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Nanny isn’t just blowing smoke this time

Peter Cuthbertson has some pretty clear views about those who would control us for ‘our own good’

Any Brit who turns their television on to ITV or Channels 4 or 5 now will sooner or later see a vile new National Health Service advertisement, funded by their own tax money. Showing a young man running around bars and shopping centres spraying foul smells into the air and onto the clothes of others, it literally urges people that just as they would not tolerate anyone who does that, they should fight against the freedom of smokers to light up in bars and pubs. An obvious prelude to the government’s campaign to stop restauranteurs and landlords from allowing smoking on their own property, it is no doubt hoped the advertisement will edge public opinion in the nannying direction.

It is difficult to fathom the petty, narrow mind of the sort of otherwise unemployable bureaucrat who came up with this one. But one comes to understand the idea of people feeling aliens in their own country when one sees such things. What a profoundly un-British little broadcast it was. What a sickening way to impose the morality of the elite’s stateless global citizen onto a country whose famous tolerance and fair-mindedness is probably what left-liberal nannies feel necessitates such propaganda – sorry, such a campaign of public education – in the first place. One can only hope enough independently-minded people are emboldened by such spiteful nonsense to take stands on behalf of smoking, one of the few remaining mass activities that genuinely is not in some way anti-social, in an age where it seems few Britons can enjoy themselves in a group without being obnoxious to others.

Somehow worse than this, however, one sees explicit use of taxpayers’ money to campaign for one side on politically controversial areas, over behaviour that is perfectly legal and normal. This is a precedent that should worry everybody.

In any reporting on a quasi-tyranny, the state’s control and use of the media is usually cited to show that a country cannot be a genuine liberal democracy. Chile’s slide into dictatorship in the early 1970s is exemplified by Salvador Allende’s decision to eliminate criticism of his regime by nationalising the press. Today’s Russia is now widely described with the euphemism ‘managed democracy’ to a considerable degree because so much of its television is under state control: the elections themselves are free, but the state-run television stations campaigned strongly for Vladimir Putin in advance of last March’s Presidential election.

It’s because the use by the state of the media to advertise its own virtues and ideals is so symbolic of a wider lack of freedom that it is such a good indicator of the health of a society. The state is effectively limitless in its power to take by taxation anything people earn and produce. When it also feels free to use that money to take political stands, often stands opposed by the very people who pay these taxes, that is a signal of an overmighty government, wherever it exists.

When the state, as distinct from any political party, takes on the role of encouraging people to have the correct views and oppose the right habits, the liberty of everyone is made immediately more precarious. There is a very great supply of petty nannies with a favoured cause, and altogether more dangerous authoritarians and social engineeers with their own pet projects, who would love to get their hands on the power the NHS is now abusing. Rest assured, they will find ways of doing so if the precedent now being set is not reversed.

38 comments to Nanny isn’t just blowing smoke this time

  • Guy Herbert

    To see another such a campaign of control in action, consider the recent official invention of “binge-drinking” and how discussion has progressed to how powers can be given to police to shut premises arbitrarily if people are drunk and badly behaved nearby.

  • Smoking does have negative externalities, so extending the classic ‘your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’ to ‘your right to blow smoke ends where my nose begins’ is reasonable in my view.

    By all means smoke in private amongst consenting adults, or outside where it will be rapidly dispersed, but surely you must see the deleterious effects on others plates of your smoking while they eat?

  • Anointiate Delenda Est

    But its Restaurateur. So how can we take the rest seriously?


  • Stephan

    To Kevin.

    It shou,d be pretty damn well obvious, the answer! It must be a matter of private property and who owns it. Don’t like the smell of tabacco smoke while you eat? Go find a resturaunt whose owner disallows it. Why do you even bother to post on such a site as this if you can’t grasp something so fundamentally simple and logical.

  • I think it’s hard to argue that smoking is not in some way anti-social if you smoke near someone who doesn’t like the smell. It is quite clearly imposing your smell on that person. However, Stephan is right to say that it’s a matter of private property – defecating on the grass is anti-social too, but if it’s your grass, go right ahead.

