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« Barking mad | Main | Scottish council wants to ban smoking (and vaping) on local authority land »

Notts County Council to ban smoking and vaping during working hours

I'm writing this in my car outside the BBC Cambridge studios.

I was on BBC Radio Nottingham this morning.

I also recorded an interview for Capital FM (East Midlands) and in a few minutes I'm doing the same for East Midlands Today (BBC1).

Forest has been asked to respond to the news that Nottinghamshire County Council wants to introduce measures that will result in a ban on smoking by members of staff during office hours.

It will also be a disciplinary offence to smoke in uniform.

There's nothing especially new here. Similar measures have been introduced by other councils, some as long ago as 2007.

What is new is that the policies now being introduced by local councils also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes.

Notts Council will also make it an offence to vape in uniform, which can mean outside working hours because it includes the time spent travelling to and from work.

The local authority, needless to say, insists the measures are to improve people's health.

As well as the arguing that councils have no right to micro-manage people's lives, even in the name of health, I pointed out that a ban on vaping clearly isn't about health because if it was why on earth would the council prohibit a recognised harm reduction product?

Predictably the 'pro-vaping' public health lobby continues to be mute on the subject of vaping bans - even in Nottingham where 'pro-vaper' Professor John Britton is based.

Britton is of course a committed anti-smoker - one of the dourer ones, I have to say - and I suspect that for him, and many like-minded tobacco controllers, vaping is merely a stepping stone en route to the eradication of smoking.

If vapers are caught in the crossfire, so what?

Dick Puddlecote addressed this issue on Monday (Fat budgets and fake friends) and I've written about it more times than I care to mention, copping a fair bit of flak from certain vapers on social media.

I will continue to do so because it beggars belief that vapers consider these 'pro-vaping' advocates to be their friends when they are silent on basic issues like this.

Anyway, here's the statement I've just sent ITV Central News in response to another request for a comment:

"No-one has a right to smoke at work but employees do have a right to a break and if some people choose to smoke during their break, or on their way to and from work, it should be a matter for them not the council.

"This is not a public health issue because having a cigarette break poses no risk to anyone other than the smoker.

"Smokers know the risks so this is a private health issue. As long as they can do the job they are employed to do, it is no business of the council whether members of staff smoke.

"What next? Is the council going to ban fatty food and sugary drinks from employees' lunch boxes to combat obesity? Are they going to monitor the number of units of alcohol staff drink each week?

"If this was a health issue the council wouldn't ban vaping as well. E-cigarettes are recognised as a relatively successful harm reduction product that are used by many smokers who are trying to quit, so it makes no sense for the council to ban their use too.

"The council is doing this because politicians increasingly want to micro-manage our lives. This is not about health. It's about control."

If 'pro-vaping' advocates don't want to defend the interests of vapers, Forest will just have to do it for them.

I guess it's the cross we bear for having principles.


Update: You can listen to my Capital FM response here. The interview was recorded using WhatsApp on my iPhone, the first time I'd done that.

The interviewer sent a question on an individual audio file and I replied by pressing a button, speaking into the phone, then releasing the button which automatically sent the file to the recipient.

We then repeated the exercise for two or three more questions. What you hear is an edited version of my responses without the questions.

The sound quality is far superior to a normal mobile phone interview. I'm impressed.

Oh, and here I am on BBC Radio Nottingham this morning.

The regional news page on the BBC website reports:

Simon Clark from smoking campaign group Forest, says the council is "going beyond it's remit" and shouldn't dictate whether staff drink, smoke or eat fast food.

He said the occasional smoking break can "improve the efficiency of workers" and this ban wasn't just about health because the council is also proposing to ban e-cigarettes and vapes as well.

"The council is treating people like children," he said. "People know about the health risks of smoking but beyond that councils have no right to intrude to this extent."

See also: Nottinghamshire County Council staff smoking ban approved (BBC News).

Update: Here I am on East Midlands Today (BBC1). The report starts at 01:20.

The soundbite they used included the words "barking" and "mad".

