March 26th saw the 10 year anniversary of the United Kingdom’s first draconian smoking ban in Scotland brought about by the ‘Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005.’ This was put in place based on the myth of “second hand smoke” with the urgent need to create smoke free pubs that non-smokers would come flooding into. Since the ban Scottish towns and cities have been forced to adapt to a Mediterranean style terrace culture in freezing cold weather. Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland who campaigned for the ban described the law as a “real victory.” Is that a victory in the sense that the ban was successfully enforced, resulting in the closure of over 1200 pubs across Scotland? She also said, “There is still a long way to go on Scotland’s journey to being tobacco free but the success of smoke-free public places should inspire us that we can get there.” In other words, she will not be satisfied until there is total prohibition on tobacco, which gives away it was never anything to do with “second hand smoke” to begin with, only the end goal.
April 11th is the day Britain leaped further away from the civilised world. That was when Cardiff Prison began the introduction of a full smoking ban due to be phased in prison by prison, starting in Wales then followed by England and Scotland. Previously prisoners could only smoke in designated smoking cells or an assigned smoking room. Despite the public misconceptions, prisoners were never exempt from the smoking ban as those areas are not public spaces but are residential. There is another public misconception that only “bad” people end up in prison while the rest of the public are completely immune. While it could be argued that premium cigarettes are a luxury, rolling tobacco is not. As is well known, prisons offer a few incentives to bring order, good behaviour and rehabilitation. Without tobacco those incentives are as useful as beds of nails made from the finest gold. The purpose of a prison is not just to punish but to rehabilitate, using the carrot and the stick. With no reward to take away there is no deterrent and with no deterrent there is a prison population with nothing to lose. It is not just an issue of how inmates behave while in prison but how they will behave after their release. It is thought that around 70% – 80% of inmates are smokers in Britain.
May 20th saw the introduction of the new EU Tobacco Products Directive, making it law across the EU for all combustible tobacco packaging to be covered in graphic warnings that take 65% of the front and back. This is accompanied with the UK introduction of standardised packaging for all cigarettes and rolling tobacco. A one year transition time has been allowed up to May 20th in the new year, so some branded cigarettes are still on the shelf for the time being.
On June 23rd, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Concerning tobacco, this could mean an end to EU tobacco legislation, though not for UK tobacco legislation. Tobacco could become duty free in EU countries, though available in much smaller quantities. Whether on that day you were in celebration, in despair or unmoved we must all endeavour together to attain our liberty.
On December 5th under the ‘Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Act 2016’ Scotland joined England and Wales by banning adults from smoking in all private motor cars while in the presence of anyone under the age of: not 12, not 16 but 18, despite the legal age of smoking (not purchase) being 16. Those caught smoking face a fixed penalty fine of £100, which is double the amount of England and Wales. Let us not forget, like the home, the family car is a completely private domestic space where government has no right to intrude on such trivial matters and that children belong to their parents, not the state or anyone else. Parents should be free to choose how their family unit is run, including whether or not it is ok to smoke in front of their children.
Recently, on December 17th, we held our Freedom2Choose Annual General Meeting in London. Many things were discussed including the need to up the game. It is noted that some members feel we may have lost our way. Though it has been a difficult year for Freedom2Choose, the year ahead is more promising. There we welcomed two new members to the committee. It has also been agreed that Freedom2Choose will pay for the development of a brand-new website during the coming year. This would not have been possible if it was not for the support our members and followers have given us over the years and for that we are very thankful. It is vital that we keep pushing back on our infringements on liberty as this goes a lot deeper than just the right of choice to smoke or not to smoke, because if we lose those rights then we lose the rights to everything else.
To all our members, followers and supporters we wish you all a very happy new year!