De discussie over het Engelse rookverbod levert bij onze westerburen vele, vaak amusante artikelen op in de pers. Vrijheid is daarbij heel vaak een Leitmotiv.
Wij kregen van onze Engelse contacten diverse artikelen doorgestuurd. Deze willen we onze lezers niet onthouden…
WE HAVE been here before. In 1604, that puling, hypochondriac blight upon the British monarchy King James I and VI published Counterblaste to Tobacco, a Royal Manifesto, in which he gave vent to his pathological detestation of smoking; he reinforced it fiscally by increasing the duty on Virginian tobacco from 2d to 6s 10d – a 4,000% tax increase, representing a scale of rapacity of which Gordon Brown can only dream.
Today it is Nanny Hewitt who is indulging her passion for running other people’s lives in accord with her own personal prejudices. Her anti-smoking crusade has the keen support of David Blunkett who, in spite of the notoriously disorderly state of his own affairs, is the chief control freak in a Cabinet of totalitarians. Hewitt permanently wears a pained expression which suggests she is thawing a pack of frozen peas between her thighs, but which in fact signals her despair at the appalling lack of intelligence of those she is haranguing for their own good.
So, it’s finally come to this! A few zealots and propagandists – approximately 4% of the adult population – have succeeded in persuading an un-elected Minister to impose a total smoking ban on the rest of us!
Much fuss has been made of the 91% who were in favour of the ban but it is imperative to realise that this was not a statistical poll, nor was it representative of the population.
A lot of people, including many who should know better, think that these figures were the result of a statistical survey. Far from it!
It was a propaganda exercise by assorted interested parties, based on the expectation that only those who were passionately against smoking would reply and that the resulting figures would be looked on by most people as a valid poll.
How right those propagandists were!
One of the adages of statistical survey is: “Measure, Don’t Ask”. This was ignored by those who set up this “survey” (and, incidentally, by those who have produced “results” on passive smoking).
“Convenience Sampling”, where people are allowed to choose whether or not they respond, also used by these zealots, is an almost certain source of bias.
Chris Buckler, the BBC Twenty Four Hours journalist, reported on October 17 that 91% of the Northern Ireland public voted for a total smoking ban. This was not the case.
It was reported on June 2 this year that only 71,000 people responded to the Government’s coupon query on smoking – 4.7% of the population. Of those only 35,000 supported a total ban. In effect, 2.4% of the population.
Mr Buckler, therefore, exaggerates, to use the kindest word, by a factor of 88.6%. In fact, 97.6% of the population did not respond partly because they believe in live and let live, that if people want to have a fag in the pub, so what? And partly because they would never have dreamed that in a democratic country such a draconian law would even be entertained. In north Korea, yes; but in Ireland?
Is Mr Buckler merely taking at face value the Belfast Telegraph’s editorial of June 29 that 91% was the true figure rather than almost the very opposite.
So much for respect for law and democracy now. Let people burgle, mug, rob, riot now. Nobody will give a toss any more. Ironically, if you get jailed you’ll be allowed to smoke! You couldn’t make it up.
Politicians were accused of hypocrisy last night after it emerged that the Government’s new law banning smoking will not cover the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
When workplaces around England and Wales become smoke-free zones in 2007, MPs and peers will be able to continue happily puffing on a cigar or cigarette at their desks.
Although smoking was recently banned in the Commons’ corridors and restaurants, some of the eight bars in the Commons will be among the last bastions of public smoking in the United Kingdom, alongside private members’ clubs.
An obscure historic loophole exempts the Palace of Westminster from health and safety laws.
MPs who favour a complete ban said yesterday that it was a farce for the lawmakers not to be covered by the new law outlawing smoking.
In truth, last week’s cabinet bust-up over pub smoking was a rare moment of sanity in Tony Blair’s government. For once Downing Street did not crack the whip to get its way. For the first time in eight years the cabinet seemed to be doing its job. It discussed something before making a decision. True, it leaked all over the place, but that was novelty talking. Besides, where someone smokes in a pub is hardly an earth-shaking matter. Some might wonder if it is a government-shaking matter either.
There is no better place to study state intrusion on personal freedom than in a pub. Why can’t I go down the road and get a drink and a smoke whenever I want, asks Joe Citizen? His friend answers, because you make a mess and a noise. You get drunk and you die of cancer and my taxes have to pick up the pieces. Tough, cries Joe Citizen. You do things that cost me money, like drive, get fat and have children. You get off my back and I’ll get off yours. Otherwise let’s live and let live — or at least let’s hack a compromise.
That in a nutshell was the argument last week in cabinet. I imagine it was repeated in every pub in the land. This was not passive politics. It was politics lit, smoked, inhaled and blown in every face and was all the better for it. Nor was the outcome as absurd as critics have portrayed.