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Smoking ban (Read 215689 times)
Belinda
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Smoking ban
Oct 22nd, 2005 at 5:36pm
 
I am interested in the question whether a smoking ban can be said to contravene human rights legislation.

The case is as follows. There is much recent research about the dangers of passive smoking. I have done a few calculations that demonstrate that the risk from passive smoking is neglible as reflected in the mortality statistics for the UK. This risk seems to underpin the legislation in the perception of most people.

Assuming my figures to hold water (I will supply details if anyone is interested in this thread) my feeling is that the ban contravenes rights of association in European and other human rights law. Smoking is not illegal, and smokers who want to be in company in public places now risk being in contravention of the law. The fact is that millions of UK citizens are actually social smokers, and smoking is an addictive product.

I foresee enormous difficulties for smokers in maintaining social relations, both in general and especially in groups such as people with mental health problems, former prisoners, asylum seekers who have left home in fear of their lives. Free association is not free if people are in fear of the law when they pursue lawful activities.

I find it hard to see that there is an imminent threat to public safety or order by allowing smoking.

To summarise the figures I worked out, if you take the mortality figures and compare them with the number of 'exposed' non-smokers dying from four major smoking-related conditions you get about 1.5 percent in total, and there is only a link: no proven causation. In addition, two thirds of deaths across the whole UK occur over the age of 75, including smokers, with respiratory conditions killing three-quarters and strokes four-fifths. Only lung cancer kills more than two-thirds (actually about a half) of its victims under the age of 75.

I would be interested in any opinion on this question. Thank you

Belinda
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Princess Analia
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #1 - Oct 31st, 2005 at 7:07pm
 
I haven't done any formal research on this subject.  However, before I studied law I was a nurse and I can tell you beyond any reasonable doubt that passive smoking affects people's health.  There is plenty of research that I don't have to hand at present to show that passive smoking is dangerous.  There is a strong correlation with cot death for instance.  I am extremely tired of people (usually smokers or people from the tobacco industry) trotting out this rather limp human rights argument.  It is actually common sense that passive smoking affects others.  It is an established medical fact that smoking makes smokers ill, therefore, how can breathing in smoke in the environment not affect a persons health????  What about people with respiratory conditions? asthma for instance.  What of the scenario where an asthma sufferer is in a restaurant and someone lights up?  Are you telling me that the smoke will not affect the asthma sufferer?  Should the asthma sufferer leave the restaurant so as not to infringe the "human rights" of a person to inhale noxious fumes  and exhale them without a care in the world into everyone elses environment?  What about people who work in the hospitality industries?  Or in small businesses where they are forced to inhale second hand smoke?  Should they quit their jobs to prevent their health being affected?  God forbid that the smokers should be affected!

"the fact is that millions of UK citizens are actually social smokers and smoking is an addictive product"

The fact is that millions of people who started smoking in the last 30 years were aware that it is an addictive product and that it is extremely harmful to their health.  They made that choice, I believe that it is an incredibly stupid one but I agree that it is their right to make it.  I do not agree that they should be allowed to foist that choice on other people and affect them.  That idea is abhorrent to me.

That is a more emotional argument.  If you want to consider substantive law, I take it that you are referring to article 11 of the ECHR - the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.  Does not being able to smoke in a place which serves food stop people from peaceful assembly and getting together?  I think you may be reading this in a rather broad manner at any rate, I don't think it means the right to sit in the pub with other smokers, however even if it did, can your average smoker not go to the pub for a couple of hours without dropping dead from lack of a cigarette???  Secondly, the second part of article 11 allows these rights to be restricted inter alia for the protection of health or the protection of rights and freedoms of others.  So here we are back at the beginning again with smokers and the tobacco industry trying to prove that smoking isn't harmful.  The policy behind the legislation is not just to reduce the risks to non smokers, its to improve the health of smokers which also nullifies your argument.  You also talk of mortality statistics, what of morbidity?? Not every smoker DIES of a smoking related illness, just as every passive smoker doesn't.  But they can and do get ill.

