So there will be a free vote on the issue of a smoking ban. And Patricia Hewitt will vote against official Government policy, says the BBC. And if the fox hunting vote is any guide, the Commons will take the complete ban over the compromise ban which left out pubs which don’t serve food and private clubs. It needs to be so, and here’s why.
Firstly, one must be convinced of the need for some sort of smoking ban at all. Now, I believe that criminalising self-harm is a mistake. It doesn’t work (see what happened to drugs?) and you’re treading on extremely dodgy ground civil liberties wise. But this has never been about self-harm – it’s about the very real threat of passive smoking.
You might think that exempting some places from the ban would therefore be a good compromise – because people could choose whether to put themselves at risk or not. The trouble is that the staff still have to work there, and for much longer periods of time than you will. Not to mention the fallacy that there will necessarily be another pub conveniently located nearby.
If the Government’s version was passed, these are the dangers:
- You encourage pubs to stop serving food, which is exactly the opposite of what we should be encouraging given the binge-drinking problem.
- You complicate and confuse the legislation and the message.
- You promote cynicism about your eventual goals anyway. It’s no secret that the Government was planning a ‘review’ in a few years time, or that a future Government would inevitably head this way.
- Our legislation look like a fudge compared to Scotland, Wales, Ireland and others.
- You simply leave open too many loopholes leaving bar and waiting staff vulnerable.
A partial ban would still have been better than nothing, but now that we’ve got the chance to do the real thing, let’s go for it.