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    Tuesday, 1 July 2008

    The Smoking Ban - One Year On

    Today is the one year anniversary of the smoking ban in England and Wales. The ban was the catalyst for my starting this blog, and I wrote a fair bit about it back in the early days. That I am not mentioning it often now is a sign that it has worked, and that the silly little rebels and their silly little campaigns have gone away. I went back to The Malt Shovel today, a year on, and as I supped thought about the ban and what it has meant for me personally.

    Pubs are nicer places to be. It is so much more pleasurable being in a pub and knowing that the people who are going to grab that empty table next to you, won't be blowing their smoke in your direction; in your eyes; or over your food.

    You can smell things. I like to smell my beer. Although aroma isn't the be all and end all, I do like to have a big sniff. Cigarette smoke used to get in the way.

    Your clothes don't stink at the end of the night. Wearing a pair of jeans the next day after going to the pub is a newly found luxury. My wife's happier that her ironing pile is smaller these days.

    Your hair doesn't smell. There's few things nastier than going to bed with smelly hair, or worse still with a partner with smelly hair.

    There are of course downsides. Outside drinking area are now the smoking zone, so sitting outside with the family isn't as nice as it once was, and those pubs where the smoking zone is right outside the main entrance are a bloody nuisance. I've also heard it said that others smells are now more noticeable such as customers' body odour, but I've not picked up on that (or perhaps it's me who smells?).

    All told then it's been a good thing. Pubs have shut, but good pubs have not shut. Inivative landlords who originally struggled have thought about and introduced things to make the customer come back. So many more countries have come on board, of course many preceded us. The Netherlands ban started today. Smoking really is on the wain ,and the ridiculous budget increase on beer should have gone towards a bigger hike in tobacco duty. Maybe next time.


    Karen & Mark said...

    As a non-smoker I'm 100% behind the ban, but strangley enough just when I thought the pro-smoking lobby had painted themselves into the 'sad whingeing losers' corner, I find something I actually agree with them on. Hacking-cough lobbyists Forest are now asking for what CAMRA wanted all along, the ability for licensees to apply for '...a license to introduce well-ventilated separate smoking rooms'

    Now why didn't the daft tw*ts ask for that in the first place I wonder?

    Anonymous said...

    In order to get smoking bans passed, it was necessary to create an atmosphere of hatred toward the “enemy,” to work people into a frenzy over a threat to their health, whether the threat was real or not. What mattered was not truth or science but whether the desired result—smoking bans—could be achieved. So truth and science were quickly sacrificed to the-end-justifies-the-means policy of anti-smoking organizations. Michael Seigel, MD, is both a medical doctor and public health official. He has 21 years experience in tobacco policy research and currently teaches at the Boston University School of Public Health. Though adamantly opposed to smoking, he says: “The anti-smoking movement is driven by an agenda—an agenda that will not allow science, sound policy analysis, the law, or ethics to get in its way.”

    Dr. Seigel has cited over a hundred anti-smoking groups—including the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association—for misleading the public with fallacious scientific claims. His website,, details an astonishing array scientific misrepresentations, outright lies and hypocrisy by anti-smoking groups. These tactics have proven effective, even as they have become ever more shrill and absurd.

    Recently Dr. Siegel ran a Most Ridiculous Secondhand Smoke Claim Tournament. The national championship was won by the St. Louis University Tobacco Prevention Center. Its winning entry introduced the scare of radioactivity from secondhand smoke by the claim it contains plutonium 210, which does not exist anywhere in the known universe. The St. Louis group previously had claimed secondhand smoke contained asbestos. When that was debunked, it issued a correction substituting plutonium 210 for asbestos. The American Cancer Society managed to make the Final Four in this liars tournament with this entry: “Immediate effects of secondhand smoke include cardiovascular problems such as damage to cell walls in the circulatory system, thickening of the blood and arteries, and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or heart disease, increasing the chance of heart attack or stroke.” Ridiculous though that statement is, it failed to top the entry of the St. Louis University Tobacco Prevention Center, and ACS was eliminated from the competition.

    The U.S. Surgeon's General's Office also figured in the contest with: "Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and increases risk for heart disease and lung cancer." But it went down to defeat from Action on Smoking and Health, which came up with this whopper: “Even for people without such respiratory conditions, breathing drifting tobacco smoke for even brief periods can be deadly. For example, the Centers for Disease Controls [CDC] has warned that breathing drifting tobacco smoke for as little as 30 minutes (less than the time one might be exposed outdoors on a beach, sitting on a park bench, listening to a concert in a park, etc.) can raise a nonsmoker’s risk of suffering a fatal heart attack to that of a smoker."(!)

