HEALTH SECRETARY, Patricia Hewitt called it a moment, which “is going to save thousands of peoples lives”. She was referring to the vote made last Tuesday which saw MP’s from all three main political parties voting unanimously on a full smoking ban across public places in England. With changes coming after growing fears of the effects of second-hand smoke.
The ban which is due to be introduced in Summer 007, has received mixed reaction during a survey carried out on York campus by Nouse last week; with the most prominent argument against the ban being concerns over civil rights. James Copeland from Alcuin college said its an “infringement on civil liberty”. Helen Tillen also from Alcuin added “if we want to die, why can’t we? They are trying to eradicate all the cool people from society.”
Such concern over whether it is people’s right to be able to smoke in public societies was the main reason behind several MP’s voting against the bill in the commons last week. Simon Clark director of smoking support group Forest thought “The Government should educate people about the health risks of smoking but politicians have no right to force people to quit by making it more difficult for people to consume a legal product.” These views were shared by a non-smoker who argued “bars and clubs should decide whether to be non-smoking”.
Despite this, several students thought that the risks posed to bar staff in a smoky environment were ‘unacceptable’. A York Graduate, currently working at the Charles said ‘the fact that I won’t be working in a smoky environment any more is brilliant. I won’t have to clear any more ashtrays, or ask people not to smoke at the bar.’
With second hand smoke being widely considered to increasing the risk of cancer and shortening life expectancy, health worries were as expected the main argument of non-smokers and smokers alike who were in favour of the ban. Smoker, Matt Gregory said ‘I don’t think people who are non-smokers should have to breathe my fumes, it’s embarrassing!’ This view was echoed by Owain Lewis a non-smoker who thought that ‘peoples lives are more important than others addictions’.
This was the common view of the majority of non-smokers who were surveyed, with many expressing their pleasure at the reduction in air pollution in bars and clubs. Lucy Watkins was asked in Vanbrugh bar on Friday evening about her thoughts on the new legislation and said ‘I think it’s a really great idea, just here in Vanbrugh it stinks of smoke and it’s awful, the changes are a good thing for health’. James Copeland was more interested in not having to wash his jumpers so regularly.
Although the students interviewed lavished much praise upon the laws, some undergraduates voiced their concerns over the Governments role in encouraging Britain’s smoking epidemic over the decades. Tom Van Rassum, a smoker who was surveyed in the Charles on Friday evening said ‘I don’t see how the government can tell me I can’t smoke’, ‘if people want to go out and smoke they should be able to. Its our choice’.
His friend Jonathan Davidson, who is also a smoker, added ‘the amount of money the government has got from us over the years from taxing cigarettes and now they suddenly expect the population to stop smoking, are the government going to provide nicotine patches?’ Some also criticised the government for being old-fashioned. Kevin Atkinson, a York resident argued this is not New Labour this is old Conservative. We argued about Russia doing this kind of thing in the seventies.
However as one student who wished to remain un-named remarked “the bill is bound to cause controversy as there are so many views”.
The smoking legislation will come into force in Summer 2007
In England smoking will be prohibited in all public areas including bars, clubs and restaurants
Fines for smoking in non-smoking areas are to be raised from £200 to £2500