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Tuesday
Oct132015

Response to Brighton consultation on smoke free areas

Phew.

I've just completed and submitted Forest's response to the Brighton and Hove Council consultation on smoke free areas.

Deadline is 11.59 tonight.

There's an online survey you can complete in a matter of minutes so I hope you remembered to do it.

We sent a reminder to Forest subscribers earlier today and quite a lot of people responded. Many thanks if you were one of them.

Forest's response took a little longer because I decided the online survey didn't allow us to say everything I thought should be said.

So I wrote a letter – an 11-page letter – and sent it to the contact name on the form.

I commented on a variety of issues including the 'The destruction of Bohemia':

Ten years ago one of Britain’s finest artists, David Hockney, attended a Forest fringe event at the Labour conference in Brighton. We invited him to speak against the government’s plan to ban smoking in enclosed public places.

“Pubs aren’t health clubs,” Hockney declared. And he was right. No-one goes to a pub to get healthier. Most people go to relax and unwind with their friends, enjoy a drink or three, eat a high calorie snack and, in some cases, have a smoke.

Smoking, said Hockney, was good for his mental health and unlike many of his contemporaries he wasn’t on prescription drugs for depression or worse. He enjoyed his day in Brighton. Wearing his artist’s hat he commented favourably on the light. He also spoke about Bohemia, suggesting that the proposed smoking ban would “destroy” Bohemia.

Ironically Brighton was once renowned for being Britain’s most bohemian city. Not everyone visits the city for the candyfloss and the ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hats. Many of us visit Brighton (or used to) because we enjoyed the feeling that here was a city that embraced a diverse range of lifestyles and didn’t judge people.

Today Hockney would probably ask, “Whatever happened to that bohemian environment?” Instead of a city run by a council committed to diversity with a liberal, live and let live outlook on life, some people seem determined to crack down on individualism in the name of public health.

Ban smoking in outdoor public spaces and Brighton will destroy any lingering link it has to its proud bohemian tradition. Instead it will be seen as one of the most puritanical cities in the UK, a model for nanny statists the length and breadth of the country. Is that how councillors want Brighton to be seen?

I also included a more personal comment:

Although I write as the director of a group that represents adults who choose to smoke, I am a lifelong non-smoker. Prior to the introduction of the ban on smoking in enclosed public places most middle-aged people like myself had experienced the occasional smoky pub or café.

People older than me may also have experienced a smoky auditorium, train compartment and so on. Smoky pubs were increasingly rare, however, even before the smoking ban was introduced as a large number had already invested in excellent air filtration systems that successfully removed many of the particles from environmental tobacco smoke.

Society has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, not always for the better, but I genuinely cannot remember the last time I was seriously inconvenienced by exposure to someone else’s tobacco smoke in a park, on a beach, in the street, outside a hospital etc. If it does happen it’s a very rare event so we implore the Council to put this in perspective.

Unless you live with a smoker you will rarely be exposed to tobacco smoke. On the very few occasions you are it’s likely to be for no more than a second or two. And on the equally rare occasions you wish to sit outside in a beer garden or enjoy a meal al fresco, remember this – non-smokers have a choice to sit inside where it’s warm and ‘smokefree’ (sic).

The person who wishes, quite legitimately, to have a cigarette with his beer, wine, coffee or meal, doesn’t have that choice. He (or she) HAS to sit outside. Now even that small liberty is under threat.

You can read the letter in full here if you want.

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