    That such monumental lies have been instrumental in the passage of smoking bans is a measure of the gullibility and scientific illiteracy of the general public and elected officials. Of course, it is also a demonstration of the dishonesty of the smoking ban activists and the absence of genuine evidence for their cause. As the independent health consultants Littlewood & Fennel testified in their report to the National Toxicology Program's Board of Scientific Counselors, the anti-smoking movement is driven by “avowed anti-smoking advocates determined to somehow prove that ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] is a human carcinogen in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.”

    The constant repetition of phony claims about health hazards of secondhand smoke, carried out by a well-financed campaign, has obscured the many studies debunking these claims. For example, the Congressional Research Service concluded: “It is possible that very few or even no deaths can be attributed to ETS [environmental tobacco smoke].” Further, it stated that nonsmokers exposed to pack-a-day ETS every day for 40 years have “little or no risk of developing lung cancer”—much less dying from it. The CRS is part of the Library of Congress and has all the resources of that esteemed institution at its disposal. It is highly respected, nonpartisan, accepted by both Republicans and Democrats as fair and impartial, has no ties to tobacco companies, no regulatory or other agenda, and accepts no outside funding.

    Then there was the Congressional Investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives of EPA's report on secondhand smoke. It found EPA guilty of “conscious misuse of science and the scientific process to achieve a political agenda that could not otherwise be justified.”

    The American Cancer Society has sponsored at least four studies over the years, all of which failed to find any statistically significant health risk from secondhand smoke, according to the standard cited by its own director of analytic epidemiology. But that hasn't kept the ACS from claiming secondhand smoke is dangerous. The most powerful statistical study ever done on the subject was the Enstrom-Kabat study. It covered 100,000 people for 38 years. The ACS financed it, help set it up, and provided data for it until preliminary results indicated the opposite of what the ACS wanted. It then withdrew its financial support and denounced the study, which was eventually published in the British Medical Journal, one of the world's foremost medical journals. The study concluded: “The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality.”

    Statistically, the risk of secondhand smoke is far smaller than the risk of getting lung cancer from drinking pasteurized milk. Epidemiologists use “relative risk” (RR or Risk Ratio) as a means for gauging the severity of risk. The U.S. Surgeon General has stated the RR for secondhand smoke is between 1.20 to 1.30. The risk for lung cancer from drinking pasteurized milk is 2.14. And the relative risk for getting cancer from drinking the municipal tap water that tens of millions of Americans drink every day in thousands of cities across the U.S. is 2.0 to 4.0. But where are all the dead bodies from the millions of people exposed to this far higher risk? Do you know of any? So how can secondhand smoke, which has a far lower relative risk, be killing thousands of people as claimed? In 2001 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, in Lyon, France, reported: “ETS exposure during childhood is not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. No clear dose-response relationship could be demonstrated for cumulative spousal ETS exposure.... Even exposure to ETS from other sources was not associated with lung cancer risk.”

    Boak said...

    Maieb, I think your summary is spot on.

    There are a number of pubs I've been rediscovering in the last year that were pretty unbearable before, and I genuinely believe the smoking ban has not negatively affected decent pubs - they all seem as full as ever.

    The Beer Nut said...

    As a smoker I couldn't giving a flying one about the health issues around the smoking ban, Anonymous. I just like having my clothes not stinking.

    Paul Garrard said...

    Tandleman I agree with absolutely everything you said in this post. IMO it's the best thing that's ever happened to pubs.

    anonymous - "this new thinking is amazing, explain again how we know the Earth to be banana shaped"

    Paul Garrard said...

    maieib sorry I had a brainstorm and called you Tandleman, don't know why, I expect it's my age!
    Can you change it please?

    Karen & Mark said...

    I can't help thinking that anonymous has this post permanently on standby ready to paste into any discussion on the smoking issue. Like the beer nut said, I don't care about the health issues Mr/Ms Anonymous, I care about the stink.

    YCC - Dubbel said...

    It must be the garish peachy background colours you and Tandleman both favour! (Doesn't make it easy to grab a sly looksee at work)

    Both fantastic blogs nonetheless.

    maeib said...

    Paul. Sorry, I couldn't edit your comment, but it has at least allowed ycc-dubbel to use the marvellous word "peachy"!

    Thanks too to anonymous for provoking responses.

    Paul Garrard said...

    maeib - No problem!
    I agree "peachy" - great word!

    ycc-dubbel - no it's purely down to age and information overload.