July 6th, 2007
It’s over four hundred years since Sir Walter Raleigh got on his Chopper and pedalled round to see Queen Liz, said “Watch this, babe!”, and then stuck a roll of tobacco leaves in his mouth and set fire to them.
As a result, from 6am last Sunday, July 1st 2007, the government of The United Kingdom Of Great Britain & Northern Island imposed a total ban in England on smoking in pubs, restaurants, at work and in enclosed public spaces. Such a ban is already in force in the other three constituent countries of Scotland, Wales and Northern Island.
So the UK now joins the ever growing number of countries worldwide to have imposed or partially imposed such a ban. Quite right too.
The only thing that bothers me slightly about it is the legality of such legislation. Purchasing tobacco products in the UK is not illegal. Smoking tobacco products in the UK is not illegal. I have no argument with the work place and public spaces side of the legislation. But I do question the right of any government to prevent someone from operating a business where a legal activity takes place. Maybe that’s why they’ve made it an environmental health issue rather than a police matter.
Which is what the Reverend Ian Carr, Vicar of East Peckham, failed to realise when he walked into Tonbridge Police Station this week and lit up his pipe in an attempt to get himself arrested as a protest against the new law. They told him to stick it in his pipe…
A spokesperson for the Bishop of Rochester said,
“Officially, the church doesn’t condone breaking the law.“
So does that mean that unofficially it does?
Not that “Thou shalt not puff on a Woodbine” is one of the Ten No-No’s. There’s an awful lot of coveting that’s frowned upon, but smoking and drinking seem to be exempt.
But leaving aside the Human Rights issue, which doesn’t really have a butt to stand on, personally speaking I don’t think the government has gone far enough. They say they have the health of the nation at heart, hence the legislation. And the statistics speak for themselves.
“4.1% of the global burden of disease is attributable to tobacco.”
That’s a high percentage. Sufficiently high to warrant encouraging the population not to smoke.
“4% of the global burden of disease is attributable to alcohol.”
Really? Alcohol kills as many people as tobacco? Has anyone told the government? They’ll be awfully concerned!
The answer is obvious. The sale of alcohol in pubs and restaurants should also be made illegal. And in the Houses of Parliament, where MP’s have been caught smoking in the toilets this week apparently!
While they’re about it, why not make the sale of food in pubs and restaurants illegal too, so we can stamp out obesity. After all, 4.4% of the global burden of disease is attributable to high blood pressure.
If the government is seriously concerned about the health of the nation, then all pubs and restaurants in the UK should be closed down. End of story. That’s my solution for a healthy Britain! Not much of a vote winner though!
So what of Cyprus? What are the smoking laws here?
Well for a start, it’s illegal for anyone to smoke in a car if there are passengers under the age of 17. Good piece of legislation. I’m not aware of it in any other countries. But how do you enforce it?
Smoking in public places and on buses etc. has also been illegal for some time.
As far as bars, cafes and restaurants are concerned, no-smoking legislation has been in place for several years. But designated smoking areas are allowed as long as they are clearly marked and well ventilated. The only trouble is, I think the Cypriots’ idea of ‘well ventilated’ is to open a window.
And as I read somewhere a while ago, “Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a pissing section in a swimming pool.” It makes the point!
So every bar/café/restaurant in Cyprus has No Smoking signs everywhere.
And every bar/café/restaurant in Cyprus also has ashtrays on every table!
And that’s the problem. The law isn’t enforced. Ask anyone why the law isn’t enforced and they all come up with the same answer – ‘This is Cyprus!’
The police crack the whip occasionally. I know one bar that was fined £30 recently. The proprietor was booked by a policeman who was smoking at the time. When he went to the police station to pay the fine, the desk officer was smoking. As was everyone else in the police station. He was offered a cigarette. And although he doesn’t smoke himself, it would have been considered impolite, and certainly undiplomatic, to refuse. Such is the smoking culture here.
It’s a problem which has been highlighted by the Chief of Police. How can the police credibly enforce the law when they all smoke like demented chimneys themselves.
In the case of the bar I just mentioned, the No Smoking law was adhered to for a few days, but by the end of the week, the ashtrays were all back on the tables. And they haven’t been bothered by the police since.
But according to the Cyprus Mail, the authorities have started clamping down recently.
‘Not everybody is in favour of the clampdown. The owner of a small lottery kiosk in Nicosia was outraged at what he sees as the government’s attempt to impose a nanny state.’
I bet he’s a smoker.
“If people object to a smoky place, they should not go there“, he said.
Eureka! That’s the answer! It’s so simple. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before? Those who smoke can go out for the evening, and those who don’t can stay at home. Problem solved.
‘A smoker himself…’
I knew it!
‘…he added that he works daily shifts lasting 15 hours.’
“What am I meant to do if I want to smoke? I can’t go outside, close the kiosk and lose customers.“
Get a nicotine patch! You don’t hear surgeons complaining that they can’t smoke during an operation.
“A lot of crazy laws have recently been voted in but this is beyond stupidity.“
Crazy? Stupid? No. It’s neither of those. Inconvenient, perhaps, if you happen to be a smoker.
But it pretty much sums up the Cypriot attitude towards smoking. It’s going to be a very hard task to change it.
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Sir Walter Raleigh did not in fact discover tobacco and introduce it to England. He merely popularised it. Tobacco was already being grown in England as early as 1565, when Raleigh was only about 12 years old.
Neither did he invent the Raleigh chopper!
Statistics from an article in The Lancet, 2005