An Open Letter to all MPs from Freedom2Choose on Behalf of the Socially Excluded

The following email has been sent to all MPs’.
The reasons for doing this are:
1. We want to highlight the plight of the elderly/lonely.
2. We will never give up on the smoking ban.

An Open Letter to all MPs from Freedom2Choose on Behalf of the Socially Excluded

Loneliness is a major problem in Britain. This has been badly exacerbated by the smoking ban which came into law in England on 1st July 2007. Since then, around 12,000 pubs,clubs and bingo halls have closed their doors forever. Most of these closures are the direct result of the smoking ban.

These were places that were a central part of local communities both for smokers and non-smokers. So their loss affects both groups.

Health minister Jeremy Hunt MP highlighted the plight of ‘chronically lonely’ people on 18th October 2013 (1).

“He warned that loneliness was as “bad for you” as “smoking 15 cigarettes a day”, was “worse than obesity” because of the risk of blood clots, heart disease and dementia, and warned that lonely people “drink more” and were more prone to early admission in residential or nursing care.”

On the same day, the BBC also noted that ‘Half of adults’ in England experience loneliness (2).

Back in 2011, several members of freedom2choose, including the then chairman Phil Johnson, wrote a three part article on a blog run by supporters of freedom2choose (3,4,5). It featured some heart rending stories from around the country. Inevitably, these stories were just the tip of a very large iceberg. And the situation has worsened since then, with closures up from 7,000 to around 12,000.

A few passages from the article:

This legislation is a significant part of the cause of loneliness among our senior citizens. It has contributed to the closure of over 7,000 pubs, clubs and bingo halls, and it has involuntarily imprisoned thousands of our most vulnerable citizens whose social lives revolved around a cuppa and a cig in the cafe, a drink and a fag in the pub, bingo hall, or club.

Here is blogger Frank Davis talking in his own words about a tragic suicide:  

For some people, like Lawrence Walker, it was too much. He took his own life about 6 months after the ban came into force. He had become, in that time, a complete exile.

June Brown, the 81 year old actress who plays Dot in Eastenders, said:

You can’t go anywhere and smoke now – it’s ruined my life. It’s ruined the whole end of my life.” 

There was also an article in ‘The Times’ on August 8th 2011 by Natascha Engel MP. We don’t know her current view on this but she did relate a striking anecdote (6):

We do need to find better ways of letting MPs know what people outside Westminster are talking about, but the problem isn’t what we don’t debate, it’s the feeling that MPs aren’t listening to the people they represent.

When I was canvassing during the general election, an ex-miner opened the door and shouted at me about immigration, MPs’ expenses and the smoking ban. He asked why I wouldn’t come down to the miners’ welfare and hear what people had to say there. Before I could respond, he shouted: “Because you’re scared, that’s why.”

I arranged to meet him there that night. He was surprised when I turned up, but friendly enough. When we stood outside, smoking in the rain, he told me about his father-in-law, who used to come to the welfare every night and spend all evening drinking one pint of Guinness. He was a chain smoker. Since the smoking ban he’s never been back.

“He can’t stand outside in the rain like this. He’s an old man.” He told me about how his father-in-law never goes out any more. “He’s lonely and miserable. And he still chain smokes.” I voted for the smoking ban because I was convinced that smoking, even secondary smoking, is bad for you. If I had a second chance I wouldn’t vote for the ban again.

As Deborah Arnott of ASH said in January 2007 (7):

“smokers will be exiled to the outdoors. “

In June 2007, Melanie Phillips wrote gushingly in ‘The Times’ about how wonderful the Scottish smoking ban was in a piece entitled (8):

“Prepare to be ostracised, all you smokers of England”

Exiled and ostracised has indeed been the effect on smokers, particularly elderly ones. Is this really the sort of society we want to live in? To pass on to our children?

The evidence for the ban?

In June 2006 the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs concluded (9):

“The evidence we took on passive smoking leads us to doubt whether government guidelines on risk management have been properly implemented. In particular, the purpose of legislation should have been defined more clearly and greater attention should have been given to available scientific evidence, the relative merits of alternative policy options and the impact of legislation on personal freedom and choice. Failure to consider these matters properly has resulted in the introduction of a policy that appears to demonstrate a disproportionate response to the problem.”

And the benefits?

Many claims have been made about supposed health benefits of the ban. All of them are frankly rubbish (10). What’s more there has been minimal change in both the numbers of smokers and the number of people starting. There is a dark and unpleasant history of tobacco prohibitions throughout the last 400 years. All have failed.

So I, as chairman of freedom2choose call upon all MPs to seriously consider reforming the smoking ban. Modern ventilation can easily cope with tobacco smoke and of course publicans and club owners can still retain their property rights to permit or forbid smoking on their premisses as they see fit.

Dave Atherton

Chairman of freedom2choose

If you would like to reply to this email, please do so or alternatively send to xxxx@xxx.

About Us – www.freedom2choose.info

Freedom To Choose aims to protect the informed choices of consenting adults on the issue of smoking.

We campaign actively to prevent the victimisation of smokers, social division, social isolation, and to alleviate the negative social and economic impacts of the smoking ban.

We are funded entirely by donations from the general public and have no financial connections either now or in the past with any tobacco manufacturing, tobacco distribution or tobacco retail industries, nor with any pharmaceutical or smoking cessation commercial interests.

Our membership, which is open to all individuals who agree with and support our aims, consists of both smokers and non smokers.

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24572231

2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-24522691

3. http://freedom-2-choose.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/world-1st-loneliness-triblogology.html

4. http://freedom-2-choose.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/loneliness-triblogology-part-2.html

5. http://freedom-2-choose.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/loneliness-triblogology-part-3.html

6. http://taking-liberties.squarespace.com/blog/2011/8/8/labour-mp-i-voted-for-smoking-ban-but-i-wouldnt-vote-for-it.html

7. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/jan/08/post877

8. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/law/columnists/article2046387.ece

9. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldeconaf/183/18309.htm

10. http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.com/search?q=heart+attacks

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2 Responses to An Open Letter to all MPs from Freedom2Choose on Behalf of the Socially Excluded

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  2. j frankland says:

    Thank you for writing this letter. It truly represents exactly how I have been feeling since the smoking ban. I do not feel welcome anywhere anymore. It’s like I have the plague, and yet I am simply a smoker. I no longer go out to restaurants as people make me feel like I should be ashamed of tbe fact that I smoke. I also used to work in bingo halls for charities – all of tgat is gone due to the smoking ban. Why can I not live my life in freedom too? Because I’m a smoker? ………

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