    The proposed anti-smoking laws are completely backwards – there is no way anybody has the right to tell a landlord what can and can’t be done in his own pub, but there is an argument that the government can dictate what can be done in public. I would like this argument to disappear in the future, but as long as we still have public areas, the government is right to ban smoking in them, just as it is right to ban rubbish dumping.

  • Milo


    It must be a matter of private property and who owns it. Don’t like the smell of tabacco smoke while you eat? Go find a resturaunt whose owner disallows it.

    This is true. Good luck in finding such a place, though.

    Tobacco smoking is a difficult thing to deal with. On the one hand, it is someone’s private business what they put into their own lungs and improper for others to prevent them doing so. On the other, it is improper for smokers to inflict their smoke on others – Kevin is correct. This latter problem is difficult to control, and if snuff were still popular (it’s available, but unfashionable) then there would not really be a problem with tobacco addiction, as snuff-takers could have as much as they liked without anyone else in the room being affected (unless sneezed upon).

    As for the advertisement, presumably one could argue that if the sprayer practiced his hobby on private property, and those entering knew this and accepted that they might get sprayed then that would be acceptable. Perhaps so, but the spraying would still be an objectionable habit, as is smoking. Current state intervention against it is unwarranted, and I look forward to the day when such state activities no longer take place, but until then I can enjoy the one compensation for living under such a regime – a lack of tobacco smoke.

  • Ron

    “few remaining mass activities that genuinely is not in some way anti-social”

    Crap. Smoking isn’t natural, it stinks and it reduces your health (thus costing the NHS extra tax money).

    If you want to win the war, don’t waste your time and energy on silly tactical battles defending the indefensible.

    However, it is useful to examine their tactics and methods over smoking, so that you can be better prepared to resist something defensible that doesn’t stink.

  • Julian Taylor

    Just as bad, if not far worse, is Tessa Jawohl’s little gem of allowing the 24 hour serving of alcohol in bars and restaurants and making the BAR STAFF liable to be fined on the spot for serving underage drinkers or anyone the police decide has had enough. So hopelessly disorganised is this ridiculous legislation that the chairman of the JD Wetherspoons pub chain has made a public statement calling the Labour ministers running the Home Office “morons”.

    Lloyd George had it absolutely right on Labour:

    You cannot trust the battle of freedom to Socialism, Socialism has no interest in liberty. Socialism is the negation of liberty. Socialism means the community in bonds. If you establish a Socialist community it means the most comprehensive, universal and pervasive tyranny that this country has ever seen. It is like the sand of the desert. It gets into your food, your clothes, your machinery, the very air you breathe. They are all gritty with regulations, orders, decrees, rules. That is what Socialism means.

  • Abolish the BBC! That’s a start!

  • No one forces you to go into private property (such as a restaurant or bar)… and particularly if you are invited (by a sign, for example) to only come in if you are willing to be subjected to smoke, then it is not as if prior consent is an issue.

    So there may be an argument that it makes sense to ban smoking in public (in the street for example) but not in places which are not public. And a bar or restaurant is a private place into which the public can only come at the sufferance of the owner of that property (or at least that should be the case).

  • There is a move by health Nazis to proclaim any place where people go, “a public place”. It is clearly not if its a private concern, running a business on private property. Banning smoking in pubs, clubs and restaurants is not a health issue but one of property rights..

  • Ken

    Well, for binge-drinking, drunken behaviour clearly impacts on the rights of others. I’m sick of having to avoid certain streets around closing time because it’s so unpleasant to have to see so much drunken behaviour. Just like I hate it when you are walking down a busy street and someone else is impinging their smoke on you. I think the rights of the individual are important, but not so important they have the right to impinge on others.

  • Is there a link to Mr. Cuthbertson’s article or post ?

  • Ken said:

    it’s so unpleasant to have to see so much drunken behaviour

    There are many sights that I find unpleasant, but that is no grounds for banning the behaviour that results in them.

  • Janet Ward

    “the freedom of smokers to light up in bars and pubs.”
    “smoking, one of the few remaining mass activities that genuinely is not in some way anti-social”

    Why is gassing non-consenting others regarded as the Holocaust when it was done en masse by the Nazis, but as ‘freedom’ and ‘not anti-social’ when done in today’s UK?

    Cigarette smoke is dangerous (life-threatening over time), not only to the smokers themselves, but to anyone else who has the misfortune to be unable to avoid the filth.

