Smoking restrictions – UK & Jakarta

A significant step forward in reducing the harm of tobacco smoking has occurred with the decision by House of Commons in London to ban smoking in all enclosed public spaces in England. This approach was more hardline than what was originally proposed by the UK government, and interestingly was made the subject of a free (or conscience) vote for MPs.

Perhaps an even more significant development in the battle to reduce the harm of tobacco smoking is the by-law recently adopted in Jakarta prohibiting smoking in public buildings. It is interesting how quickly one gets used to living with these sorts of restrictions, which are now in place around Australia to varying degrees. The number of people smoking is something that stood out to me when I was in Jakarta last year (although that was nothing compared to Turkey, where one could be forgiven for wondering if smoking is compulsory).

As well as the ban now coming in in England, this report on the ABC says that, “Northern Ireland has passed a similar law which will take effect in April 2007, while smoking in public places in Scotland will become an offence from next month. Ireland, Italy, Norway, Malta and Sweden have also outlawed smoking in public places.”

There is momentum building in Australia to take a more hardline approach towards marijuana use. This is an interesting topic which I hope to write a larger piece on soon. However, we should not take our eye off the much larger health consequences of tobacco use.

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23 Comments

  1. I dont smoke. I also don’t like these laws. Restaurants in the US south have seperate areas for smokers and non-smokers. Due to air-conditioning/fans etc the smoke was not an issue in the non-smoking areas. Restaurants and bars took care of this on their own by responding to a demand.

  2. Well I never have and never will… smoke.
    Watching and putting up with my Dad for years made that an easy decision.
    I doubt though that our Gov’ would legislate anything that would cut into its revenue base or donations to the party.

  3. I’d be interested to know any online or other references for the momentum on a harder line for marijuana abuse that you refer to.

    I’m aware of public health workers and researchers documenting the strong links between it and schizophrenia. Are there any sane political supporters of a harder line on dope?

    My own views on this are covered in the above link: but in summary I think dope abuse is not a “victimless crime”, and that it harms worst those who are poor and marginalised.

    Its certainly at least as harmful as tobacco.

  4. Sarah

    I’ve been ruminating on doing a ‘thinkpiece’ post on drug policy for a while, and your manifesto gave me some extra momentum when I read it the other day.

    I am in two minds on this issue, although I am currently still of the view that criminalising drugs causes more harm than other approaches.

    The growing (although not conclusive evidence) that marijuana increases the risk of mental illness is being used to push for a (re)toughening of laws and going back down the law & order/zero tolerance approach.

    This was considered recently in the UK – although not proceeded with at this stage – and John Howard has floated the ‘get tough’ line a couple of times. (see this link for an example)

    This one by Christopher Pyne has stronger comments, threatening to tie federal funds for mental health to tougher drug laws. I don’t know of any ‘progressives’ who have publicly backed such an approach yet (unless you count Jeff Kennett as progressive), but I also haven’t heard much public criticism of such an approach, which increases the chances of it happening. Beyond Blue, an organisation doing a good job on depression issues, have spoken of the need to recognise the link between drug use and mental illness, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to them advocating tougher drug laws. I have heard Jeff Kennett support tough laws, but I don’t know that this constitutes an official position of the organisation.

  5. Please Andrew. Approxiamately 40% of my friends smoke marijuana and none of them is mentally ill as far as I can tell. And I have a lot of friends.

    Whatever harm marijuana may cause, it is undeniably less harmful than alcohol, which is freely available anywhere in Australia.

    The most harm is caused by marijuana prohibition, not the drug itself.

  6. Thankfully I move in different circles to yobbo. Driving is fairly harmfukl to – certainly being a refugee is harmful – 100% correlation between breathing and dying – so we should just ban everything.

    The argument is not at all striaghtforward between individual rigths and some form, of societla control for the good (read cost benefit) of us all – in whose eyes of course is the question.

  7. “The most harm is caused by marijuana prohibition, not the drug itself.”

    That would be laughable if it wasn’t being said seriously.

