Front Line Focus: Give smokers a break

We’re getting used to the smoking ban. Whether your tipple is a pint of Boddingtons, a Bacardi Breezer or a glass of Beaujolais, you can go to any bar, pub or restaurant in the land and enjoy it smoke-free, as long as you stay inside. Some say the ban should extend to the outside, and are alarmed at the growth of patio heaters and shelters, catering predominantly for smokers (and polluting the environment with carbon dioxide emissions). Already, at least one person has died trying to enforce the ban.

But I do have some sympathy for smokers, and it is wrong that sick people in dressing gowns have to puff away in bus shelters in the rain because some hospitals have a smoking ban that includes the grounds.

I come from a generation who experimented with fags down by the canal. Smokers now must feel relegated to the same fate, like rebellious teenagers, who certainly don’t want the “grown ups'” approval.

It was ironic that Bernard Manning died just before the ban came into effect, and on the same day that a major northern night club burned to the ground. If the ban means the demise of the club, then where is the audience for the likes of Manning going to go, and will it lead to mysterious fires and insurance claims (as happened with cinemas in the 1970s and 1980s)?

Where will it end? Will we see police raids on “smoking speakeasys” as they had with Prohibition in the US during the 1930s? Perhaps the ban will include anywhere outside in public, as in California (although they make up for it with traffic fumes in Los Angeles). A total public ban may seem a good idea, but there may be fears of tensions causing riots and street violence. By the same reasoning the ban doesn’t extend to prisons.

Will smokers be deemed unfit parents and their children taken away? Smoking is already a major negative factor when considering prospective adoptive and foster parents. A child has no choice but to breathe in the fumes in their own home. Could enforced passive smoking be deemed child abuse? This would be a harsh judgement on an otherwise loving parent, a bit like the way that parents of obese children are judged.

Surely people will smoke more in their own homes now they can’t smoke in public buildings? The assumption is they’ll be responsible enough not to smoke around their children and, if possible, they’ll give up.

The fact is the ban is a gamble. But I’ll back it.

Jennifer Harvey is a day services co-ordinator working with people with learning disabilities

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