Joe Jackson: It is social engineering and politicises a personal choice

Against the ban: The singer, of the pro-smoking group Forest
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The Independent Online

Why should smoking be banned? Three reasons are generally given. The first is that "some people don't like smoke". But that is no concern of government. It is best addressed by the hospitality industry, which has made enormous progress providing better ventilation and more no-smoking areas. Besides, smoking is very much a part of pub/club culture.

Second is the belief that a ban stops people smoking. This is social engineering, an inappropriate politicisation of a personal choice. Tobacco is legal. Banning it in bars may lower the smoking rates a bit but then you have more people smoking on the street, and in their homes (around family members, without proper ventilation).

Third, there's "second-hand smoke": in theory, a case for government involvement. But the actual evidence is flimsy.

The biggest study ever, by Professors Enstrom and Kabat of UCLA [published by the British Medical Journal in 2003], found no evidence of harm. According to Professor Robert Nilsson, head of the department of toxicology and risk assessment at Stockholm University, it is less risky than naturally occurring arsenic in tap water, or eating Japanese seafood. Politicians should at least know that an element of doubt exists, and be mindful of their future credibility.

I'm furious that there's so little scepticism towards health professionals and health lobby groups. They have an agenda. Of course they want a smoking ban but why should they be allowed to dictate the debate?

What about pleasure, freedom of choice, culture, social harmony, business, civil rights? I believe we're overly obsessed with health fads and scares, scapegoats, panaceas, and "zero risk". Health is important, but putting doctors in charge of public policy is like putting plumbers in charge of architecture.

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