    I shall say no more for fear of become as bigoted as the original poster.

  • James

    Whilst I can get upset about the principles of “liberty” being eroded, smoking is not one of them. Unlike, for example, taking cocaine, which is purely intravenous or intraconsumptive, smoking affects others because it has a waste product: smoke. In the same way, those who pollute town neighbourhoods after drinking more than they should are not, in my view, acting within the concepts of “liberty”. They are mostly scum and should be prevented from messing up my town and my enjoyment of said on Saturday or (increasingly) Friday nights.

    The opium of the masses is now only available during Happy Hour…..

  • If everyone conceeds those things they think “don’t matter” to freedom we will have no freedoms left.

  • Please note that this piece originally appeared on Liberty Cadre several days ago.

  • GCooper

    Ron writes:

    “Smoking isn’t natural, it stinks and it reduces your health (thus costing the NHS extra tax money).”

    Codswallop. Smokers contribute far in excess of their cost to the NHS through punitive taxation. They also save the NHS the cost of care in the old age which relatively few of them “enjoy” – easily the most expensive part of life from a provider’s point of view.

    I’m amazed to see this canard still being trotted-out.

  • If you want to help the NHS, smoke more, not less…you die they don’t have to take care of you later in life. If they ban smoking it will merely mean higher taxes for all.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    This sort of issue is the kind of stuff that I’m beginning to feel should be decided by the majority, not from any dogmatic basis or principle. Call me an unprincipled goof, but that’s what I think.

    If the majority of Britons support the smoking ban in public places, then so be it. It behooves those arguing otherwise to convince people. If they don’t like it, they can go elsewhere. It also holds true if the situation is reversed. Don’t like smokers smoking in public? Too bad. Either go to some place where there aren’t any smokers or into private areas that are smoke free. Le the majority decide. And apparently, the British, or rather, their government, have decided.

    The only part I feel was really wrong with all this is that the government was doing the persuasion, when that’s not supposed to be in its job description. Guest writer is right when he says that the exact law being discussed isn’t the problem; it’s the fact that the government is trying to force a particular viewpoint when it has no business doing so.

    For a similar situation, try loud crappy music. Same rationale, except that people have supported laws that would punish those who would disturb other’s peace with loud noises, even if this law, a consensual law, seems hardly libertarian.

  • Verity

    Once again, G Cooper beat me to it, so wot G Cooper said.

    However, I’d go one step further and say the government shouldn’t be in the health care business and to my mind, even if smokers did, as is popularly and wrongly assumed, cost the NHS more than non-smokers, so the hell what? What if smokers bankrupted the NHS? So? The government has no business operating in an area outside government. Anyway, the best thing that could happen to the NHS is that it implodes under the weight of ever more managers, administrators, evaluators, blah blah blah NuLabour boilerplate blah blah blah.

    Second, to Nulab Janet Ward: I’m not going to touch your comparison of people unintentionally causing other people’s eyes to sting or water by smoking, with the gas chambers of the Holocaust, except to say it was repellent.

    As to your second non-point, “passive smoking” is right up there with greenhouse gasses in socialist Big Lie charts. I dare say if one sat in an unventilated office and all one’s colleagues smoked, after 20 or so years, one’s lungs would be undeniably weakened. But sitting in a smoky bar every now and then, or going to a party where there are a few smokers is going to have zero effect on your health. Most bar owners are conscious of the need for air filtration systems. In any event, it is up to the individual to avoid establishments that allow smoking on their premises if they don’t like it. It’s not the business of the government to tell people what non-criminal behaviour they can allow in their establishments. End of story. The socialists should get out of other people’s property, other people’s families and other people’s lives. In fact, they should just get out.

  • YogSothoth

    If I go into a bar where loud music is being played, my hearing might be damaged. I can readily avoid this outcome by not frequenting such establishments.
    An alternative approach would be to make it impossible for anyone’s hearing to be damaged by prohibiting loud music in bars altogether. Am I correct in assuming the proponents of the smoking ban would like to see this done? If not, why not?

    Sure seems to me that what we’re really discussing is whether the state should *allow* an individual to voluntarily put himself into harms way on private property – certainly seems an ugly notion when you look at it that way.