I have personal experience of developing a smokers cough after 3 months of working in a smoky bar as a student.  I had to leave after my GP advised me that my health was suffering.

Smoke in your homes, that is your perogative, but let others have the right not to have their coronary arteries constricted by you.

 I also suggest you read the evidence presented to the Scottish Parliament when they were considering the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill.  The MSP's seemed convinced.  As do the consultants at the Beatson Oncology Centre where I worked as a nurse and the consultant anaesthetists in intensive care where I also worked.
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #2 - Oct 31st, 2005 at 7:24pm
 
Another thing,

contrary to what the general public realise, smoking doesn't just cause lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, it affects all the systems of the body.  Maybe you should visit a vascular ward and see the patients with 40 a day habits and no legs, or try plastic surgery and visit the guys who've had their tongues removed.

Smoking can cause terrible misery and any attempt by the government to legislate to try and reduce either the amount people smoke or the number of people who start in the first place is sound policy in the eyes of most health professionals.
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« Last Edit: Nov 1st, 2005 at 1:13am by Princess Analia »  
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #3 - Oct 31st, 2005 at 8:51pm
 
Hello Analia, and thanks for your comments.

This is a legal discussion board and I didn’t really want a detailed discussion about health. I don’t think health professionals are more important that others in determining an issue like smoking, because it is not only a health issue. However, I will try and answer your posts.

In the first place I am not actually a smoker, and I think you will find that opposition to smoking bans is not restricted to the tobacco industry and to smokers. I have seen people with emphysema writing to the press to oppose a smoking ban here in Scotland.

My viewpoint is coloured by the fact that when I visit my local I see people of all ages having discussions, keeping in touch with each other, listening to gigs, taking in part in quizzes etc including smokers quite advanced in years. Yours is coloured by the fact that you saw ill people on a daily basis in a hospital. Both are partial views but both have validity.

I am absolutely not trying to say that smoking is good for you. The difference between smoke inhaled by a smoker and by a non-smoker is its concentration. Most environmental tobacco smoke is water vapour. You are right to point out that I have no facts on morbidity. But in fact there is a lot of research on the effects of second hand smoke and most of it (certainly what I have been recommended to read by Scottish Executive officers responsible for the legislation) does not demonstrate conclusively that the second hand smoke caused the illness. The numbers and risks involved are not big enough.

Are you trying to say that the matter of sitting down over a cigarette and a pint is a matter too trivial to be supported by human rights legislation? I hope you are wrong. Smoking does not stop people getting together whether food is present or not because people are social smokers. It does affect some people’s willingness to come into smoky environments, but there are abundant non-smoking environments where people can meet.  Frequent air changes and filtration can remove the majority of particles. But to get back to the legal aspect, the threat of legal sanctions against people with a dependency on a legal product does affect their willingness to be in public environments. You can argue that people still have the right to come, without smoking. But I know from experiencing other medication, once you need a dose of something, it really stops you from thinking about anything else until you have taken it. So that will deter people from being in public space as it is their right to do. Not because they feel unwell if they come but if they try and resolve it in the time-honoured fashion they will be prosecuted.

You should also consider whether the fact that ‘passive smoking’ is such a hot political issue now that people might imagine it is harming them when it is not, simply because they are forgetting about other possible factors.

Anyway I hope that clarifies the position.

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Princess Analia
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #4 - Oct 31st, 2005 at 10:09pm
 
Firstly I apologise for assuming you were a smoker, you are right to say that it is not all smokers who are opposed to the ban. While I appreciate what you are trying to say and respect your opinion, this may be a legal discussion board but the debate on whether smoking should be banned in enclosed places not simply a legal one either.  It is multi factorial and has much of its basis in health and social policy. It is inextricably linked with health. I would not be so arrogant as to say that since I am a health professional my opinion is more important than anyone who isn't, everyone in society has a right to participate in this debate, which is why there was public consultation on the matter.  However I'm not just a health professional, I don't live in a hospital, I too go to the pub!  As I said, I used to work in a pub and it did affect my health despite having extractors in place.  I'm not saying that people wont be put off going to places that they cannot smoke.  They will.  However I still believe that this is a small price to pay for the health and environmental benefits to everyone who enters environments where people previously smoked. What of the people who have to work in smoky environments, they have no choice other than to give up their jobs.  Incidentally there is more research than you are quoting also, in any discipline there are two camps and the passive smoking debate is no different.  You quote research which says that second hand smoke is just water vapour.  There is just as much research to say that it is not.  Cigarettes are also not just lit then smoked, they burn when they are sitting and not being inhaled.  Is this smoke ok for others to breathe in?  

