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More thoughts on Dundee City Council’s new smoking policy

Dundee City Council’s new smoking policy continues to invite comment.

Yesterday I was asked to write 300 words on the subject for the Dundee Courier (a paper I applied to join as a trainee journalist in 1980).

To paraphrase Ernie Wise, here’s wot I wrote:

Is this really a priority for the council? In June a poll of 1,021 adults in Scotland found that tackling smoking was considered the least important of ten issues facing local government.

Maintenance of roads and bridges was the most important followed by refuse collection, street cleaning and other environmental issues, housing strategy (including the provision of social housing), economic regeneration, traffic management and road safety, youth services, planning and building control, and tackling alcohol misuse.

Dundee City Council says it has banned smoking on and off site during working hours because it wants employees to be role models. Why should council workers be treated any different to the general public? No wonder the unions are unhappy.

It also invites the question, are council workers who are overweight or obese bad role models too? Should the council monitor what their employees eat for lunch? Should they be ordered to take part in compulsory fitness classes?

The concurrent ban on vaping makes even less sense. If councillors genuinely want smokers to quit why would they outlaw and threaten to punish smokers and ex-smokers who have switched to e-cigarettes, a hugely successful smoking cessation tool? Instead of banning their use, the council should welcome the fact that a significant number of smokers are using e-cigarettes to help them quit, and allow them to do so.

As for enforcement, how is the council going to police the policy, especially off site? Will prying eyes and noses be expected to catch workers who smoke or vape during legitimate work breaks?

The health risks of smoking are well known but it’s not the job of government to dictate our lifestyle. People get through the working day in different ways. Some enjoy a tea break, others prefer a smoking break. That choice must be respected without discrimination or worse.

An edited version of these comments appeared in today’s paper. You can read them here:

How enforceable is Dundee City Council’s policy to ban employees from smoking during work time?

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