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ASH Scotland in denial as poll shows huge majority opposed to ban on smoking at home

A couple of weeks ago the Sunday Times Scotland reported:

Anti-smoking campaigners in Scotland are seeking to stop people lighting up at home as part of a drive to reduce the harmful health effects of inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke.

The paper quoted Dr Sean Semple, 'an academic from Aberdeen University', and ASH Scotland.

Sheila Duffy, the chief executive of ASH Scotland, said the charity was seeking a meeting with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to discuss the possibility of a smoking ban.

"Tobacco companies often talk about choice in smoking. However, for many people the choice to live free from breathing in tobacco smoke is just not there,” said Duffy.

"We are keen to explore ways of bringing that choice into the equation for new social-housing tenants and increasing protection for those living in buildings with shared common spaces."

The next day several Scottish newspapers published reports, some with a comment from me. The Herald, for example, quoted me as follows:

"Targeting social housing is particularly obnoxious because it penalises unfairly those who can't afford to buy their own home," said Forest director Simon Clark.

"Prohibiting smoking at home would be almost impossible to enforce but it could create a snooper's charter encouraging people to snitch on neighbours they don't like.

"What happens if someone is caught and prosecuted? The consequences, including possible eviction, are out of all proportion to the alleged offence.

"The puritanical health lobby needs to get a grip and realise there are far worse things in the world than smoking. Tobacco is a legal product and adults must to be allowed to smoke somewhere without constant harassment and discrimination.”

Our reaction appears to have touched a nerve because within days John Watson, deputy CEO at ASH Scotland, had written a blog post entitled 'Why ASH Scotland does not support a ban on smoking in the home'.

Read it for yourself. Personally I take anything ASH Scotland say with a pinch of salt and if you're in any doubt about their  position read this 2012 document, 'Tobacco smoke drift at home'.

The focus, as the title implies, is on alleged 'smoke drift' from one property to another. Although the document states that 'maintaining good relations with neighbours is the best way of working towards a solution' the underlying theme is to encourage non-smoking neighbours to complain to landlords, agents, housing association or local authority environmental health officers with a view, presumably, to restricting or prohibiting their neighbours from smoking in their own homes.

According to the document:

The smoke-free legislation does not extend to homes, be they rented or owned, unless those homes are also workplaces. If smoke drift from another person’s home is a nuisance to you then it’s best to make the smoker or smokers aware of this. If you can’t arrive at an amicable solution with a property’s tenants you may wish to involve the landlord and then the local authority environmental health department. Similarly, if you can’t arrive at an amicable solution with a home owner then you may have to involve the local authority environmental health department. Legal advice should be the last resort.

The document further advises non-smoking neighbours about 'Keeping a log of indirect smoke exposure' and 'Involving your local authority environmental health department', adding:

If you feel strongly about this issue you might like to lobby your elected representatives to extend Scotland’s smoke-free policies [my emphasis], support better public education and awareness raising about second-hand smoke, or tighten environmental health legislation so that people are better protected from indirect smoke drift in their own homes.

It also quotes the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers: 'the only means of effectively eliminating health risk associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity'.

In other words, ASH Scotland may say they don't support a ban on smoking in people's homes but in this document they actively encourage members of the public 'to lobby your elected representatives to extend Scotland's smoke-free policies' (to housing, presumably). They also quote an American organisation that openly uses the b-word.

To suggest they don't support or advocate a ban on smoking in at least some homes is, I would suggest, pure semantics.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after the issue became a story in Scotland two weeks ago Forest commissioned a poll on the subject and here's the result:

The public is overwhelmingly opposed to a ban on smoking at home, according to a new poll published today.

The survey, conducted by Populus for the smokers' group Forest, found that 76 per cent of adults thought smoking should be allowed to smoke in their own homes with only 20 per cent against.

Simon Clark, director of Forest, said: "The poll is a reminder that most people don’t support an extreme anti-smoking agenda.

"The public understands that punishing adults for smoking in their own home would represent a gross invasion of privacy.

"They know too that a ban could only be enforced if neighbours and family members were encouraged to report one another. For most people that's a deeply disturbing prospect."

Dismissing claims that anti-smoking groups do not support a ban on smoking at home, Clark added:

"I've no doubt at all that one of the long-term goals of the tobacco control industry is a ban on smoking in the home, starting with social housing.

"Prohibition is part of their DNA. The only way they can hope to achieve their ambition of a smoke free world is to persecute smokers into submission."

Full press release: Poll: Huge majority opposed to ban on smoking at home.

The Sunday Times Scotland has an exclusive report about the poll here – Puff away, says poll on smoking at home. It includes a most bizarre response from Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, whose sole comment was:

"Simon Clark is shadow-boxing with fake news."

As quotes go it may not be up there with "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea" (Eric Cantona), but it's close.

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Reader Comments (2)

Tobacco control is as always seeking incremental prohibition of smoking. The antismoking crusade was never a popular cause, but rather an astroturf social engineering project. Now when faced with push back they deny their plans. Recall that is their long-standing template. They denied they were after pub smoking bans too. It;s time to stop the persecution of smokers.

Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 19:12 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Duffy will take as much notice of public opinion as she always does - that is, none at all. This will be rolled out, as sure as eggs is eggs, starting with council owned property, after which there will be calls for a 'level playing field'. As has been observed by others, the smoking ban in pubs set the precedent for dictating what people can and cannot do in their own private property.

As an aside, am I ever going to be approved by the 'Friends of Forest' Facebook page? It's been 'pending' for weeks now. Or are my views considered too radical?

Monday, October 30, 2017 at 14:34 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

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