As far as sitting in the pub having a cigarette and a pint goes, yes I do think its a tad trivial to be covered by human rights legislation.  Go back to the reasons the ECHR and international rights treaties like it were ever in existence in the first place. What are we protecting here?  Again, no one is preventing from people congregating and having a pint.  It will simply be the case that then they cannot have a cigarette too.  

While I can see your argument and having worked in a local, know that this is all the social life some older people have and I honestly have a lot of sympathy for that, I know how isolated some of them can be, but there are also many people I know personally, including myself, who have walked out of restaurants and bars when in there for food due to people smoking beside them.  A smoky environment would absolutely stop me going into a place.  In fact there is a cafe in the west end that I and a number of other law students that I'm friendly with have stopped going to because people smoke in it and it's just not pleasant to be in.  I personally feel nauseated in a smoky environment.  Perhaps if there was more choice for non smokers who mind about smoke this wouldnt be such an issue but there really isn't at the moment. Wetherspoon pubs is about it I think if you want a drink without smoke around you.  Not a great choice.  I don't know if there is a compromise here, I haven't seen anything satisfactory but if there was I'd be all for it.

Finally, as I said before, the ban is not just about the risks of passive smoking, it's a decision about the health of smokers aswell.  

Again, I respect your views but I and a lot of people I know are really looking forward to being in a restaurant and not worrying about your meal being ruined when someone lights up beside you, feeling embarrassed to ask someone at the next table if they mind not lighting up till you've eaten your dinner, the absolute last thing I'd want would be to hassle anyone on a night out for smoking beside me but it would spoil my meal.  

I also don't think passive smoking is bad for me on the basis that its a bit of a hot potato at the moment.  I tend to base my opinions on more tangible stuff than that.

I'm sure this debate could go on and on, but the Scottish Executive obviously found the evidence compelling enough to go further with the bill, and indeed pass it as legislation.

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« Last Edit: Oct 31st, 2005 at 11:51pm by Princess Analia »  
princessanalia1974  
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #5 - Oct 31st, 2005 at 11:16pm
 
Well I must say this is quite disappointing, a legal question posed and someone using it to post their extreme anti-smoking opinions. Someone who admits having done no research on the subject. How very helpful. Someone who believes smoking must harm non-smokers despite the evidence to the contrary.

I have no explanation for why the various government bodies and many health professionals seem to be convinced otherwise. I don't think they are really, I believe they think it is acceptable to use what ever means possible to stop smokers smoking.

A wise senior medical colleague of mine is convinced that the human rights issue is the way forward. He thinks if Judges are forced to review the evidence they cannot but come to the conclusion that there is no link between smoking and ill-health in non-smokers.

Its perfectly alright to hate smoke and smokers and perfectly OK to try and educate smokers into stopping their dangerous habit. However it it not acceptable to use NHS money to pedal lies about "passive smoking" which only serve to scare the living daylight out of people.

