Anti-smoking campaigners target smoking in the home
Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 10:47
Simon Clark

The president of the Faculty of Public Health wants smoking banned in all new council houses.

Professor John Middleton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said adults smoking in the home damaged the development of children’s lungs and put babies at risk of cot death.

"Housing associations and councils are looking at smoke-free housing buildings. Where children are involved I think there is a real case for it,” Middleton said.

The Sunday Times has the story here, although it's behind a paywall.

ASH, naturally, support the idea without being quite so explicit. Nevertheless the meaning behind these weasel words is clear:

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said the anti-smoking charity (sic) had a call last week from a woman whose granddaughter had cystic fibrosis and had never been able to visit because neighbours’ smoke from communal areas drifted into the grandmother’s home.

Arnott said people were often "frustrated by councils’ and social landlords' failure to take action".

I'm quoted as follows:

Simon Clark, director of the pro-smoking (sic) campaign group Forest, said that a ban “would penalise unfairly those who can’t afford to buy their own homes”.

The full comment I gave them (not used) read:

"Banning smoking in social housing would set a very dangerous precedent. Not only would it be a gross invasion of privacy, it would penalise unfairly those who can't afford to buy their own homes.

"How would the policy be enforced? It could create a snooper's charter allowing people to snitch on neighbours, especially those they don't get on with. Children might inadvertently give their parents away, resulting in possible eviction.

"It's not second hand smoke that's making people's lives a misery. It's puritanical bodies like the Faculty of Public Health who, having campaigned to ban smoking in every pub and club in the country, are now trying to dictate how people behave in their own private space as well."

Middleton is one of the public health 'chiefs' who has been pressing the Government to publish its new tobacco control plan without delay (Doctors urge May to publish anti-smoking strategy).

By calling for what many people will think is fairly extreme action, I imagine the strategy is to force ministers to introduce other policies that can be presented as less draconian.

The long-term goal however is clear and thanks to the Obama administration the US now offers governments worldwide a model when it comes to smoking and social housing.

What disgusts me is how shameless anti-smoking campaigners are. Social housing or not, it's still someone's home. As I told the Sunday Times, why should people be discriminated against just because they can't afford to buy their own house?

Whether it's taxation or smoking bans, the likes of ASH just love giving the less well-off a good kicking.

Ultimately though policies such as this are just a Trojan horse to ban smoking in all housing, regardless of wealth.

The 'good' news, if you can call it that, is that it might put 'passive' smoking back on the agenda.

One of the problems we've had since public smoking bans were introduced a decade ago is that no-one, least of all the media, wants to talk about the impact of 'secondhand' smoke in enclosed spaces, public or otherwise.

As far as journalists and politicians are concerned it's yesterday's news. Passive smoking kills (allegedly) and there's no more to be said. The debate, in their eyes, is over.

By putting smoking in the home up for discussion it means there's an opportunity to reassess the impact of 'secondhand' smoke.

Perhaps (and I don't say this with any confidence) we may be able to persuade ministers to revisit the evidence and reconsider the extent to which smoking should be restricted.

If the anti-smoking industry wants to have that battle I'm all for it.

Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (
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