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Reader Comments (11)

These idiots have no right to dictate to people what they do on a break in or out of uniform. Smokers and vapers should stick together and tell them to get stuffed. Its time some of these prohibitionist control freaks were strung up.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 16:37 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

This is clearly many steps too far! Banning smoking and vaping en masse during work hours including breaks is totalitarian lifestyle control. As noted there is no health risk to others and perhaps none to the smoker and/or vape. It;s this for concerted political action to counter the march toward prohibition.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 18:57 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Nottingham Council have a bit of form in this area of PC bandwagon-jumping. Not so long ago (a couple of years or so ago, I think) they were talking about banning people from bringing their dogs to walk in Sherwood Forest because they claimed that owners weren’t picking up their dog poo and so it was a “health hazard” for – you guessed it – the cheeeldren. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a dog and it really gets my goat when people don’t pick up after them because it gives us all a bad name, but we’d visited Sherwood Forest only a couple of months earlier and there was very little evidence that this was an area where people weren’t cleaning up after their dogs – and we always notice because our dog always wants to sniff it. Yuk!

What we did notice, however, was that the whole of the car park and quite a long way into the footpath leading into the Forest was littered liberally – and I mean very, very liberally – with soiled nappies in varying stages of decay from the relatively (yuk!) “new” ones to those which had quite obviously been out there for a while and were all muddy and wet and trampled on, so the problem had obviously been going on for a long while. It fact, it was so disgusting that we only ventured a short way into the forest before deciding to find somewhere nicer to walk the dog!

At the time, I did send a comment to the local Nottingham paper reporting the story, suggesting that I hoped that as well as banning dogs because of their poo, they would also be banning families with children who had not yet been toilet-trained, and explained why. But needless to say, as “families” are a politically “favoured” group at the moment, there was no suggestion that they could possibly be doing anything wrong and therefore no recognition of the fact that the majority of the mess was actually caused by the very people whom the dog-ban was supposed to be protecting!

So, that's Notts Council for you. If you are "favoured" you can't do anything wrong, ever; if you are not "favoured" then everything that's going wrong is blamed on you and you must be punished !!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 19:07 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

its about time these anti smoking numpties where told some cold hard truths , first this smoking ban only works because us smokers keep the faith, if we decide on mass to defy it, there is not a thing they or anyone else can do about it.
we will send you to prison i here them cry, said that about the poll tax that went the way of the dodo, this ban can to, keep pushing see what happens.
second most if not all of these anti smoking Nazis drive cars some of them may drive electric cars but the rest have no problem whatsoever polluting everyone's air with their filthy emissions and they have the Gaul to accuse smokers of polluting their atmosphere, the irony is not lost on me, ban all but electric cars and quit this sham of promoting clean air.
it will not be clean until the above happens .
the government got it very badly wrong when they first jacked up the price of tobacco and then this stupid smoking ban, the higher the price goes the more will be smuggled , not only that but at a stroke they lost control of tobacco to minors, smugglers do not care how old they are ,they sell to whoever has the money, our shopkeepers used to keep that supply to a minimum not any more.
i agree that non smokers should not have to frequent smoke filled places that's why i observe the ban, but segregation and education is what the government should have done they totally missed the best way to stop people smoking , education education ,education , prohibition has never worked, AL capon loved it , without it he could never have got started
quit this hypocrisy , segregate, educate and support vaping we do not ask you non smokers to start smoking so what gives you the right to tell us to stop smoking ??.
secondary smoking i hear you cry segregation negates that

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 19:27 | Unregistered Commenterjim currie

"It's not about a punitive policy, this is about a supportive policy to help all county council employees not smoke during work time."

Thus speaks Chris Kenny, who after 30 years of being nothing but a public health parasite may actually believe his own lies. My contempt for the Kenny and those who voted in favour of this vile piece of social engineering is added to by their abuse of economics to justify it. Uncorrected by their BBC interviewers they present one sided financial justifications based on healthcare costs and social care costs. One might almost believe that such blatantly disingenuous behaviour was actively supported by our noble state broadcaster. Imagine a banker or a tobacco executive being allowed to get away with such dishonesty by our beloved national treasure.

Policies such as these should have died with the totalitarianism that plagued the 20th century. Those who advocate them have no place in a free society but Kenny receives a substantial £90K a year from tax payers.