Oh by the way Belinda I personally cannot respect the views of any extremist and I'm not sure you should!
Princess, we don't want a debate with you we wander if there is someone who knows any law.
Princess check these out:

http://www.sundaypost.com/news3.htm

http://www.scotsman.com/?id=2168052005

Phil
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Princess Analia
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #6 - Oct 31st, 2005 at 11:35pm
 
I am not an extremist.  I clearly stated that if there was some compromise that I would be all for it.  I don't hate smokers at all!  I can see very clearly what Belinda was saying about social networks.  I think you will find that I did address the ECHR issue.  Human rights is about protecting the rights of the minority against the majority.  Smokers are in the minority, so prima facie it appears that this is a human rights issue.  I don't think it is as simple as that. I respect others opinions and I stated that.  You seem to be the only person on here who doesn't respect others opinions and dismisses them as extremist because they don't tally with yours. There will always be disagreement on this issue, anyone who is being stopped doing something which is legal by making it illegal to do it on some occasions has a right to be upset by this.  I can see that very clearly.  It is not always the case that legislation is the best way to solve a problem.  It may not be the best way in this situation.  However I don't think it is fair to try and resolve this by saying "passive smoking doesn't harm people so you lot in the majority who don't smoke can just get on with it."  There is a lot of evidence to show that it can harm people.  You have included two links to newspaper articles.  This is not evidence.  If you show me proper studies, which aren't funded by tobacco companies which show that passive smoking is not harmful then I will look at it with an open mind.  
Does anyone have suggestions for alternatives to the ban?  I'd be very interested to hear them.  I for one do not have strong feelings about smoking in pubs.  When sending in my opinion for the consultation process I stated this, I only recently realised that it was to be a ban in all enclosed spaces, I had been under the impression that it was only where food was served and was happy with this.  It is only restaurants that bother me. So again, I think the label of extremist is rather arbitrary.
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princessanalia1974  
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #7 - Nov 1st, 2005 at 12:11am
 
I spose you're right really P. I apologise if I offended you. I just think its a bit extreme to react in the way you do to smoke around you. I'm all for respecting the individual and would certainly not inflict my smoke on people eating nearby. I would hope not to be sitting anywhere near a non-smoker as it would make me uncomfortable too and I probably wouldn't light up. There are plenty things other people do that are irritating and rely on tolerance and understanding to live together in harmony. I don't think banning things is in general a very constructive tool, there has to be another way.
Also, what will be will be, and if I have to go look for somewhere I can smoke without breaking the law then I will. However there will be a limit to how far I will walk so I will inevitably upset some sensitive people.
Choice wise, where I live, I've got a job to find anywhere I can have a coffee and a f*g. I don't drink so pubs are not of much interest to me. I find people under the influence of alcohol possibly as iritating as you find other peoples smoke.
I don't apologise for directing you to newspaper articles as you continually use anecdote and personal stories. It's a milestone in history that two relatively smoker friendly items have been printed in the media.
You are quite right about the passive smoking research being quoted to suit the interpreter. But my balanced view is that the evidence is exagerated beyond the pale and certainly does not prove a definate link at present.

I think that the human rights route is a perverse one to pursue but it's in desperation that I might use it. Its not a fair fight..multimillion propaganda machine against individuals with no organisation and no money.

I won't quote any one study because I cant spare the time and I need a f*g.
But I recommend "Dissecting the Antibrains" by Michael J Mcfadden.

www.antibrains.com
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Princess Analia
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #8 - Nov 1st, 2005 at 1:02am
 
Thanks for your reply.  You do make some very salient points.
 It's funny how people's perceptions are different, I sometimes feel as if everywhere allows smoking but that's obviously not the case since you have trouble finding anywhere to sit in peace, have a coffee and a cigarette. As I said before, I'm not sure what the answer is, I think there is definitely a case for having some places where people who are smokers or don't mind smoke are happy to work and that people can smoke in. A blanket ban must be a horrible situation for a smoker who is now wondering where they can go.  I still think as you do that legislation is not always the best way.  To be criminalised is quite an extreme outcome I feel.  It's a rotten situation when people are kind of segregated in this way and I'm sure a lot of the heated debate is due to the fact that smokers are feeling increasingly marginalised and indeed they are.  

However as regards human rights,  I can't really see how it would work in your favour for reasons I gave in another post.  The European Court of Human Rights also gives a fair margin of appreciation (depending on the article concerned) to member states to do what they think is right in their own country.  Of course it's only my opinion based on the little I know, I could be wrong and I'd be absolutely fascinated to see how the EctHR dealt with the issue.  


