Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Outdoor smoking bans and the dead hand of the state

Tobacco control involves an endless procession of idiotic and illiberal policies which have obvious unintended consequences. Those consequences are easy to predict, but the campaigners dispute their existence when the policy is being debated. Shortly thereafter, the negative impact becomes clear to see and the campaigners get a goverment grant to prove the existence of the bleeding obvious, and demand further legislation to address the problem - a problem they alone have created.

At the moment, for example, we are seeing the emergence of totally predictable - and widely predicted - riots in prisons in Britain as a total smoking ban is 'phased  in'. We are seeing tobacco companies quite predictably competing on price when no other mechanisms of competition are open to them. And we see businesses which are given the choice between allowing smoking and serving food make decisions that best suit their customers:

Smoking ban: Oakleigh traders ban meals to allow patrons to light up

Restaurant traders in Melbourne's south east are banning meals from their alfresco dining menus in favour of allowing punters to light up a cigarette.

On Monday, the state government of Victoria banned smoking in the outdoor dining areas of private businesses as part of its vendetta against smokers. The article quotes the owner of a Greek restaurant who would like to stay in business if it's all the same to the government.

He said that while most traders wanted to comply with the laws, some feared they would lose customers to other venues if they outlawed smoking all together in the fiercely competitive strip.

Between 9am and midday, Kentro Oakleigh no longer serves food outdoors.

Instead, its alfresco dining area has been morphed into coffee friendly, but meal-free, designated smoking zone.

Once the lunch rush hour hits, smokers are told to butt out.

"What a lot of people don't understand is that taking a cigarette away from an elderly Greek man is like taking away everything he's got," he said. "They come down each morning... they could stay five or six hours. It's their life, having a coffee, a cigarette, having some cake, socialising with their friends... that's the way it's always been."

We saw the hospitality industry deal with a similar ban in much the same way in New South Wales two years ago:

Inevitably, the hateful fanatics who supported this legislation are appalled that people are following the letter of their stupid law rather than its hateful spirit. Within hours of the ban coming into effect, they were portraying deliberate exemptions as 'loopholes'.

This bigot, Geoff Lake, has previously described the experience of walking through the Greek precinct of his town as 'like cleaning a chimney in Britain during the industrial revolution' so he is clearly no stranger to hysteria and exaggeration. He is quoted again in The Age today:

He said traders were "opportunistically" designating spaces as "non-eating" during particular times of the day allowing smoking to legally continue.

"It's a recipe for absolute chaos and disorder," Cr Lake said.

You can see from the photo he tweeted of people happily socialising just how much chaos and disorder have been created by people 'opportunistically' obeying the law, ie. none. The Age also provides a photo of the kind of miscreants Lake is talking about.

Chaos and disorder in Melbourne

He won't be happy until these people are banned from the premises altogether and the business is closed down. Even then, he won't really be happy because people like him never are.

Cr Lake said the mall was among the worst areas in Melbourne for passive smoke and it remained a critical public health issue.

People smoking outdoors has no impact on the health of others whatsoever. None. Some people might find it mildly irritating while they are eating, in which case they should go to a venue where people are not smoking. There is no justification for the government getting involved and it is laughable to describe it as a 'public health issue', let alone a 'critical' one.

He said council was seeking urgent legal advice on whether it could enact its own local laws to put a blanket ban on smoking in the area.

Of course he is. And, this being Australia where the concept of a 'fair go' does not exist for smokers, he will doubtless succeed.


This awful human being has now written a whole op-ed about the supposed 'loopholes' that allow a tiny sliver of choice. 

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