The inclusion of e-cigs in the ban is utterly insane and an indication of just how far these lunatics are prepared to go in order to prosecute their campaign. The idea that these people give a damn about anyone’s health becomes more and more ludicrous by the day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 19:37 | Unregistered CommenterChris Oakley

Exercise of power, in the name of some generalised 'good', gives meaning to those who sense that their lives need purpose.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 20:57 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

Just go and Vape in the Toilets ,nobody would be any the wiser as they don,t leave a smell.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 22:44 | Unregistered CommenterChris Whittaker

I’d question whether there’s a point of legal principle here, in that if an employer (in this case Nottingham Council, but it could be any employer) takes it upon themselves to insist that employees adhere to the same rules and regulations in their free periods as they do in their non-free periods (whether those rules apply to smoking or anything else), isn’t that, essentially rendering that “free” time as just an extension of “working” time? It’s a bit like insisting that employees should be on call 24 hours a day and then arguing that because an employee isn’t actually in the office (or wherever) then they aren’t actually “working” and so aren’t actually being denied their statutory rights to a certain amount of free time (something which is very clearly delineated in employment legislation). In essence, if you aren’t free to do whatever you wish in your free time then it’s not – err – “free,” is it?

I know this from my own workplace, which has banned smoking on all of its premises, inside and out. It’s not really practical for me to leave the premises for a short break (it’s a very big site), so in essence my employer has effectively taken the opportunity for a break during the morning (or, indeed, the afternoon) away from me. For sure, I can go and get a cup of coffee and hang idly around the office kitchen for five minutes or so, but I personally don’t find that either relaxing or enjoyable (who wants to stand at the sink and read the paper?), and thus not really a real “break” in the true sense of the word. I usually end up either going back to my desk with a coffee or not bothering at all. For a smoker, a break without a cigarette is a bit like a non-smoker going into a restaurant or a café or a pub and being told they can sit at one of the tables for 10 minutes, but they’re not allowed to order anything. Who’d bother to do that? It’d be pointless.

I’m quite surprised that the unions aren’t up in arms about this ruling, because as you rightly pointed out, Simon, it’s just the thin end of the wedge. Smokers aren’t a special case just because they are smokers – they’re employees just the same as their non-smoking colleagues are. The bosses know this, which is why they always bring these unreasonable rulings in against smokers first, to see if they can shoehorn “the principle” in, and get their employees “used to” the fact that they are going to start encroaching on their personal time, but the unions should – if they really knew their business and were as bothered about their members as they pretend to be (which, sadly, doesn’t seem to be the case these days) - be acutely aware of the dangerous precedent which this sort of mission-creep sets, not just for those of their members who smoke, but also for those of their members who don’t.

Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 1:53 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Defiance is now the name of the game. If we don't prohibition is getting closer.

Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 16:49 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

i thinks it is now time to defy this nonsense and reassert our rights.
let us now light up on mass and show these cretins just how powerless they really are, as i said before there just aint enough jail places to put us all ,remember the poll tax ,they had to release murderers , rapist , drug dealers ect early to accommodate the poll tax heroes who refused to pay that insidious Tory tax .
we can do the same , it only requires the will to get together and smash this stupid law and replace it with segregated smoking venues then everyone then wins .
to the victims of this abuse by the county council i would say this smoking as us smokers know relieves stress , being forced to not smoke will increase stress , solution , book every other day off due to being to stressed to work because of their stupid policy.
if done right the council will not be able to function due to the high numbers of staff off work to stressed to do their jobs properly.
stand together , united we stand divided we fall , if they get away with this whats next , stout people sacked for failing to promote the company image ?, people with ascents sacked because they do not speak BBC English ?, where do we draw the line.
they have thrown down the gauntlet we should pick it up

Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 18:50 | Unregistered Commenterjim currie

a ban on smoking by members of staff during office hours

If staff can be banned from smoking during office hours, then surely it will only be a slight extension to ban them from smoking outside office hours as well.

The same would apply to a ban on drinking during office hours. Or eating fast food. Or viewing pornography. Or reading unsuitable books. Or voting Conservative.

This is what's coming down the track.

Friday, April 22, 2016 at 15:05 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Davis

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