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Shane Frith: Why you should support the campaign to amend the smoking ban

Picture_3Shane Frith is director of the classical-liberal think-tank Progressive Vision. He has worked for Conservative MPs in the UK and National Party MPs in his native New Zealand.  He is a former chairman of the International Young Democrat Union, linking young people involved in centre-right political parties worldwide, including the Conservative Party.

As a non-smoker, I have joined a campaign calling for an amendment to the smoking ban to allow smoking areas in pubs and clubs. I joined Save Our Pubs & Clubs: because approximately 50 pubs in Britain close every week, many harmed by the loss in trade caused by people drinking and smoking at home.

When a local pub closes, we all suffer – smoker and non-smoker alike.  Amending the smoking ban to allow smoking areas in pubs, or even allowing small single room pubs to choose between smoking and non smoking policies, will help many pubs to survive.

As a member of the Conservative Party, I support private property rights and surely publicans and patrons should be the ones who decide what legal activities are carried out in a local pub?  I was delighted that Greg Knight MP attended the launch as part of a cross party campaign – we had elected representatives from all three major parties in attendance.

Save Our Pubs & Clubs: is a coalition of groups and individuals who believe that the public smoking ban introduced in Scotland in 2006 and the rest of the United Kingdom in 2007 is excessive and should be amended to allow, for example, separate smoking rooms. (I would also like to see single-room bars given the opportunity to choose between smoking and no-smoking, as is currently the case in Germany and Spain.)

The campaign is supported by my think-tank Progressive Vision, the consumer rights' organisation Forest, the Adam Smith Institute and the Manifesto Club. We are also working with a number of licensed victuallers associations (LVAs), which represent many independently-run pubs.

The campaign isn’t campaigning for a repeal of the ban.  We want the consumer given real choice, between a pub which allows smoking or one that doesn’t.  This choice was ruled out by Labour when the smoking ban was enacted in 2007.  It is our hope that when the law is reviewed in 2010 by a new Parliament this option will be once again permitted. 

This Labour government has infantilised the people of Britain with an enormous growth of the nanny state.  The smoking ban, affecting private property, is one of the more egregious examples of this attitude.  I, as a non-smoker, have never been forced to walk into a smoke-filled bar, yet Labour’s nanny state believes I am a victim and need to be protected.  If given a choice, I will prefer to stay in non-smoking sections of pubs or visit non-smoking pubs, but as an adult I deserve that choice.

The attack on smokers is just part of Labour’s “government knows best” attitude.  It is this attitude that brought in the hunting ban, is leading to greater restrictions on alcohol and has produced the hysteria about fatty foods.  Even if you are a non-smoker, you likely have something to fear from Labour’s nanny state.

I encourage all ConservativeHome readers to get behind this campaign.  We already count a number of PPCs as supporters and expect many more will follow.  Let start the fight-back against Labour’s Nanny State!


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