Tag Archives: smoking

A smoking ban isn’t “unconservative” – but it is illiberal

Oxford University Liberal Democrats graduate and worst prime minister ever, Liz Truss, raised eyebrows last week by describing the government’s Tobacco and Vapes Bill as “unconservative”. This is rather odd, because the Conservative instinct has always been to ban the things they don’t like. They didn’t like the idea that children might find out that gay people exist, so they banned teachers from talking about them. They didn’t like that people in Scotland might be able to self-identify as trans, so they banned the Scottish government from allowing it. And, most pertinent to what I am writing about now, they don’t like (most) recreational substances, so for the past several decades they’ve wedded themselves to the disastrous so-called War on Drugs.

Conservatives have a very shallow understanding of what freedom is, and when a conservative starts talking about freedom, alarm bells should start ringing. What these rebel Tories mean by freedom is the freedom for people like them to continue doing the things that people like them have traditionally done, such as hunting foxes, making racist jokes, or in this particular case, smoking tobacco. It generally does not include things that people who are not like them want to do, such as protesting peacefully, being transgender, or smoking cannabis. Unfortunately for them, Rishi Sunak has realised that he’s only got a few months left in Downing Street to scrape together some sort of meagre legacy, and so now Truss and her friends are experiencing the cognitive dissonance that comes from a conservative government approaching smoking in a conservative way.

So no, Liz, our esteemed former comrade, a smoking ban is not un-conservative. Banning a health risk and deploying our overstretched police in a futile forever-war against it is actually a very conservative thing to do (and also a very Labour thing to do, but that’s neither here nor there). Conservatives have never understood true freedom; that is the liberal domain. Which is why-…. Wait, what do you mean, the Lib Dems voted for this?!

Let’s backtrack a bit. I was raised with a pretty simple message: drugs are bad and I shouldn’t do them. I’ve still never done them. However, when I was seventeen, I discovered that some of my friends had smoked cannabis. The idea that they could be treated as criminals for this disturbed me, and it was a big moment in my teenage journey towards embracing liberalism. I joined the Liberal Democrats a few months later, and I’ve enthusiastically supported our position on cannabis ever since. Friends in the party have been campaigning for legalisation for far longer than I have.

To be very clear, the failure of the parliamentary party to oppose this smoking ban has possibly fatally undermined our campaign on cannabis. Watching the leadership tying itself in knots trying to explain how these positions somehow aren’t incompatible by means of weapons-grade centrist nuance was embarrassing.

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We should be ashamed of our failure to oppose the Smoking Ban

The recent Tobacco and Vapes Bill, that passed its first reading in the Commons with an overwhelming majority, is decidedly anti-liberal and anti-freedom; and I’m extremely upset that the party leadership decided not to take a stand on this. When I first joined the Liberal Democrats, one of the primary reasons was that I believed us to be the last remaining party in this country to be fundamentally pro-Freedom, and to hold that as a core and imperative value. It seems that this is slipping through our fingertips.

The bill aims to do a number of things – my particular contention is with the idea of banning smoking for life for those who are turning 15 this year – thus making them a ‘smoke-free’ generation. It’s action on vapes is a separate matter, that I won’t address here. There are so many issues with this action, for anyone who cares about individual liberty.

Firstly, to smoke is an individual choice. Over recent decades, the wealth of scientific evidence has concretely proven the overwhelmingly devastating health impacts of tobacco – and I would argue almost no one legitimately disagrees with the idea that those who smoke know that its harmful. However, steps have been taken – such as the limiting of advertising and the proliferation of health advice – that have resulted in smoking rates also dropping significantly. In essence, people who smoke know what they’re doing. Restrictions on smoking in indoor places have also had an impact on second-hand smoking, again contributing to the idea that those who smoke are only harming themselves.

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Why Lib Dems should support measures to limit smoking this week

I am writing in both a personal and professional capacity urging you to support the Tobacco and Vapes Bill due for second reading tomorrow. 

As a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Hull, I am the Portfolio Holder for Adult Services and Public Health and have responsibility for reducing smoking in a part of the country with some of the highest rates, with 500 people every year dying from smoking related illness. The impact is profound in a low-income community like Hull, and the cost to our local economy is around £390 million a year. 

I am an ex-smoker. I worked as a nurse for over 40 years; most of it in critical care in the operating theatres. There I witnessed over time the devastating effects smoking had on people’s lives. Often when going off duty I would pass patients all lined up outside, still smoking. Seeing this happening I made several attempts to quit smoking myself, but it was not easy.  My husband, Mike, did not give up smoking but supported me in my attempt.

I did not manage to quit before smoking permanently damaged my health and I now have COPD, a condition common among those of us who smoked for many years.

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Wednesday Debate: What do you think of Governments’ plans to ban a generation from buying cigarettes?

