NO SMOKING AT THE BAR
A ban is to be imposed in Wales that curtails the £1.2 billion daily global tobacco industry. Businesses face ruin as smoking in many public places is outlawed. Protesters argue that the government is impinging on civil liberties.
Due to reasons of anonymity some names have been changed. Images are stock photos for illustrative purposes only.
The Welsh Assembly Government is mailing information to over 150,000 businesses throughout Wales this month to prepare them for the new legislation. The ban, which will come into force on 2nd April 2007, has already been implemented in Scotland and Ireland. It will demand that all enclosed or substantially enclosed premises will be smoke-free zones. All cafes, pubs and bars that serve food will be affected, as well as workplaces. Only certain hotel rooms, police cells and some pubs that don’t serve food will be exempt.
A date is not yet set for England, although it is expected to be introduced sometime in 2008.
Many in the leisure industry are concerned. “It’s unpredictable. I welcome the change because there’s nothing I can do about it anyway” says Dafydd Pritchard, landlord of the Pant-Yr-Ardd pub in Tregarth. “Nearly all our punters smoke and their not happy about the change. Many have said that if they can’t have a cigarette in their local then they’d rather stay at home with a can of lager” says the 51 year old. “I doubt that’s true, but we’ll have to wait to see”. Dafydd, a smoker, has run the Robinsons pub with wife Carol and daughter Rhian for almost four years. “By this time next year we may be on the street” he says.
“We’ve got a beer garden where people can smoke, but I can’t see anyone using it in winter.” The publican stresses, “We are only a small pub and we struggle to get new customers…we have had some success with bingo, quiz and karaoke nights, but a non-smoking policy may just finish us off.” Any premises caught sanctioning the use of cigarettes will be fined £2,500.
STUMPING OUT FREEDOM
Pant-Yr-Ardd regular, Glen Chambers, enjoys a fag.
“Lighting up helps take the edge off”, says Glen, 29. “When you’re having a bad day at work and your feeling the pressure it helps to have a cigarette to calm down.”
“Then after work I like to go down the local with my mates and just chill out. Smoking helps me relax.” Glen, who works for a distribution company in Llandudno is quick to point out that it’s not an addiction, but “a part of socialising”.
“The government’s got a bloody cheek trying to force people to stop smoking.” The father of two protests, “I don’t want to quit, I like smoking and will keep on doing it ‘till the day I die.”
However in four months time new government legislation will impose alterations to Glen’s work and social life. “They want to ban smoking at work and in the pubs next year… but it won’t stop anyone from smoking. It’ll just mean that everybody will be out on the pavement making a fire hazard.”
Glen believes it is an impingement on civil liberties, “If New Labour keeps up this Nanny State attitude then they’ll definitely be out by the next general election.”
Those caught smoking on unsanctioned premises will face £50 on-the-spot fines. Private members clubs will be exempt. “It’s just a split between rich and poor. All the hoity-toity types will be fine in their private clubs. It’s us working guys who will have to suffer.”
UP IN SMOKE
UP IN SMOKE
At least one woman from Bangor disagrees. “It’s been a long time coming!” says Beryl Williams, a lifelong objector to smoking. “I remember how I used to have to breath in smoke during lunch breaks at work”, states the 47 year old factory worker. “Whenever I used to say something about it I was told I was making a fuss. And that was by the management!”
Although policies on smoking in the workplace have changed since then, Beryl still believes there is more to be done. “I now work in a smoke-free environment, but I can still smell it on people when they come back from their break. It should be completely outlawed at work. I shouldn’t have to put up with that.”
The mother of four believes “they had it good all those years while us non-smokers were in the minority, but now times are changing and their going to have to put up with our ways instead”.
In 1999 the pub and bar industry signed a charter to improve ventilation and increase the number of pubs with smoke-free areas. But it isn’t good enough for Beryl, who looks forward to the day when “I can go to a café or a bar and not have to sit in silence while some smoker ruins my evening. It will honestly be a breath of fresh air – Genuinely!”
The medical profession agrees with Beryl’s point of view. “Currently, about 70% of the population have to tolerate second hand smoke” says Sophie Jones, a trainee nurse at Ysbyty Gwynedd hospital. “400 people die because of passive smoking in Wales each year, and smoking is responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths in the UK.”
Pro-smoking organisations such as FOREST disagree, highlighting in a brief on their website “the link between passive smoking and ill health is unproven”.
Nurse Jones remains skeptical about the pro-smoking organisation’s claim. “Tobacco is the only consumer product that is legally available which kills people when it is used as intended. The ban will be there to protect people. Surly reason must be the victor in this matter.”
According to the British Medical Association 114,000 smokers die each year in the UK as a result of their habit. Figures in their report from 2002 state that smoking related deaths are almost five times higher than the 23,000 deaths arising from road traffic accidents, poisoning, overdose, alcoholic liver disease, murder, manslaughter, suicide, HIV infection and all other accidents combined.
Smoker Glen is not intimidated by the statistics. He argues that “It is for each individual to decide what to do with their lives. The ban implies we aren’t clever enough to make our own decisions. It is not the place of the government to tell us what we can and can’t do.”
The government does not yet intend on enforcing the ban on sports stadiums, bus and railway stations. They may do so in the future using powers under Clause 4 of the Health Bill. Scottish and Irish governments have declared their bans to be a success, but the long term ramifications are yet to materialise.