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« VApril and the UKVIA Forum 2018 | Main | “I don't like the world I am living in and shall have few regrets when I leave it.” »

The consequences of a ban on smoking in outdoor eating areas

A proposal by former health minster James Reilly to extend the smoking ban to outdoor eating areas in Ireland is dividing opinion.

Writing in yesterday's Irish Independent, columnist Ian O'Doherty (above) commented:

The only reason I am reluctant to call Reilly and his ilk a bunch of single-issue fanatics is because he'd probably thank me for the compliment - after all, he has previously described tobacco companies as 'evil' and pompously declared 'war' on smoking.

In true tinpot-tyrant fashion, they are determined to make Ireland 'smoke free' by 2025 - an idea that is ludicrous, totalitarian and, like all their plans, unworkable.

The problem with these ideas is that they want to completely remove the individual autonomy of grown adults and private businesses and concentrate all such decisions in the hands of the State.

If a private bar or restaurant wants to accommodate smokers in their outside areas, that is an issue between the patrons and the management. If people are staying away from their place because of smoking, they won't allow it.

That is entirely their call to make. You see, the market always works things out far better than any politician, even a colossus like James Reilly, ever could.

See Latest smoking proposals are about control, not health.

Meanwhile the Sunday Times Ireland today reports that 'Proposals to ban smoking in outdoor eating areas may make pubs stub out their dining options instead.'

Carol McCann, a restaurant supervisor at the Harbourmaster bar and restaurant in Dublin, points out that, thanks to Ireland’s complete lack of sunny weather -amounting to all of two days in the past eight months - choosing whether to facilitate outdoor smokers or diners is a no-brainer.

“It wouldn’t be that big an issue for us,” said McCann. “For the three sunny days we get in Ireland each year, that is the only time our outdoors areas are used for eating.”

Smokers, on the other hand, use the outdoors areas all year round. “Our whole building is for diners, so I’d leave outside for the smokers.”

Even in warner climates the cost of banning smoking outside has "unintended consequences". Only last week, in Australia, the Herald Sun reported:

Customers are being banned from eating outside so smokers can puff away with impunity at some cafes and restaurants in Victoria. Dozens of eateries in Melbourne's east have transformed outdoor dining areas into smoking safe spaces after new laws banning cigarettes around food came into effect ...

The full report is behind a paywall but you get the gist.

Back in Ireland, the Sunday Times quotes Forest spokesman John Mallon and includes some fascinating information that will interest those of you who supported Forest's well-publicised opposition to proposals to extend the smoking ban to outdoor areas in Brighton:

Brighton and Hove city council considered banned smoking on Brighton beach, but surveys indicated insufficient public support for the move.

The council also considered a ban in outdoor dining areas, but settled for a voluntary scheme. Initially many food businesses indicated that they would sign up, but last week the council said just four had done so.

Verity Craig is the owner of Bohemia, a bar and restaurant in Brighton which has two outdoor areas. She never considered signing up to the voluntary scheme to convert weather of them into a non-smoking area.

That is because, in five years in business, she has never received a complaint from diners about smoking.

Fancy that!

What these reports tell me is that, far from being an insignificant minority, smokers still have some clout.

The number of people who want to smoke when they are out socialising is not inconsiderable and the hospitality industry is generally keen to accommodate them, if they can.

Moreover, the objections to smoking outside are coming not from fellow diners (by and large) but from a tiny coterie of professional anti-smokers.

With this in mind I think we have a chance of winning this battle but opposition voices must be much louder and more persistent than they have been.

I understand why many of you are weary of fighting the tobacco control industry and feel the war on smoking is going in only one direction, but that's no reason to throw in the towel.

In Brighton we demonstrated the importance of making our voices heard (see Brighton - common sense prevails) and we need to do so again ... and again.

The consequence of a ban on smoking in outdoor eating areas in Ireland would almost certainly encourage similar action from devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and local authorities in England.

Although some businesses might choose to allow smoking in preference to eating, the likely outcome of that is that tobacco control campaigners will then demand a complete ban on smoking outside pubs, restaurants and cafes, regardless of whether people are eating or merely drinking.

I know that, you know that.

Worse – and unlike Ireland where the authorities regularly turn a blind eye to minor infractions of the law on smoking in enclosed public places – the UK will no doubt enforce any new regulations to the nth degree.

So, still much to play for. I'll keep you posted.

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Reader Comments (5)

Why is the guy in the picture lighting the wrong end (the filter) of the cigarette?

Sunday, April 29, 2018 at 20:13 | Unregistered CommenterVlad

I agree with Simon. Directly confronting the antismoker pressure campaigns is essential. The Brighton case is a clear example of the value of being vocal, answering surveys and consultations and engaging politicians. The tobacco control machine is a globally co-ordinated, well-funded collection of pressure groups, allies in the media, and brainwashed acolytes that demand bans. Despite that co-ordination, actual support fro smoking bans is weak.

Right now in Somerset, Dorset, and Bath the antismoking machine is pushing for outdoor smoking bans at beaches, in parks, and at outdoor eating areas despite real public support. That is another effort that should be shut down.

When smokers voice their opinion they are heard. The time for silence is over.

Sunday, April 29, 2018 at 22:32 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

"When smokers voice their opinion they are heard."

I disagree, when smokers have raised their voice they are routinely ignored, denigrated and their poll votes discounted as 'Industry shills'.
The only 'voice' that will be heard if enough of us 'shout' is £s....or lack of them in the till.

Monday, April 30, 2018 at 13:57 | Unregistered CommenterThe Blocked Dwarf

Yes the time for silence is over. We must defend our rights. They got the inside of pubs. There is no way they are getting the outside too. My position is that if these rules do get passed in England and they are driving me from using pubs i will defy these rules and if necessary go to prison.

Monday, April 30, 2018 at 16:38 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

Blocked Dwarf, You are right about being ignored in online forums. Online polls are easy to ignore (after all they have no statistical validity only propaganda power) but it is important to get seen there too if only to help shape the information environment. Online comments are ignored except by persons already committed to a position. The antismoking zealots try and shout down opposition. That is the mindset of a mob (and mobs aren't spontaneous; they're orchestrated).

The only meaningful action is political action: calls to councilors, legislators; letters to print newspapers, visits to legislators and their staff, comments and testimony on proposed legislation, etc.

Sustained (persistent) and co-ordinated action does get results (as seen by the ascendency of tobacco control). Their data is exaggerated, often false, and that is why they report to their mob tactics. They have many inherent weaknesses (the second hand smoke ruse is false, the mantra about so-called smoking-related diseases is exaggerated at best); but persistence got their agenda set in public perception. You only lose when you quit. Guerrilla tactics often succeed over the long haul even against significant resistance. It isn't enough to react to each onslaught, we need to turn the tables and put the antismokers on their heels. Stopping new outdoor bans isn't enough, we need to turn back indoor bans and demand indoor accommodation as well.

Monday, April 30, 2018 at 23:21 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

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