I'm actually glad I was involved in this  debate as it certainly opened my eyes a bit more to the other side of things.  You're right a lot of what I said is anecdotal, but I did read all the evidence that the Scottish Executive looked at while the bill was going through all it's stages. How do you trust research though?? On either side! It's difficult to know what is accurate, biased, whether other factors have influenced outcome.  The truth is usually somewhere in the middle isnt it? 

Thanks for your posts and I'll certainly have a look at your "dissecting the antibrains"



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princessanalia1974  
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #9 - Nov 1st, 2005 at 3:40am
 
This is very annoying.   I just spent about a half hour thoughtfully replying to a number of points the Princess and Belinda and the Doctor raised....  only to bump into a "your message was too long, go back and shorten it" screen and find that my message had been disappeared into cyberspace.

  :/

::sigh::

OK, let me just post two of the links I mentioned along the way and go nurse my sore typing fingers.   Analia, I wish my message hadn't disappeared: I think I had some friendly and helpful things to say.  Maybe if you visit my webpages for a bit you'll get a feel for the general gist of what I might have said though.

Links:

http://www.forces-nl.org/download/WelshReportCritique.pdf

and

http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/eletters/328/7446/977#55832

Re the second link: read the responses, then the study.  If you want to see more, click on the webpage linked to my Cantiloper name and read about "The Great Helena Heart Fraud."

Darn but losing that post was really REALLY annoying.

   :/
Michael
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Belinda
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #10 - Nov 1st, 2005 at 10:57pm
 
Gasdoc

It is funny but when I heard the ban was coming in the words 'freedom of association' came to mind almost unbidden. Every time I raised it in the first few weeks people thought I was talking about freedom to protest. But I was talking about freedom to be together on terms of our own choosing without accountability to a third party. Just be, which means being resourceful, finding things to talk about, music to play, or whatever, or watch sports or play darts. If we can't do that without looking over our shoulders for an inspector to check we are not smoking, how much more difficult will it be when actual political protest becomes necessary. This legislation cuts across every social interaction in the land, or if not all a significant majority of them.

I am a little puzzled that you felt that the human rights line is 'perverse' because I feel it is quite fundamental.

Analia, I wonder if any of your fellow students might be interested in this thread? On either side of the debate of course!

I don't remember quoting any research about cigarette smoke being water vapour. I just asserted it! But also I said it was mostly water vapour, and I don't agree with its classification as a Class A carcinogen. Likewise I am wary of your comment that you are open to research that is not funded by tobacco companies. Provided the funding is acknowledged, all research has to show sound sources, methods and results. If all this passes peer review what does it matter where the funding comes from. All research costs money and much of it is driven by quite strong competitive commercial interests. Non-profitmaking sectors of the economy like health are dependent on these for their operation. But the debate is presented by some as if it were a health v wealth issue, as if there were no money interests in health.
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #11 - Nov 2nd, 2005 at 8:27am
 
Belinda wrote: "I don't remember quoting any research about cigarette smoke being water vapour. I just asserted it! But also I said it was mostly water vapour, and I don't agree with its classification as a Class A carcinogen."

I respond: Actually Belinda according to the 1989 Surgeon Generals' Report (Figure 13) about 87% of the weight of cigarette smoke is a combination of water, carbon dioxide, and ordinary air.  I believe its classification as a Class A carcinogen was far more a political than a scientific move.  As of about 5 years ago when I last researched the particulars there were 6 Class A carcinogens in tobacco smoke, adding up, both mainstream and sidestream to a total weight of slightly less than one thousandth of a single gram.   An ordinary martini puts out almost two thousand times that amount of a Class A carcinogen (ethyl alcohol) into the air in the space of an hour.

See:  http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/eletters/330/7495/812#105082

Most of the basis for the Class A designation came from meta-analysis of epidemiological studies that showed a very small absolute risk increase in lung cancer among those heavily exposed to secondary smoke for a lifetime: an increase of about one lung cancer for every 10,000 persons.  Given the efficiencies of modern ventilation and filtration systems its likely that, EVEN IF we accept the EPA's figures as accurate and causal in nature, that secondary smoke would cause between 1 extra lung cancer per 100,000 exposed workers and 1 extra per 1,000,000 exposed... provided they worked in that environment for 30, 40, or more years.



