Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Great Repeal Bill wish list 1: The Smoking Ban

I am not a smoker. I never have been. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke. In fact, I can smell cigarette smoke out of doors 10 or 20 yards away. We bears have sensitive noses. When airlines brought in complete bans on smoking, I rejoiced. (“No-smoking seats” were not much use when someone was puffing away three rows behind you.) And I never had much time for FOREST.

But when the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Health Act 2006, even I thought that this legislation was excessively draconian.

The words used in the Health Act 2006 are “Premises are smoke-free if they are open to the public.” The problem is that most places open to the public are private property. And people should have a right to do as they wish with their own property. The libertarian principle is that every adult should be free to use their legitimately acquired property in whatever manner they choose, so long as in doing so, they do not harm or infringe upon the freedom of others.

Let me use an example. Over 20 years ago, friends of mine put a “No Smoking” notice on their front door. I commented on it, and they told me how strongly they felt about smoking. They also told me that the reason they put it up was that some visitors felt that they had a basic right to smoke in their house. But the visitors didn’t - because the house belonged to my friends, and it was private property, so my friends had a right to use their property in the manner they chose. If visitors wished to smoke, they were free to leave the property.

So it is with the smoking ban. Just as no-one has a basic right to smoke on someone else’s property, no-one has a right to demand smoke-free air on someone else’s property. If I go into a shop or pub or restaurant and think that it is unpleasantly smoky, I am free to leave.

The great British smoking ban is not something that inconveniences me in the slightest. In fact, it makes my life rather more pleasant. But it also strikes at the freedom of others. And since I value my freedom, I am obliged to value theirs as well. It’s the old “do to others what you would have them do to you” principle. If it would be intrusive for the state to demand that I allowed others the right to smoke on my property, it is also intrusive for the state to demand that I forbid others from smoking on my property.

Nick Clegg said “We will repeal all of the intrusive and unnecessary laws that inhibit your freedom.” Well, this is intrusive. It inhibits freedom. And since we have had smoking in Britain for several centuries, and managed to survive without the great smoking ban, I submit, Mr. Clegg, that it is clearly unnecessary. I hereby request that you repeal sections 1 to 12 of the Health Act 2006.


Albert said...

As a non-smoker, I agree with you, the blanket smoking ban, though good for me is not right. However, I wouldn't put smoking at the top of my list. I would target freedom of speech first. I would also wonder why it is that smokers are not allowed to smoke in a pub even if the property owner allows them, but people are allowed to demand to have gay sex in people's homes that double as B&Bs.

Perhaps there is a basic issue about people's private property that needs to be dealt with first.

I wonder where Mr Clegg would stand on that one. These unjust laws may well be regarded by him as "necessary" and therefore not worth repelling

Young Mr. Brown said...

However, I wouldn't put smoking at the top of my list. I would target freedom of speech first.

I'm in complete agreement. It's not at the top of my list; it's just where I decided to start! (i.e. Watch this space.)

I would also wonder . . .

The answer is probably something along the lines of "Because that's what all progressive people think these days."

These unjust laws may well be regarded by him as "necessary" and therefore not worth repelling.

Which pretty much sums up the 1,143 words in my last post in 16 words. Maybe I need to work at brevity.


Albert said...

"Because that's what all progressive people think these days."

And progressive people are all in favour of individual freedom, which is why they are allowed demand that everyone thinks like them.

indigomyth said...

Albert and YMB:

Sorry to pointlessly advertise, but Heresy Corner has a fantastic post about "progressive" politics. Thought you might be interested:

Young Mr. Brown said...

Hello, indigomyth.

You're right. It was an excellent post.

By odd coincidence, I was reading the Heresiarch this very day, on the subject of the CPS - and that's the first time I've visited Heresy Corner for months. I suspect I should go over there more often.

indigomyth said...


Yes, it is one of the blogs I visit most frequently. He is most often very fair, and also covers a nice variety of topics.

Albert said...

Thanks for the recommendation Indigomyth.

I always thought the idea of progress was ultimately a biblical notion - the idea that God's providence is drawing us towards some kind of end or perfection. It contrasts with the pagan idea of a cyclical time.

As so often, the ideas that have most qudos in society seem more theological than anything else. You can only speak of "progress" if you have some kind of standard to which you can progress, and this is easily done on a theistic metaphysic. It is, I guess harder, when metaphysics is excluded, as it (officially, but not in practice) is on secular world-views.

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