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Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Smoking Ban three years on

Trimdon Working Men's Club held its inaugural committee meeting back in 1919, in the drear shadows of a draining war and a flu pandemic. The war memorials had yet to go up in the small villages known as the 'Trimdons' and men were still tricking back to Durham from Mesopotamia and Egypt. The Club remained open during the dark years of the great Depression and again as war brought urgency and importance to the work of the mine. It provided warmth in the marrow-freezing chill of the Winter of 1947. It survived the virtual closure of the coal industry and the post-war depopulation of the county. It finally closed last week, a victim of the smoking ban, as Tony Blair earned another £100,000 to add to his substantial income.

The townscape here in South London has become bleak indeed. Four pubs within walking distance of my front door have closed, one is already razed and the others due for demolition. They have been scooped up by opportunistic Housing Associations to provide shabby slum bedsits for Nigerian village girls, and before very long will be on credit blacklists and 'no deliveries' zoned by all the local fast food outlets, with torn bags of putrescent waste littering the weed-strewn gardens.

Everywhere I go the depredations of the smoking ban are apparent; boarded up pubs, empty clubs, deserted and poisoned oases that once made walking the streets a pleasant adventure in search of the elusive perfect pub. The survivors are the chain multiples, the Weatherspoons, soulless and depressing haunts of emaciated benefit ghosts and devoid of even the slightest hint of individual character or ownership, heavy with the cloying stink of unwashed underclothes and hoover dust.

There are a few beacons to emerge from this gloom; pubs where the landlords have fought back, places where the newly-built smoker's shelter pays scant heed to the constructional requirements of the 2006 Health Act. In time these garden rooms, now complete with heating, insulation and a full set of doors and windows, will segue into the rest of the pub structure as fully fledged internal smoking bars. The gardens are now the property of smokers by moral right, and non-smokers venturing outside during the Summer months are conscious of the society they've excluded themselves from - a good humoured and sparky group, easy in eachother's company and with the shared bond of a now-internalised hatred of the Petty State.

I sense no great appetite amongst this government for strict enforcement of the ban, and no allowance should be made for doing so in the calculation of the government's grant to local councils. If they want to employ smoking inspectors rather than binmen, fine - they'll face the public at the ballot box.

The insidious lies from the morally righteous wing of the medical non-profession and lies and fake statistics from the fake charities continue to support the evidential con that gave rise to the ban, but they are proving to be the real losers from the Smoking Ban. Their reputation with the public is in shreds, their funding and bloated grasp on the public purse at risk. Frankly, people just don't believe them any more.

Three years on and the ban stands as most things that came from Labour - an expensive and divisive failure.


Dick Puddlecote said...

Excellent piece, and true in every respect.

Of course, the coalition have a perfect opportunity to rectify the situation by including a common sense amendment in the Freedom Bill. If they're serious about civil liberties, allowing the provision of separate smoking rooms should be a no-brainer.

Young Mr. Brown said...

It finally closed last week, a victim of the smoking ban...

To be fair,the club secretary said "The smoking ban did play a part, especially during winter months, but what's really done for us is cheap beer. In the club £10 will unfortunately only get you four pints of lager but if you go to one of the big supermarkets, £10 will get you 48 cans."

On the other hand, the Guardian makes no mention of the smoking ban in its coverage!

Anonymous said...

You should come up to the North and see how it has affected bazzars here, tis sad.
Another imposition of one persons utopian bollocks over a right to partake of what is still a legal activity although given time they would have changed that too - the law that is.
A manifestation of the EU NSDAP zeitgeist.

Manganese said...

Smoking rooms in pubs isn't a bad idea. I've never really swallowed the argument that the health of the staff needs protecting. We all understand that passive smoking may damage health (or may not, depending on your prejudice). However, it's their choice if they want to work in a smoky environment.

On the other hand, most non-smokers find the presence of smoke in restaurants quite repellant. I detest, on opening my mouth to ingest some food that the taste of cigarette smoke gets there first. I have heard smokers say that they wait for others to finish eating before lighting up - but that only seems to apply to their table. I'm sorry to say that smokers, by their insensitivity to others, have helped to bring this ban on themselves..

Had smokers behaved less selfishly in restaurants I wouldn't have supported the smoking ban.

Anonymous said...

When the closure of the Trimdon club was reported on BBC Radio 4 there was (unsurprisingly) no mention of the smoking ban. The impression given was that it had gone bust, a suggestion which was later contradicted by an interviewee who wondered "where all the old boys would go for a drink now".

I agree with your views on Wetherspoons; too often the place stinks of stale beer, the staff are usually hopeless ("What's ginger ale?") and the beer itself is usually long past its best, tasting like someone has just tipped a bunch of dead flowers out of a vase and poured the stagnant water into a pint glass. Don't they teach their landlords how to keep beer?

Jeff Wood said...


The draymen who supply my lady's bar explained to me that the Chains operate a "just in time" policy.

To get the lowest possible price, they contact the brewers to buy the stocks which are reaching their sell-buy date. Then they supply their tenants with the beer at the usual, exorbitant rates.

Now if my lady has a few quiet days that is a pain, but when the customers return her beer is still fresh.

If a Pubco bar has a few quiet days, their elderly beer goes off, hence the taste disasters you describe.

And no, few Pubco tenants know how to keep beer. As they give back the keys, defeated by the present - and the Pubco's - conditions, Pubco shrugs and signs up another fool who fancies running a bar.

Best wishes.

Skint pensioner said... Tony Bliar "earns" another £100,000...