Likewise I am wary of your comment that you are open to research that is not funded by tobacco companies. Provided the funding is acknowledged, all research has to show sound sources, methods and results. If all this passes peer review what does it matter where the funding comes from.

Knowing the funding source simply gives you a warning that you need to examine the research and the "slant" of its interpretation more carefully if it produces conclusions in line with the funders' interests.  It's VERY important that researchers be open and honest about this for that reason though.  In the past a lot of "tobacco industry" research wasn't, and today most of the "antismoking research" isn't (Antismoking researchers will usually state the sources openly but deny that they represent possible conflicts of interest.)

Don't put too much faith in "peer review."   Princess, if I am wrong on this please correct me, but I believe "peer review" usually consists of just having the article read and reviewed by two or three people who are "experts" in the field and then returned to the journal with crticisms and a recommendation about publication.  The British Medical Journal provides a somewhat truer "peer review" process through its "Rapid Response" mechanism in which many peers (and non-peers) can review, comment on, and criticize the research in question.  If you follow the link on Helena in my previous post you'll see this process in action and also see one of its weaknesses: the authors of bad piece of research are not obligated to defend their work.


Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"
http://pasan.TheTruthIsALie.com
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #12 - Nov 2nd, 2005 at 7:05pm
 
I always think this talk of "proof" is somewhat moot. I know that when I am forced to be in a smoky environment I feel extremely ill, and have difficulty breathing, for several days afterwards. I suppose you could argue that the two are unrelated and that I am the victim of an eery coincidence, but I seriously doubt it. Talk of smokers' rights cuts no ice with me. The right to breath surely precedes the right to indulge in a legal but morally questionable substance.
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #13 - Nov 4th, 2005 at 4:07am
 
Snooks

Are you studying law? I think your demand for evidence must get a bit more stringent. Few surveys of 650 self-selected agents can prove any matter under the sun, never mind a sample of one. Whether you like it or not there is evidence that the damage caused by second hand smoke is exaggerated and it is quite easy in these circumstances for other causes of breathing difficulties to lose ground in public awareness. You ‘know’ that being ‘forced’ into a smoky environment results in these symptoms. But if your symptoms are so common, how come it took at least nine decades for people to start linking them with tobacco smoke (taking the First World War as a possible beginning of people smoking in large numbers)?

We are looking for proof of a hypothesis (passive smoking) that justifies legislation designed to threaten about 25 million smokers in the community with criminal sanctions, including imprisonment for non-payment of fines for smoking in public places. The fact that that youdo not recognise ‘smokers’ rights’ as a concept  is worrying, especially if you are a law student. Everybody has rights, such as employment, custodial, marital and inheritance rights. Why should smokers be denied them?

I am sorry that smoky environments make you feel ill and I don’t disbelieve your discomfort. But I don't accept that this is an argument for enforcing a smoking ban.
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Re: Smoking ban
Reply #14 - Nov 4th, 2005 at 2:42pm
 
I am actually a lawyer. Top 4, before you ask. I'm sure you're very proud of passing your half course in undergraduate Evidence but it's actually not as impressive as you might think in the Real World.

It is commonly known, at least to anybody who has carried out the most elementary of research on the subject, that the link between smoking and ill health has been known since the 1950s but this evidence was suppressed by the tobacco industry and the governments they subsidised.

Of course people were aware from anecdotal evidence that smoking makes them unwell. My grandmother, a smoker, died of cancer in 1953 and there was never any doubt as to the cause of her death. I suppose the fact that people have continued to smoke since then is testament to the stupidity of humankind, and to the need for "nanny state"-style intervention.

In any event, in a right-thinking society, the burden of proof should be on the person who wishes to carry out the offensive activity in a public place. What does it matter if the effects of passive smoking are "exaggerated"? Only the most obstinate mule would argue that it has no negative effects at all. The interests of the toxic minority should always take second place.
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