Insulting our intelligence
Friday, November 23, 2018 at 11:21
Simon Clark

I go away for three days and while I'm away ASH publishes a report about smoking in the home.

According to The Times, which headlined its report 'Plan to stamp out smoking in social housing':

Stop smoking campaigns must target tobacco use in domestic settings, according to Action on Smoking and Health, which found smoking was twice as common among those in social housing than other tenures.

It also said housing associations should consider designating new-builds as non-smoking areas.

My response, written in haste moments after landing at Dublin airport on Monday (ASH's press release was embargoed until 00:01hrs on Tuesday), read:

“Reaching into smokers’ homes takes tobacco control in a new and rather sinister direction.

“Focussing on social housing targets those who can’t afford to buy their own homes. That’s discrimination in anyone’s language and many people will find it repellent.

“They say this is not about banning smoking in the home but that’s clearly the long-term goal. It’s prohibition by stealth and a gross intrusion into people’s private lives.”

I was quoted by The Times (in print and online) and a number of regional newspapers (online only) but my soundbite was restricted to the first sentence so the points about discrimination and prohibition got lost.

That's important because – despite the evidence before us – ASH is determined to deny the suggestion that they want to ban smoking in people's homes.

According to TalkRadio:

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health has said it is “unreasonable” to stop people from smoking in their own homes, but more has to be done to reduce smoking in social housing and privately-rented properties.

A report by Action on Smoking and Health and two All Party Parliamentary Groups found that smoking is “highly concentrated” on council estates, with a suggestion that new social housing could be designated smoke-free.

Ms Arnott stressed that this was not suggesting that people should be stopped from smoking in their own homes.

She told TalkRadio’s Matthew Wright: “It makes a good headline but the report does not actually say that people should be stopped from smoking. That would be completely unreasonable.”

“We are not suggesting that people should be stopped from smoking in their own homes,” she added.

“But, when the ban on smoking in public places came in we saw a decline in the number of people smoking in the home.

“Because, if it is dangerous to smoke in front of your workmates, why are going to smoke in front of your family?

“So there is much less smoking in the home than there used to be but it still happens.

“We need to do more to remind people why it is not a good idea. But, we certainly do not want to ban it.”

Deborah's colleague Hazel Cheeseman said much the same thing when we were interviewed together on LBC.

In Hazel's case she emphasised that the aim was to make new developments 'smoke free'. But that's still prohibition, right?

It strikes me that ASH is playing down the idea of stopping people smoking in their own homes because they know how that sounds to most people.

And if they don't know they should read these reactions on the Nottingham Post website:

Dave Jennings, 71, said he had no plans to stop smoking in his council house. “It is not anyone’s business what I do in my house,” he said.

Non-smoker Gary Brown, 66, said people smoking in their homes was no one’s business but their own. He said: “Politicians are always trying to ban this or that. Why can’t they just leave people, paying rent in their own home, alone. These people need to get a grip.”

Non-smoker Karen Lovell, 39 from Bow, east London said: “If you pay your rent, I don’t see why it’s anyone’s business what you do in your home.”

Dawn Tillett, 51, said: “I don’t smoke but people pay enough in rent to be able to smoke in their own home. For me it is nothing to do with the council or the government. People know the risks of smoking - if they do it, it is their choice.”

The reality is, ASH is deliberately obscuring the truth of the situation, as prohibitionists always do.

How often, for example, did we read that ASH didn't want to ban smoking in every pub and restaurant in the country until, one day, they did.

"No-one is seriously talking about a complete ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants," said Clive Bates, director of ASH, in September 1998.

Or what about the ban on smoking in cars carrying children? When we voiced concern about banning smoking in private vehicles the British Lung Foundation responded:

'Smoking in cars results in concentrations of toxins much higher than are normally found elsewhere ... Suggesting that other bans will inevitably follow insults the intelligence of the public ...'

If anyone is insulting our intelligence it's Deborah Arnott and ASH who want to create 'smoke free' housing developments where residents are not allowed to smoke while insisting "we certainly do not want to ban it".

If that's not a real-life example of George Orwell's Newspeak I don't know what is.

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