Smoking bans: enough is enough

Posted on October 19, 2016

No matter how far anti-smoking legislation goes, it's never enough for tobacco control activists. There's always another regulation, tax or ban that could be introduced to further squeeze the seven million smokers in the UK. But voters in general are rarely asked what they think. Do we really need more anti-smoking measures?

Luckily, the smokers' rights group Forest has done just that, by commissioning the polling group Populus to find out what the general public really thinks. And while the mood among the public-health lobby is always to find the Next Big Idea to stop us using the 'evil weed' (or, 'that enjoyable and relaxing pastime', as smokers think of it), the results from Populus are clear: enough is enough.

The poll found that most people think that tobacco taxes are either high enough, too high or far too high - and many people think that buying illegal tobacco is actually a reasonable response to such high duties. There is no appetite for extending existing smoking bans to outdoor areas and those polled thought actors should be allowed to smoke on stage or screen.

Indeed, in some respects, those polled thought things had already gone too far. There is, yet again, support for the idea of separate smoking rooms in pubs and clubs. Unsurprisingly, most people don't want their friends and family turfed outside for the crime of wanting to enjoy a cigarette.

If the Brexit vote showed anything, it was that many people across the country are sick of new laws being introduced over which they have little say. Some of those laws come from Brussels, of course, but many more come from Westminster, Whitehall and Holyrood, cooked up by politicians in need of a mission and taxpayer-funded health lobbyists. And the new poll shows that voters want an end to this process of government lobbying itself.

One of Britain's strengths down the years has been an attitude of 'live and let live', but this has been undermined in the past couple of decades by out-of-touch politicians succumbing to, even encouraging, a tiny coterie of puritanical health zealots. The message of the Forest report is clear: leave us in peace to make our own choices, even ones you don't approve of.

Enough is Enough: Attitudes to UK Smoking Policies is available to download here.