Saturday, August 04, 2007


The first prosecution has occurred under the new smoking ban. More over, it is a political arrest. The BBC report that "Mr Howitt has been a vocal critic of the smoking ban and has been openly defying the legislation since it came into force on 1 July." And now, for letting people use his property on his terms,

Hamish Howitt faces a fine of up to £2,500 for defying the new laws and allowing his customers to light up inside his Happy Scots Bar.

Officers from Blackpool Council handed out three £50 fixed penalty notices to smokers over the weekend.

My claim that Smoking in "public places" (private places, really) is a victimless crime will not be accepted by what the BBC claim are the 80% of people in this country that support the ban. They have almost all been convinced that passive smoking is a killer, and think that fact justifies the ban. Of course, the way the media reports these things doesn't help. I saw a TV news broadcast, on ITV, on July the first when the reporter went into some cafe and said, "so and so who works here is 25% more at risk of catching lung cancer." Presumably this was because people smoked in the cafe.

I remember thinking "25% more" than what? 25% more than anybody else? Including smokers? How much is 25% more? If I have a one in a million chance of catching lung cancer, and that risk increases by 25% I still don't really have a high chance of catching lung cancer, do I?! A writer on Liberty Forum flagged me to an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology, that said,

We found a rather remarkably low SMR (standardized mortality ratios) for lung cancer among female cabin attendants and no increase for male cabin attendants, indicating that smoking and exposure to passive smoking may not play an important role in mortality in this group. Smoking during airplane flights was permitted in Germany until the mid-1990s, and smoking is still not banned on all charter flights.

So, to what extent one can be a victim of public smoking is questioned in this way.

However, the normal definition of a victimless crime doesn't require that actual physical or mental harm come to those that perpetrate in them. The normal approach is whether there has been a rights violation, or whether the harm is consented to.

Imagine that I set up a cafe. I posted on the doors, "smoking is tolerated in this cafe. Beware, passive smoking may cause cancer. Patrons enter at their own risk." Imagine I put a similar notice on application forms and contracts for employment.

In this case, everybody has been warned that smoking goes on there. Nobody that goes in doesn't know smoking goes on. Nobody that works there doesn't know that smoking goes on. Everybody knows there is smoking, and knows the risk. If they choose to go in, surely they subject themselves to the smoke voluntarily, with fully informed consent.

If so, then how does the this fact change from pubs in the real world? There quite simply are no people who did not know that pubs were smoking environments. Everybody made informed consent upon entering. They chose to passively smoke.

Therefore smoking, actively and passively, is a peaceful activity between consenting adults, and like all such acts, should be legal.


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