    The “just try to find a non-smoking bar” retort is nonsense, if the market did want such a thing you can be sure it would exist. Singapore has the death penalty for drug smuggling but despite that penalty it surely does still occur. Am I to believe people will brave death to provide that which the market desires but not the prospect of losing customers who smoke?

    Why don’t y’all just *try* setting up a non-smoking bar and see what happens, surely you can see that such an approach addresses the problem (I hate smoking, by the way) without opening up a truck-sized hole for subsequent nanny statism to drive through.

  • Is there a link to Mr. Cuthbertson’s article or post

    He sent it to us and we published it here, so what are we supposed to link to?

  • Galland

    I think a lack of objection to compulsory anti-smoking laws is just a cop-out by folks who don’t happen to like the smell of cigarette smoke. I understand this dislike, but disliking something doesn’t mean one should give the state a free pass to tell people what they can and cannot do on private property.

    There are places here in the states where one can’t even smoke outside. I think NYC and certain places in Los Angeles have designated ‘no smoking’ outdoor areas. I think this has happened because ‘good enough’ is never enough for the folks who want to tell others what to do. Giving someone an inch usually invites them to try to take a mile.

  • Who needs booze and baccy when they have smack?

    Since the EU hollowed out the political powers of Parliament and the government,NuLabor ministers a desparately trying to find things to do and they have found banning a convivial pastime,fox hunting smoking,smacking,this also serves to obscure the fact that the country is going to Hell in a hand cart

  • Julian Taylor

    Why don’t y’all just *try* setting up a non-smoking bar and see what happens, surely you can see that such an approach addresses the problem (I hate smoking, by the way) without opening up a truck-sized hole for subsequent nanny statism to drive through.

    There are plenty of non-smoking pubs and restaurants in London but the point, as stated by Perry above, is that surely a bar, club or restaurant has the right to decide whether or not they can decree their premises to be smoke-free or even smokers only? All that seems to have happened under the draconian Irish non-smoking regulations is that bars and pubs have allocated a private room to smokers.

    Oh, and its just been on the news that the “Big Brother law for today” appears to be that Phoney and 2Jags4Chins have apparently decided that juries need to be monitored, so they intend to introduce people who will sit in on a juries deliberations and then report back to the judge on whether the jury did their job correctly.

  • Alice

    As any health related news item, “smoking” bothers me because it’s interfering with my ability to concentrate on vital problems. I agree with you all, Perry, Guest Writer… but don’t you find deprived of a few minutes of life by these nannies’ sermons ? A few minutes now, plus a diminution of your life expectancy due to the stress induced by this intrusion and by the guilt feeling forced on you. I feel tense now, while I don’t smoke and I don’t mind if others do (I’m only interested in banning it under 18). How about you ?

    In France, smoking has only recently replaced asbestos and hepatitis; this is why the pretext is so obvious to me.

    We should treat this news like a jamming sound effect, and fight the opponent nannies by listening even better to the rest of the news, especially economics and demography.

    As for smoking, it’s a way people find to lower their stress and get closer. Solitude and stress kill more people and ruin their entire life while smoking and drinking can actually help you start a life-long love story and a fulfilling career. See our transmition jamming journalists.

  • “If it moves tax it, if it keeps moving regulate it, if it stops moving subsidise it”

    In 10 years you could bet that the government would come round to subsidising the sale of fags and booze to the by then soporific British worker.

  • mike

    “Solitude and stress kill more people and ruin their entire life while smoking and drinking can actually help you start a life-long love story and a fulfilling career.”

    Sounds like a campaign idea. An anonymous internet ‘campaign’ which only seems to be about blossoming romances, but which is filled with subtle references to smoking. Orchestrated by smokers of course. A campaign which explicitly defended smoking would only be ridiculed.

  • Jeremy Nimmo

    I like the smell of cigarette smoke, despite not smoking, now, I wish that secondhand smoking (cough cough, I’m sure it’s real, cough cough) also lowered the risk of Parkinsons, Alzheimers, and enhanced your reflexes like normal smoking did. And of course, that makers of low tar cigarettes (hint to retards- it’s actaully the tar and other byproducts that hurt you, not the nicotine (no really, a lot of people believe that)) were allowed to artifically add nicotine to make smoking safer, instead of just making smokers buy more, and more expensive, cigarettes, which defeats the point.