It’s Summer 2049. Peter and his friend Mark are doing their weekly shop in Morrisons.

They stop at the cigarette kiosk on the way out. Peter, born on 31 December 2008, shows his compulsory ID card to prove that he is old enough to buy tobacco products. Mark, born just a day later has never been legally allowed to buy them. Instead, he gets them from various sources, including a dodgy bloke down the pub. Every year, he hires a van and hops over to France to fill it up with an unhealthy supply to keep him going for a few months, paying duty to the French Government rather than the UK Government.

All of this assumes, of course, that we aren’t doing our shopping via Elon Musk’s chips implanted in our brains, but never mind.

In a rare move, this week Governments across the UK announced a plan to prohibit anyone born after 1 January 2009 from ever buying cigarettes. I don’t think any of us think it is ok for a 15 year old to buy cigarettes. But do we really want a situation where 40 year old Mark is legally prevented from doing what 40 year old Peter does legally?

Health charities and organisations are delighted at the Government’s plans. Of course they are, because reducing smoking is obviously going to improve public health. They are doing their job.

The British Heart Foundation’s Chief Executive, on their website, said:

When we have known for many decades that smoking kills, it is utterly unacceptable that smoking continues to take so many lives, causing at least 15,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease every year across the UK.

“On top of this, smoking is a significant driver of health inequalities, disproportionately affecting the health of the poorest in society.

“Tough measures are needed to put a stop to this ongoing heartbreak, and we welcome the UK Government’s bold proposal to create a smoke-free generation by raising the age of sale for tobacco every year.

“It’s right that the Government is taking action to make vaping less appealing. Children and people who have never smoked should never start vaping, which is why we need effective measures that make it harder for young people to buy vapes in the first place.

“There is clear public support for this Bill and we now urge every MP to support this once-in-a-generation legislation when it is brought to the UK Parliament. We hope to see this policy adopted by administrations across the UK.

So what should the Liberal Democrats be saying about this? As a liberal party we hold personal freedom for adults to do things, even if they harm themselves, as a core value. I have to say that I’m surprised that the proposals put forward by three Governments who spend most of their time rolling their eyes at each other have been accepted with so little controversy. Only a few voices, such as our controversial ex Prime Minister Liz Truss, have spoken out, calling the measures “un-Conservative.”

This is one of these issues where you can use liberal principles to reach either conclusion in the debate. You can argue that the health of a generation is more important and that smoking rarely harms just the person doing it and that this measure is important to stop deaths which are entirely preventable.

On the other hand, we know that prohibition rarely works. In the example above, Mark has found ways of obtaining his cigarettes. What is likely to happen is that there will be a flourishing underground market in tobacco products for those who don’t or can’t head across to Europe to replenish their supplies.

As a party, we have long argued for the decriminalisation of Cannabis. Surely supporting this measure would be inconsistent.

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Lib Dem Jim Hume’s Bill to stop smoking in cars with children present passes first Holyrood hurdle

Jim HumeThis week it’s become illegal to smoke in a car where there are children present in England. The responsibility for this area of law for Scotland lies with the Scottish Governemnt. For some time, Jim Hume, Liberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland has been preparing to introduce legislation as a private member to do the same thing in Scotland. Today his bill passed its first Holyrood hurdle.

This is one of these controversial issues where you can come to agree with the proposal or disagree with it from liberal principles. We don’t like banning things unless there is a very good reason to do so and we also want to look at the enforceability of such a law. I take a very dim view of anyone who breathes poisonous fumes over children in a metal box, but I am worried about the slippery slope of such a measure. I’d have been happy with a massive public awareness campaign. However, JS Mill would, I feel, back the Bill. While people have the right to cause harm to themselves, do they have the right to inflict toxic by-products on to their children in a manner that it is proven causes much more damage than smoking at home or outside would do.

Jim’s speeches from the debate are reproduced in full below:

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Norman Lamb MP writes… Why I’ll be voting to ban smoking in cars carrying children

Later this evening, MPs will be given a vote on proposals to ban smoking in cars carrying children. It will be a free vote, and within each party there will be MPs who vote each way. If the proposal is approved, from next year it could become a criminal offence to smoke when there is a child in the car.

There would be no new police resource allocated to enforcing the ban proactively. But this would send a clear message out that smoking in cars with children is unacceptable, and I support the measure wholeheartedly.

Votes like this always raise questions about …

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Baroness Claire Tyler writes: Why banning smoking in cars with children in can and should be enforced

I read with great interest Caron’s very balanced blog entry on Thursday about banning smoking in cars with children and the varied comments that followed. These showed a quite legitimate difference of opinion about how to apply liberal principles in an such an area , as illustrated when Nick Clegg shared his own personal views on Thursday’s Call Clegg.

