarettes other than tobacco, and I tend to think that at least some of them are quite harmful. I am much less certain about the supposed health effects of second-hand smoke, but I do take a shower and trow everything in the laundry after an evening at a bar just because I find the smell so disgusting. None of this has any relevance to the question Michael was asking, or to the excellent answer Ian gave (which everyone seems to have missed, because of Ian’s usual ramblings on matters more relevant to Ian himself than the question at hand).

  • Kim du Toit

    The only legitimate “freedom” at issue here is that of the pub owner, and that’s the one which has been eviscerated. If it’s not your pub, your “freedom” is to go somewhere else, and it’s entirely unimpaired. Use it, and stop whining (or employing the State to enforce your preferences on others).”

    Best response of the thread. Bravo, Laird.

  • For when you next visit Budapest there’s a nice cafe called Kino on Szt Istvan krt which is completely nonsmoking and starbucks and maybe a few more places in the city centre. I moved back there after living in the UK for 8 years so I don’t know all the places and I smoke.

    Luckily, from the end of March to the end of October you can sit outside or go to one of the romkocsmas as most of them don’t have a roof, so the smoke is not an issue there. I wonder when the full ban will be introduced what will be the status of these roofless inner courtyard bars and pubs though.

    i’m in edinburgh for the holidays. As soon as our aircraft landed and parked we were told that we weren’t allowed to leave the plane until the aircraft at the next gate taxied away because it was a flight to the us and we were a security risk. i remembered immediately the smoking ban and all the ridiculous rules that partly made me want to move back to Hungary.

  • PeterT

    As an aside, I am not sure anywhere can compete with the bars of Bosnia for thick pungent smoke. It is truly unbelievable. I don’t smoke but my voice was nevertheless so hoarse the day after a night on the town that I could hardly speak. I am told smoking is a way for the Bosnians to cope with their collective post traumatic stress disorder. Not coincidentally, the cigarette factory is one of the most successful businesses in Bosnia.

  • John B

    However, I regret to comment, but no doubt to the delight of all tobacco-phobes, Spain has enacted and is now enforcing the most swingeing cuts on freedom in the field of smoking as from today.
    I think this is part of demonstrating devoted socialist eurocentrism, or trying to make British tourists feel “safe”, and don’t know how it will go forwards.
    The world is, indeed, a-changing.

  • Paul Marks

    The Spanish economy is in deep trouble.

    So what does the government do?

    It imposes the most harsh smoking ban in Europe (as of this Monday) – thus further helping to undermine the free and easy bar culture that is one of the reasons that people who visit Spain, go there.

    The government is also increasing the minimum wage still further (at a time of more than 20% unemployment already), and increasing pensions – even though national finances are almost bankrupt.

    And, of course, increasing taxes.

    There is a sort of insane logic to it all.