  • mike

    Good for you Jeremy. The libertarian response to the smoking ban is obvious (and I fully agree with it) so I feel there are very few interesting things to say about this, other than smokers getting their act together and defying the nannying fools by affirming their enjoyment of smoking. It’s one thing to defend smokers by saying the important issue is not smoking but liberty – but (apart from the boredom factor) this this doesn’t always have much impact on people (oh, a thousand sighs). To defend smoking (and the exercise of other freedoms) in other perhaps more subtle (or even crude) ways is at the very least interesting.

  • Alice

    Thank you Mike, it would be a lovely campaign. Smoking and drinking are the cheapest answers to solitude and stress (efficient on a wide spectrum/handy/easy national production and checking/ really taxed/ lawest rate of social exclusion /best preservation of the work force). Of course, they need improvements (thanks for the nicotine Jeremy) instead of being challenged by dangerous social regulations and new drugs. Aren’t virtuous health leaguers favouring the latter ? Of course state schools have now banned solitude and bad stress to give way to love and culture. But there will always be school drop outs.

  • “it’s so unpleasant to have to see so much drunken behaviour”

    I agree. While we’re at it, why not ban other unpleasant sights? Lets ban disfigured people from going outside. Lets ban gay people from holding hands or kissing in public, in case it offends someone.

  • Richard Garner

    Yet another move from those who actually think the war on drugs is going so well they want to expand it into other areas. How long until we see the smokers’ equivalent of crack houses or speakeasies?

    On the argument about “saving the NHS” – nobody who wants to use the argument that smoking costs the rest of us because it costs the NHS has any grounds to also use the argument that banning smoking in “public” solves an externality problem. It is blatantly obvious that the NHS argument is describing an externality problem, and so anybody that defends the NHS is defending a right to externalise the costs of one’s actions. The simple solution would be to get rid of the NHS.

    On the other hand, accomplishing this is unlikely. However, there is still argument available: If people think that smoking ought to be banned since smokers risk getting ill and so risk becoming burdens to the tax payer via the NHS, then perhaps we ought to ban homosexuality. After all, gays having sex risk becoming ill, too. In fact, any activity that puts our health at risk would have to be banned, since that would save the NHS and so save the tax payer. Plainly the argument that “smoking should be banned so as to save the NHS and the tax burden on society” leads straight to justifying totalitarianism.

  • Euan Gray

    Smoking and drinking are the cheapest answers to solitude and stress

    That’s not really true.

    Nicotine is a stimulant as well as a potent alkaloid poison, and the various other ingredients in smoke act as vasoconstrictors. Smoking actually increases the stress on the body. As for the apparent “stress relief” factor of lighting up, the stress you are relieving is that induced by nicotine withdrawal & the good feeling is only that given by satisfying your body’s craving for the stuff. And yes, I smoke.

    Alcohol is a depressant, as well as a systemic poison. Whilst moderate intakes are probably in most cases beneficial, anything more is not. Although it’s true to say drinking is becoming more of a problem, at least in British society, I think it’s also fair to say that the majority of this problem drinking is confined to the relatively poorly-educated low-income end of society. Much of the rest of society seems increasingly intolerant of anything more than moderate alcohol intake, thus anything more than this is likely only to worsen solitude as it is increasingly unacceptable socially. Yes, I also drink.

    It’s not so reasonable to say that smoking and drinking are cheap answers to these problems. In fact, they are more likely to worsen them. This doesn’t mean they should be banned, but it’s a daft argument in their support.


  • Johnathan

    I see that Weatherspoon has announced it will ban smoking totally from its pubs and other venues. Its share price fell after the announcement.

    To be fair to the firm, if it wants to risk short-term losses for what it sees as a big niche as the “smoke-free” pub, then good luck to em. In fact, it could show how a market can perfectly well cater to demand for a smokeless boozer. I personally will make a point of going to these places as I hate the stink of fag smoke in my clothes and hair after a night out.

  • Guy Herbert


    Lloyd George had it absolutely right on Labour

    Would that be the Lloyd George who in the first place took advantage of war-time panics to suck up to his prohibitionist constituents by introducing the licensing laws?