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Outdoor smoking bans: Tories in turmoil over creeping prohibition

This is interesting.

According to a report published yesterday:

Bexley could become the first London Borough to have a smokefree pedestrian zone if the council carries out its proposals.

The council say the proposal is to "protect young people from the influence of visible smoking and second-hand smoke".

A Bexley Council statement read: "The proposed voluntary zone would initially run as a pilot for six months and cover the main pedestrianised areas in the town centre, including around Bexleyheath Clock Tower."

If plans are acted upon - Bexleyheath Town Centre would be a smokefree zone and electronic cigarette devices would also be banned.

Before I comment on that, let's rewind the clock.

In April 2017 it was reported that smoking could be banned in pub beer gardens and al-fresco dining areas if proposals by Labour-run Haringey Council were implemented.

However it was also reported that the idea had been blocked by the Government 'after ministers warned they would infringe on people's freedom and lead to pub closures'.

According to the Telegraph:

The proposals to extend the ban to outdoor areas were have been included in a list of demands by councils and health authorities in London which has been supported by Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London.

However the Government has rejected the plans and condemned "labour's municipal killjoys" for making the proposal.

Marcus Jones, a minister for local government, said: “We already knew that Labour councils charge higher council taxes and levy more red tape.

"Now Labour’s municipal killjoys have been caught with a smoking gun, trying to ban adults enjoying their local pub garden. If implemented, these ill-founded proposals would lead to massive pub closures.

"Conservatives in Government will be vetoing these Labour Party plans. Ahead of May’s local elections, local voters have a right to know the bad and mad ideas that are being peddled by Labour councillors."

What's interesting is that the council that is now proposing to introduce a 'smoke free' zone in the London Borough of Bexley is – wait for it – Conservative-controlled, and the man responsible for the six-week consultation that began yesterday is a Conservative councillor, Peter Craske.

Now some may argue that introducing a 'smoke free' pedestrian zone in Bexleyheath town centre is not the same as banning smoking in beer gardens and al fresco dining areas.

But what about town centre cafes with outdoor seating areas out front? Ditto pubs and restaurants. What Bexley Council is proposing will surely affect them just as much.

But regardless of that, why should anyone be barred from lighting up in any outdoor area when the harm it causes other people is not just negligible, it's zero?

Truth is, when it comes to nanny state policies and unwarranted interventions in other people's lives, there's little to choose between any of the main political parties at local or national level.

The Conservatives may not have the control-freak mentality of some Labour politicians but there's a long history of paternalism in the Tory party and it's a long time since I looked to a Conservative government for a sympathetic ear on this and other lifestyle issues.

All we can do is make our voices heard as loudly as possible. To paraphrase a (former) minister for local government, ahead of May's local elections voters have a right to know the bad and mad ideas that are being peddled by Conservative councillors.

There may be restrictions on who can contribute to the consultation but if you want to have your say on whether Bexleyheath town centre should become a smoke-free zone, click here.

PS. It's worth noting that the proposals for Bexleyheath town centre include a ban on "electronic cigarette devices". I wonder what ASH and Public Health England will have to say about that?

See also: The perils of devolution in public health (Taking Liberties).

Update: Dundee City Council has announced proposals to ban smoking in parks and playgrounds. The Courier and Herald have the story here and here.

Both reports include these comments by me:

"Smoking in the open air poses no risk to anyone else's health, including children, so there is no reason to ban it in playgrounds or any other outdoor space.

"We would urge smokers to be considerate to those in their immediate vicinity but the overwhelming majority don't need to be told how to behave around children. Like most people they use their common sense.

"The last thing we need are yet more regulations designed to tell ordinary people how to behave in public."

I'm also being interviewed by STV News.

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Reader Comments (5)

The outdoor smoking bans have one purpose: denormalisation. Outdoor bans are an incremental step toward prohibition. This is extreme social engineering.

There is no health risk to others from second hand smoke outdoors (and virtually none indoors either). This is no more than outright persecution of smokers.

Outdoor smoking bans must be fought at every turn.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 21:15 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Are councils actually allowed to do this? I seem to remember, many years ago, before the nationwide smoking ban was even a twinkle in the antis’ eyes, a few councils wanted to impose bans in their town centres/parks/gardens/pubs etc, but weren’t permitted to do so, as only central government was able to pass such legislation. Is this councils pushing the limits of the Localism Act? I understood that that Act was designed to give councils greater control over things like housing, planning etc and that things like smoking (or indeed any other kind of public behaviour) was still the preserve of central government. Is that why all of these outside bans are only ever described as “voluntary?” Any legal eagles on here know what they are or aren’t permitted to do?

Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 1:42 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

The Govt gave what we used to call Little Hitlers in councils absolute power to treat smokers appallingly with the local bill so they can do whatever they want to us. They can exclude us, evict us from homes refuse to employ us and anything else they see fit "to save" us

Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 10:19 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Provided you dispose of your butts properly these bans should be ignored. They cannot be enforced.

Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 18:04 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

For Gods sake !! why the hell cant we smokers be left alone ??Theses councils are taking the smoking ban way too far now !! People cannot be banned from smoking in the open air ! Soon it will be a case of no-one will go out anywhere we'll be confined to our own homes and then that will be banned !!!
Do we have a choice about anything at all??? tobacco is not illegal , and whether this government .councils, ASH like or not tobacco brings in a lot of revenue for this country ! Get a grip all you high and mighty officials !! there are worse things in this world to worry about ! you wouldn't get away with these bans in the USA. They made provision for smokers by having cigar bars !!

Sunday, February 11, 2018 at 20:46 | Unregistered CommenterA gwynne

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