Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): Responsibility up in smoke

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Responsibility up in smoke

I've never tried to hide my instinctive distrust of banning smoking in pubs and restaurants. I've also decided to refrain from discussing a ban in "public spaces" since I resent the description of private pubs and clubs as public. Nevertheless, I'm not too proud to admit that I'd wobbled in recent weeks. I mused how pleasant it would be not to have to worry about holes being burned in my clothes while navigating packed bars to find the bathroom. I wandered along the Embankment and detested the pong my coat was emitting in the drizzle; Ken Owen's "pub-like smell". I sat in one pub and pondered how much my life was being shortened as I silently gazed at the white trails of my friend's smoke winding towards me.

Then I woke up this morning.

I'd had a very pleasant evening last night culminating in several hours drinking with friends until the small hours in a popular late night haunt off Holborn. Ironically, given the smoking ban in Ireland, it was an Irish-themed pub. During the course of the evening I ran the "fag-butt gauntlet" several times to the gents, thoroughly immersed my clothes, shoes and hair in other people's smoke and probably ended up smoking the equivalent of several cigarettes without touching one. Good night all round.

Then, as I say, I woke up. As I lay mentally preparing myself for Remembrance Sunday service and reliving a most pleasant evening with friends I shuddered at the foul smell of my hair on my pillow. It reeked. As I felt the pleasure of my night out seeping away, I thought about how my clothes would stink too. But then another thought hit me. This bar (which shall remain nameless for licencing reasons) has a fantastic atmosphere, one that is really quite unique. It dawned on me that it is that atmosphere, and the enjoyment I derive from it, that keep me going back even though I know I'm going to pong the next morning.

Because I so value the experience there, warts, smoke and all, I chose to put myself into that environment for fun; I evaluated the costs and benefits of it in my head and came to a perfectly reasonable conclusion. Any desire for the Government to make my night out that little bit better by cutting off the smokiness, even if it wouldn't have a negative effect on the nameless bar's atmosphere (in a purely social non-scientific sense!), just represents a failure of responsibility on my part. If I really value drinking and socialising in a non-smoky environment then I should choose somewhere else to go, where any smoke that exists isn't as concentrated and prevalent as the dive I was in last night and where smokers aren't right on top of you in the same way. If I were to complain that "something hadn't been done" to stop me making the decision I did it would just be abject weakness on my behalf. And, lying in a beam of sunlight this morning, it seemed pretty arrogant for me to expect smokers who value the opportunity to smoke (much more than I seem to value odour-free clothes it would seem) to be inconvenienced just because I am weak-willed enough on the matter to want or need the Government to keep me away from smoky environments.

Shouldn't I be taking responsibility myself if it's something I value, and if I don't value it enough to act why should I impinge so much on others' freedom? A responsibility this NUS blogger doesn't seem to recognise. Surely, I told myself, I should.


At 5:32 pm, Blogger Ken said...

The problem I have there, Ed, is that you are setting up smoking as a civil right. Which I'm not sure it is. It's nothing to do with the health of the individual, it's to do with the health of the people whose lungs are being infested with other people's smoke. Under your rationale, a situation could quite easily arise where you don't have the choice whether to enjoy a smoke-free environment or not, because no-one runs a pub with a smoke-free option. Is that fair? Is that liberal, that the desire of others, sometimes even one person, to smoke should prevent other people from enjoying an atmosphere somewhere?

At 6:12 pm, Blogger Edward said...

"It's nothing to do with the health of the individual, it's to do with the health of the people whose lungs are being infested with other people's smoke."

But if I wish to set up a private club for self-abuse where the abuse involved is smoke inhalation why shouldn't I be able to. What gets me is that the proposals all prevent a smoker setting up a smoking restaurant to employ smokers only. That seems barmy to me.

And the freedom to do that or to be around smoking smokers, the freedom to smoke, is surely a right?

At 7:53 pm, Blogger Ken said...

Setting up a private club is different to a business that any are welcome to, though...

At 8:04 pm, Blogger Edward said...

It will be prevented by every formulation of this policy I have seen though, and I also query why it is the job of the Government in this case to decide who is welcome in what pub rather than the landlord. When it comes to barring trouble-makers and not serving drunks landlords are supposed to take responsibility themselves. It prevents a smoker setting up a smoking restaurant to employ smokers only.


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