The Smoking Ban in the Uk vs. Civil Liberties

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The Public Smoking Ban in the United Kingdom versus Civil Liberties

This essay will discuss smoking bans and related laws and their implications upon civil rights and society at large, particularly within the U.K. The recent introduction of the smoking ban has been before, during and since its inception been an extremely contentious issue amongst political groups, medical professionals, human rights activists, lawyers, businesspeople and the general public alike. Having heard the opinions of friends and family (who are mostly non-smokers) regarding this issue, the general consensus amongst them is that the law regarding smoking in not only in this country, but in many other places goes too far, impinging upon our (society’s) personal freedoms.

I have been, at one stage or other in my lifetime a non-smoker, a smoker and an ex-smoker.

In Scotland, the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 has, since its introduction, prohibited smoking in enclosed public areas, including:

“Hotels - the whole premises, including bedrooms, bar areas, dining rooms

Restaurants - all food establishments where diners sit in to eat

Licensed premises - premises licensed for the sale and consumption, on site, of liquor e.g. pubs, clubs, bingo halls.

Other - other workplaces, takeaways, taxis, vehicles, care establishments etc.”[1]

One of the main criticisms leveled at the smoking ban has been the removal of choice from business owners whether or not to allow the smoking of tobacco on their premises. Since the legislation was enacted, there has been a steady nationwide decline in the revenue of licensed premises. This is most pronounced in pubs where the ban, combined with rising alcohol tax, has all but driven the 13 million smokers in the U.K. away from their local, resulting in large numbers of closures and consequent job losses.

According to ‘The Publican’;

“40 pubs a week are currently closing..... with smokers being moved outside, the price premium [in pubs] can no longer be justified by many, so more people drink at home. This has a cumulative effect — as fewer people use the pub it becomes less of a social draw.”[2]


[1] [2]

The ban stands accused of being socially divisive and an attack on personal lifestyle choice – many economic and political commentators have denounced the manner in which the legislation has been conceived, constructed, implemented and enforced.

This point of view has mainly been driven by the apparent lack of understanding and tolerance of smokers on the part of those who would use the issue as a political tool.

A critic of the ban, Lord Stoddart of Swindon said:

"The final nails have now been hammered into the coffin of the freedom to smoke in enclosed public places. This piece of legislation must be one of the most restrictive, spiteful and socially divisive imposed by any British Government. It was totally unnecessary because viable alternatives exist to achieve the same objectives but the Government were deaf to these alternatives and refused to consider them seriously. "Instead this supine Government and Parliament capitulated to the bigoted anti-smoking lobby which used junk science, a battery of doubtful statistics and unwarranted and unproven assertions by the medical profession that frightened the general public into believing that a mere whiff of tobacco smoke would give them cancer or some other nasty disease. "This witch-hunt of smokers has set the stage for attacks on other lifestyles especially drinking alcohol, being overweight, children's eating regimes, motoring etc and these witch-hunts are undermining the free and tolerant society which Britain has been noted for over such a long period of time. "People disregard the withdrawal of rights they have enjoyed for so long at their peril...
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