    Sorry Yobbo, I know a few people, who have been, shall we say… chronic users… most of their lives (early teens onwards).

    I certainly don’t want to end up like them.

  8. “Driving is fairly harmfukl to – certainly being a refugee is harmful – 100% correlation between breathing and dying – so we should just ban everything.”

    Exactly my point, Ken. You can’t protect people from themselves. At some point you have to just realise that people are going to do stupid things, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

    People are still smoking drugs, injecting drugs, snorting drugs, sticking drugs up their arse, etc. etc. Despite them being illegal in Australia. Regardless, because of our moral crusade to protect people from their own idiocy, we spent $800 million a year in an effort to stop people getting high.

    Couldn’t this money be better spent on something else?

    “The argument is not at all striaghtforward between individual rigths and some form, of societla control for the good (read cost benefit) of us all”

    That would be a valid argument if the prohibition of drugs actually did any good, but it quite clearly doesn’t. Ever hear of Al Capone? Prohibition itself is a far greater evil than drugs are.

  9. I agree that prohibition doesn’t have a good record of success, especially for products that have already been widely available.

    However, the motivation with banning smoking in public buildings is more about protecting the health of others, rather than just protecting the smoker from themself. People can do stupid or harmful things to their own bodies, but inflicting it on other people in the vacinity is a different matter.

    There is also the cost to all of us because of the extra health costs that come as a consequence of smoking.

  10. Smoking? I thought where you could smoke and where you could not was an issue for the States. Has Andrew organised an escape parachute into State politics?

  11. I think Andrew is just commenting on the story from the UK.

    I wasn’t advocating prohibition yobbo, just pointing out that the argument between individual rights v Community responsbility (for want of a better term) is not simple either way. Because both end up having an impact on the broader society, eg health care. The same can be said of course for alcohol. It just maintians a larger degree of social acceptance currently.

    I guess the reality is that as we live in a democracy (still) the degree of criminality / regulation / laissez fairness will continue to be determined by the overall will of the people. That is what we have just seen in the RU486 debate. The community has come to largely accept / support / be tolerant of abortion hence eventually that will be reflected by legislators.

    As with most issues discussed on this blog the same applies. Despite individuals views and heartfelt opinions, even rage, the general will of the majority is reflected by the legislators. Of course those opposed will site manipulation, lies distortions, plots etc – however as always the mandala will prevail and the will of the people will change.

    I’m one of the lucky ones who managed to wake up one day five years ago and just stop after 20 years of smoking so in my view you’re a dope if you smoke dope and a dope if you smoke. I’d prefer to stick with my mentally ill friends than join up with any dope smokers!!

  12. “However, the motivation with banning smoking in public buildings is more about protecting the health of others, rather than just protecting the smoker from themself.”

    This debate is not about smoking in public buildings. Smoking was banned in public buildings many years ago.

    This debate is about banning smoking in private buildings, which as I have already said is a significant step on the road the fascism.

    Andrew’s mischaracterisation of the type of buildings involved speaks volumes about the attitude of politicians to the private property of others. They believe it is theirs to manage as they see fit, because they are our intellectual betters.

  13. I may have misread in the article, but I’m fairly sure the debate I am referring to, (or the decision after some debate), is about public buildings – in the UK and Jakarta, where it obviously hasn’t been banned many years ago, because they’re only just making decisions to do it now.

  14. Fair enough point. But even though they may be privately owned premises, it’s still a shared public space, which is what I had in my mind with my comment. It can have health impacts on others in the vacinity besides the the smoker.

  15. “Fair enough point. But even though they may be privately owned premises, it’s still a shared public space, which is what I had in my mind with my comment”

    It is only a shared public space because the owner has invited the public to come in. No different than if I held a party at my house.

    If you come to my house, it is my rules, and I will smoke all I like. If you don’t like it you are free to leave. I don’t see why pubs are any different. They are not a public service. They are privately owned businesses belonging to private individuals and if you don’t like the rules or the atmosphere, don’t go.

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