What's the real story behind the smoking ban?

On 1 July, a ban on smoking in public places in England will come into force. Nobody can say they weren’t warned: it’s already happened in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Commons voted in favour as long ago as February 2006, even if polls show 45 per cent of the public still remain unaware the day is almost upon us.

If you’re reporting the smoking ban, here are some issues to look out for when it comes into effect:

  • Will the English prove as docile and law-abiding as the Irish, or as truculent as the Spanish, where the law has been widely disregarded? My bet is for docility, but it would be nice to see the odd rebellious spirit, whatever one thinks of smoking.
  • The last-gasp saloon: join Andrew Neil and Spectator readers for an evening of fine wine and Havana cigars at the Four Seasons Hotel in London on 28 June. Just £135 a head for a literally unrepeatable experience.
  • Forest, the pro-smoking group, is also planning a dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London, with guests including David Hockney, the most quotable pro-smoker. Sample: the ban is a ‘grotesque piece of social engineering, imposed easily by a political and media elite”.
  • The best reason for the ban is to cut smoking, not to eliminate passive smoking, whatever the Department of Health says. While it isn’t pleasant inhaling somebody else’s smoke, the evidence that it does huge harm is not as strong as many claim (and if it does, forcing people to smoke in their own homes won’t reduce it). So the acid test of the legislation will come from the number of people quitting – which, at the moment, is slowing.
  • It’s no good looking for ‘independent’experts, as there’s hardly such a thing. A doctor arguing against the ban would be drummed out of the regiment. This is a matter of ideology, not opinion.
  • What’s next? Banning smoking in cars, parks, and outside pubs and clubs is on some people’s agenda.
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