Much of the ensuing media and blog debate -including on Lib Dem Voice -has focussed on whether it’s right to legislate about what people do in private cars and whether this isn’t too great an intrusion by the “nanny state” into …

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Nick Clegg opposes banning smoking in cars with children present

Speaking on Call Clegg this morning, Nick Clegg said that he personally wan’t in favour of changing the law to ban smoking in cars where children are present. The question came about as a consequence of a vote in the Lords last night. MPs will now be given a free vote on whether to incorporate it into the Children and Families Bill.

Nick made it clear that he would be voting against:

Of course it’s a stupid thing to do to smoke when a child is in the back of a car but you don’t always have to have a law

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Roger Williams MP writes…Protecting children from second-hand smoke

Too many children in the UK are still being regularly exposed to high concentrations of second-hand smoke in cars. This exposure can have detrimental effects on children’s health due to their smaller lungs and less developed immune systems. The Royal College of Physicians published a report collating all available evidence on second-hand smoke to show how it affects children’s health. They found that there were 300,000 GP visits by children every year, there were 165,000 new episodes of disease and 9,500 admissions to hospital every year in the UK because of passive smoke.

In 2007, legislation to ban smoking in public …

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URGENT! Just 2 hours to respond to Jim Hume MSP’s consultation on banning smoking in cars where children are present

When I originally flagged up that Jim Hume was intending to introduce a bill to the Scottish Parliament making it illegal to smoke in your car if you had children present, it’s fair to say that it inspired some heated discussion.

And then I’m sure we all forgot about it. I certainly did. Until I saw on Facebook a little while ago that today is the last day to respond to his consultation. By 5pm to be precise. After uttering a few sweary words, I thought I’d better remind you all before I filled it in for myself.

There are 11 …

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Jim Hume MSP launches consultation on bill banning smoking in vehicles with children present

Jim Hume launching consultation on smokingLiberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland Jim Hume this week launched a consultation on his Members’ Bill which would see smoking banned in vehicles where children are present. When I initially flagged this up a few weeks ago, there was a mixed reaction to the proposals.

Jim says in the foreword to his consultation document:

Recent research has shown that 17% of 11-16 year olds in the UK are exposed to second-hand smoke more than once a week while in a car with a further

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Banning smoking in cars when children are present: what do you think?

Jim HumeNorth of the Border, the war on smoking continues. Today, larger shops are no longer allowed to display cigarettes. Now, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP and health spokesperson Jim Hume is introducing a Member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament which will ban smoking in cars where children are present. His proposal will be put out to public consultation from 28th May. Talking about his plan over the weekend, he said:

The tobacco display ban is another welcome step in changing Scotland’s relationship with smoking which began with the ban in smoking in

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Opinion: Prohibition 3 or how I learned to stop worrying and love failure

I am a non-smoker, apart from the odd birthday cigar. After initial misgivings about the details of the public building smoking ban in the UK, I have come to see it as the most significant and beneficial health change in human behaviour in many decades. It has transformed our public places for the better and helped thousands to give up.

Despite that, I have always been suspicious of the increasingly fanatical political drive against smoking. It has always had an undercurrent reminiscent of the 19th century Temperance movement that gave rise to the disaster of “Prohibition” of alcohol.

There can’t be a …

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Newsagents call on Cable to think again on tobacco display ban

An open letter to Vince Cable from the National President of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents:

Dear Mr Cable,

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) would like to express the views of Britain’s small businesses, those at the heart of their local communities, in response to the UK’s proposed tobacco display ban. We do so with the firm support of over 60 backbench MPs who have called on you personally to look again at the proposed ban, as well as 33,000 small family businesses across every town and village in the UK.

These MPs who have signed the open letter understand that the display ban is not a health vs …

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Opinion: Tobacco control

As Liberal Democrats we are unique in our commitment to personal freedom. Our battles for liberty have gone hand in hand with a dedication to social progress. We want freedom but not a society that walks on by.

Getting this balance right is a central part of our party’s policy consultation recently launched by Health Minister Paul Burstow.

It asks whether tobacco should be one of the main areas of focus for public health. The answer to this was given very clearly in the inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Smoking and Health, which I chair.

We heard evidence that …

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Daily View 2×2: 21 January 2010

1920s woman in silk kimono smoking using a cigarette holderGood morning and welcome to Daily View. If you submit a tax return, there are hardly any days left to get on with it.

On this day in 1908, New York City voted to ban women from smoking in public. Two years ago, Black Monday did a number on the world’s stock markets.

In birthdays, we sing a song to Commander in Chief star Geena Davis and Christian Dior, who were born today.

And in deaths, we remember George Orwell – and use him as an excuse to pimp this link – a cartoon that fears that when it comes to dystopias, it was Aldous Huxley who nailed it, rather than George Orwell.

2 Big Stories

Stop the presses!

Men are wearing shorts in the snow in New York.

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