Another Evidence-Free Ban, This Time In SW1


Dick Puddlecote

Another Evidence-Free Ban, This Time In SW1 Does anyone remember secondhand smoke, aka passive smoking?.

For those with short memories, this was a ruse imagined in 1975 by Sir George Godber to promote a policy of “fostering the perception that secondhand smoke is unhealthy for nonsmokers”, after which the tobacco control industry set about creating the junk science to go with it. The first studies – by rabid professional anti-smoking cranks, natch – started to filter through at the start of the 1980s and eventually in 1993 and 2004 respectively, two politically-driven meta-analyses tortured cherry-picked tobacco control ‘science’ in the US and the UK in order to convince us all that secondhand smoke was dangerous. It mattered little that their conclusions amounted to a tiny and inconsequential relative risk (1.19 & 1.24) which would be dismissed as irrelevant in any other field of research, it was only required to manipulate politicians into passing illiberal and unnecessary bans.

Of course, the charlatans were just chasing headlines so by the time legislation was proposed – the only goal of the whole crusade – many people believed a wisp of smoke was as deadly as napalm, as architect of the UK ban Patricia Hewitt illustrated in 2007.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the ban was a “huge step forward” which would save thousands of people’s lives.

Ms Hewitt said the ban would protect everyone from second-hand smoke, while making it easier for smokers to quit.

“The scientific and medical evidence is clear – second-hand smoke kills, causing a range of serious medical conditions including lung cancer, heart disease, and sudden infant death syndrome,” she said.

“This legislation will help to prevent the unnecessary deaths caused every year from second-hand smoke, and recognises that there is absolutely no safe level of exposure.”

From rancid twisted conspiracy to bans on freely-chosen behaviour on the back of shonky propaganda, the whole process took 30 years give or take.

But, when the Health Act 2006 was tabled – and we’re only talking about eight or nine years ago here – to implement a ban it was imperative that advocates had at least some evidence that smoking would ‘harm’ someone else, however fraudulent that ‘evidence’ transparently was. There was still some small recognition of J.S. Mill’s harm principle where it relates to rights to self-determination and liberties.

Yet what have we now?

MPs who use e-cigarettes now have to go outside when they want their fix – because vaping has been banned across parliament.

In a ruling made by the House of Commons Commission, backed by the House of Lords Committee, vaping is banned everywhere in parliament.

This comes from an official note issued to politicians and staff which declares that “the use of electronic cigarettes is now prohibited across the Parliament Estate except for designated outdoor areas”.

We can only guess at the reason behind this, because none is mentioned. Incredibly, where cigarette smoking by staff was allowed just eight short years ago in Westminster offices and bars, now completely harmless e-cigs are banned!

It hasn’t taken any junk science, because there has been no credible study worldwide to say that passive vaping is harmful, so we can only assume it’s because the parliamentary authorities think vapour looks a bit odd or makes someone feel uncomfortable.

Now, just recap what Patricia Hewitt said in 2007. She claimed that the smoking ban would “save thousands of people’s lives” and “[make] it easier for smokers to quit”, yet Westminster’s ban is doing the polar opposite by punishing smokers who are trying to quit and arguably creating a precedent which will deter others from bothering. In fact, the only similarity this ban has with the 2007 one is that it is, once again, the selfish and intolerant who will benefit as – up and down the country – public sector authorities will cite this as a reason why they too should ban vaping.

Worse than that, this type of myopic and wholly indefensible ban encourages smoking – if I’m being shoved outside anyway, I may as well smoke rather than vape. There are over a million ‘dual users’ who will be be thinking exactly the same when some authoritarian knob jockey says “you can’t use that here, more than my jobsworth” despite no-one except the most objectionable and odious in society giving a shit.

This speaks volumes about the way parliament and Westminster has changed for the worse in a very short time span. A principle of English law used to be that “everything which is not forbidden is allowed” and, by extension, that if you wanted to ban something you’d better have a damn good reason for it. But, in this case, there isn’t one – an attempt at justification is not even embarked upon. It’s just because they say so.

It doesn’t reflect well on ASH in their new pretend role as friend of the vaper either. They have been making some positive noises on the subject of vaping recently, most notably with their latest research which revealed that there are now 1.1 million ex-smokers thanks to e-cigs, an increase of 400,000 in the past year, but their daily news hasn’t touched upon the Westminster vaping ban at all, not even a brief reference. A stark contrast with 2009’s revelation that delegates to the G20 summit would be provided with smoking lounges for Obama and his pals, when ASH were very quick to condemn the move in order to perpetuate the secondhand smoke golden goose.

Yet, as Westminster staff who vape are – to coin a Deborah Arnott phrase – “exiled to the outdoors” for no reason whatsoever, her organisation remains spinelessly silent despite being front and centre in political circles and fundamentally equipped to intervene if they chose to. Just as they have been equally lethargic – and, as a result, ineffectual – as motiveless e-cig bans run rampant on trains, buses, offices and pubs, as well as outdoors in sports stadia, on windy platforms and in provincial parks. All those potential quitters being herded into smoking areas with all that ‘lethal’ secondhand smoke, but they say next to nothing by way of condemnation. How many people are ‘dying’ due to their negligent lack of urgency? Odd, huh?

Still, I suppose it’s all more proof that none of these bans has ever had anything to do with health. Secondhand smoke is nothing more now than a totem which has empowered a tiny minority of vile, anti-social, intolerant, self-centred and morally repugnant oafs in our population to object to just about anything which offends their delicate sensibilities.

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