Paul Bartlett's "caring obsession" with smoking
Monday, July 17, 2017 at 12:37
Simon Clark

Some of you may recall Paul Bartlett.

Paul is the former councillor who in 2011 attempted to ban smoking in the centre of a small Buckinghamshire town called Sony Stratford.

A protest was organised and over 100 people took part. See Follow your head (and your heart) to Stony Stratford and The day the people spoke.

Rod Liddle interviewed Bartlett for the Sunday Times and their exchange included this little nugget:

Liddle: "Do you realise there's not a single person in Stony Stratford who's in favour of your plan? We've trawled the streets. We've walked up and down. We haven't found a single person who doesn't think that it's a fatuous idea.

Bartlett: "Well, that's not the feedback that I'm getting. Obviously there are people who are very passionate about it and want to continue contaminating the environment and killing themselves through cancer ...

Liddle: "That's none of your business, is it, whether they kill themselves, really?"

Bartlett: "It is because I'm a councillor and I care about my local people."

A few days later Bartlett's motions to ban smoking were rejected by his fellow councillors (see Stony Stratford - spread the word) and his "local people" later voted him off the council altogether.

Apart from a comment on Forest's old website in 2012 (Why is Forest supporting death and illness, asks Paul Bartlett) I'd heard no more of him until today when I found myself going head-to-head with him on BBC Three Counties radio.

The item was promoted by plans to introduce a voluntary ban on smoking in all Hertsmere Borough Council parks.

Bartlett is not involved in the initiative but he supports it, as you can imagine.

I took two things out of our discussion (which began politely enough!).

One, he admitted he had a "caring obsession" about smoking.

Two, he also stated, "I am not going to propose ever again what I proposed in Stony Stratford. I realised that was the wrong approach ..."

Unfortunately it takes just one person with an obsession to light a fire. Bartlett may not have succeeded in Stony Stratford but tobacco control campaigners have learned from it, hence the focus on play areas (not high streets) and, now, parks.

Click here to listen to the 23-minute discussion in full.

Finally, here's another exchange from the Rod Liddle interview in 2011:

Bartlett: "If you're walking in the street in Stony Stratford or anywhere else you have to walk through someone's smoke. You have to walk through their spit which they leave on the pavement through their cigarette butt, you need to get your clothes burnt and if you have a young child there's every chance that that child could get burnt and that's very, very important."

Liddle: "How many people in the last five years have been burnt in Stony Stratford as a consequence of walking past someone with a cigarette?"

Bartlett: "Well, I don't know the figure but I certainly know that ..."

Liddle: "None, probably, isn't it?"

Bartlett's obsession with people being burnt by cigarettes cropped up again this morning.

According to the former councillor people smoking in parks is putting not only kids at risk but also clothes and tables.

Part of me wishes there were more people like Paul Bartlett because his extreme reaction to smoking, his "caring obsession", is the antithesis of most people's attitude to smoking.

Unfortunately tobacco control is driven not by mavericks like Bartlett but by professional campaigners who have the same goal and the cynical, battle-hardened nous to achieve it.

Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (
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