You are doubtless referring to the cash that goes with the American so-called 'Liberty Medal'. I have no problem with the recipients getting the cash, but in this particular case, please do not confuse "earns" with "gets paid".

Blue Eyes said...

Why not just compel employers to pay for their employees' health insurance. Or nationalise the health industry and fund it through beer and fag taxes. Oh, wait...

Young Mr. Brown said...

"I'm sorry to say that smokers, by their insensitivity to others, have helped to bring this ban on themselves.."

I too am a non-smoker. I too detest the smell of cigarette smoke. I too have had my enjoyment of meals in restaurants spoiled because of smoke (though not nearly as often as by the background music).

However, I suspect that even if 99.9% of smokers had been sensitive and thoughtful, this ban would have come. It's the spirit of the age.

snowbird said...

A smoking ban means: It is against the law to use or permit a legal product on 'private' property.

Manganese said...

I got as far as lie 20 on the list at
and I gave up. I don't care whether or not any of the statements listed are true or false.

The point is that non-smokers generally find the smell of smoke repellant - it is a disgusting odour that clings to clothing, hair, furniture, carpets and makes car interiors untenable.

No reasonable person would deny that smokers have a right to smoke - as long as it doesn't interfere with the rights of the non-smoker to breathe unpolluted air. Not an unreasonable position I would have thought.

Many people are offended by all sorts of activities in places where the general public collect - walking around without clothes on for example or engaging in sexual intercourse or folk dancing.

Nothing to stop you folk dancing in the nude whilst simultaneously having sex and smoking but make sure it's in your own home or people might object.

Mrs Rigby said...

... the rights of the non-smoker to breathe unpolluted air.

Out of interest, where is this unpolluted air?

You're forgetting one of the biggest cons of the whole anti-smoking smokescreen - failure to tackle air pollution, with a serious impact on the nation's health.

Is your pub's beer garden by a road? Can you smell the diesel fumes? They'll kill you far quicker than a smelly cigarette.

Here's a small selection of headlines:-
September 2009
UK Government 'misleading' public on air pollution
UK ranked amongst the worst polluters in Europe for airborne particles and nitrogen dioxide

Defra has come in for damning criticism for failing to tackle air pollution in a report published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS).

The UK has repeatedly failed to meet EU air pollution targets over past decade, according to the report. This is despite the estimated 24,000 people who die prematurely every year in Britain because of air pollution.

Earlier this year the EU lost patience and began taking legal action against UK for repeatedly breaching pollution levels.

This follows a previous EU action against UK in 2007 for exceeding sulphur dioxide limits - an pollutant that can cause respiratory problems and aggravate cardiovascular disease.

Mail - March 2010
Air pollution in the UK 'killing 50,000 people a year', warn MPs "Britain's filthy air kills 50,000 people a year – more than obesity, passive smoking or traffic accidents" and
"Ministers have been rebuked for failing to tackle the lethal problem, risking millions of pounds in fines for failing to meet EU quality standards."

And in London? I don't remember the smogs, does anybody?

Guardian - 30 June 2010
Air pollution leads to premature deaths of more than 4,000 Londoners a year
Poor air quality is considered to be one of the biggest public health issues now facing the UK.

Children living alongside roads are at serious risk of developing asthma and other health problems, I'm not going to look for links now.

But, some people want smoking banned in parks, and they'll run away if they see a lighted cigarette because of the dangers of second or third hand smoke, yet these same people will happily drive their kids to the same park, or sit in a kiddies playground that's next to a busy road. And when the children get sick they blame the person with a cigarette, because that's what they've been trained to do.

The chemical cocktails that go to make air fresheners, fabric conditioners and some perfumes badly affect me and our children, so it's probably genetic. To some people these "scents" are so dangerous, and could kill, because they do bring on asthma attacks. But they haven't been banned because we're told they all smell nice.

P.S Sorry Raedwald, I got a bit too enthusiastic!

Skint pensioner said...

Mrs R: Yes, indeed I do remember the smogs when during the day you could not see across the road and at night you could not see a hand in front of your face; and all the while the taste of coal ash in mouth and nostrils. Occasionally, these unmoving banks of thick greenish fog remained in situ for days and the radio weather folk blamed it all on an unmoving band of high pressure or some such.

Happily, the Clean Air Act soon sorted it all out. But of course, in those days there were far fewer vehicles on the roads than we have today.

Manganese said...

Mrs Rigby - Of course you're right - there is pollution all around us. I am aware of it and I would have said so had I not gone on to make this point:

"non-smokers generally find the smell of smoke repellant - it is a disgusting odour that clings to clothing, hair, furniture, carpets and makes car interiors untenable."

If you tell me that diesel fumes are a greater threat to health than tobacco smoke I won't argue. The difference is that diesel fumes have never made me gag when eating a meal in a restautant.

You see, it's not all about health. I say that even though four close family members died as a result of smoking. My earlier post said as much:

"I got as far as lie 20 on the list at
and I gave up. I don't care whether or not any of the statements listed are true or false."

Anonymous said...

I hate having bad smells around me when I am eating.
Do these anti-smokers think that their odours are so sweet ?
Cheap scent and deodorant covers the body odour and make me puke.
Now that anti-smokers 'Don't have to wash their hair or change their clothes so often' they positively reek !!
The Gastro pubs are a source of delight...Dirty nappies, baby sick, chips and cleaning products are much preferable to a wisp of smoke.
Do these anti-smokers not realise that their barbeques and bonfires are causing people to develop asthma, cancer and heart attacks, as smoke from these are millions times more concentrated with harmful chemicals than the humble cigarette.