Thursday, September 24, 2009

I have a vested interest

Plans by the national health ministry to ban smoking in all bars and restaurants have severely angered business owners throughout the Valencia Region.

Although negotiations between the affected businesses and the government have only just begun and are expected to be long and drawn out, the managers' initial stance is an outright rejection of the ban.

The anti-smoking laws were already tightened three years ago. Some businesses reportedly spent up to 10,000 Euros to adapt to the new regulations. The owners of an estimated one in four establishments of more than 100 square metres invested in dividing their bar, restaurant or club into smoking and non-smoking sections. Those renovations would now be rendered outdated and useless under the new legislation.

Affected businesspeople have declared their support for the struggle against tobacco addiction, but stressed that the only way to reduce the number of smokers in Spain is to carry out prevention campaigns and raise awareness about the negative effects of the drug.

A blanket ban in the current climate, with a very high percentage of smokers, would merely leave a vast number of bars empty.

Now for my two pennyworth.

I sympathised with none smokers when they had to put up with going into bars and restaurants filled with smoke. There was no choice because there weren’t any bars designated for non-smokers. They had to either put up with the problem or not go out to public bars. That was clearly unreasonable.

Now things are different, there are total non-smoking bars and non-smoking areas in other bars; restaurants are largely non-smoking areas. I would argue that this is a good working solution because it suits everyone – smoker and non-smoker alike. A total ban only suits one section of the population which actually aren’t the non-smokers.

I believe it is the anti-smokers who are the ones campaigning for a total ban. These are the people who would like to dictate what the rest of us should or should not do. These are the ones who argue for a total ban on smoking per se. They would like to claim that smoking anywhere, whether in private or public, is polluting the atmosphere for everyone. I dare say they would even suggest that smokers are contributing to global warming.

If we are so keen to protect people’s health, why don’t we ban high cholesterol food, caffeinated drinks and the worst offender of the lot – alcohol; none of which are supposedly good for you. But why stop there? Why not go further and ban the sales of fast cars and high powered motor bikes – they kill a lot of people.

I’m sure I could think of many other things that could be banned for the sake of public protection such as mobile phones that were supposed to addle your brain with radiation. If I continued to draw up my list, this post could end up rivalling the contents of Bigastro’s library.

Actually, when I think about it, taking all these measures to safeguard people’s health and well being could cause a problem because we might all end up living longer. Countries like England are already finding it hard to fund the pensions of people living well into their eighties and nineties – we don’t want to add to that by making it possible for people to live even longer! Damn it, for the sake of the economy, we need to all take greater risks with our lives.

Now I am being facetious but you get the point. In my opinion, the measures that have already been put in place are workable. At least people in Spain now have a choice of places to go to. Quite rightly, non-smokers no longer have to put up with a smoke filled room every time they want to go out for a drink because they can choose either a non-smoking bar or a non-smoking area in a bar. Surely that is enough to suit everyone.

1 comment:

Pete said...

It's a tough one Keith. My civil libertarianism wants to make a place for smokers, but my selfishness doesn't.

But my problem , as is always the case, isn't the regulation - it's the people.

The concept of smoking and non smoking areas is a nonsense. Unless you are completely physically segregated with double door airlock like systems between them then you get cross contamination. It also takes incredibly little smoke to upset a non smoker, and smokers do not, and in fairness cannot, realise how much the smoke smells.

I think the problem is down to a minority with no consideration. I can't tell you how many concerts, meals - even airshows, that I have had spoiled by smokers. Smokers also generally think that outside is totally fair game and won't bother anyone, even in the middle of a densely packed crowd.

If bars were separately licenced, and smoking licenses were granted in proportion to the smoking population - be that one bar in three, four, five, whatever - I'd be completely happy. I would totally and completely support smoking rooms in airports and public buildings.

The moral imperative here though, and one that doesn't work for fatty foods and caffeinated drinks, is the element of choice. If I choose to drink gallons of strong coffee, it doesn't upset you very much. But it only takes one person smoking a cigarette badly to piss off as many as fifty people. And that's where it gets messy. And yes, the same argument DOES apply to alcohol, and yes I'd cheerfully ban that tomorrow as well.

If everyone was considerate to everyone else's needs, smokers and non-smokers alike, then a problem would not exist.