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Health, Sports & Psychology

The smoking ban: It's a free country… isn’t it?

Updated Wednesday 16th May 2007

The ban on smoking in public places is seen as a restriction by some but means freedom for others.

Charlie can’t wait for the first of July. It’s five years 3 months and two days since his last pint of Old Brewery Bitter. He’s not been in prison or exile. Nor has he signed the pledge. He’s just got old and little frail. And with the advancing years his childhood asthma returned, tightening his chest remorselessly. He’s able to manage alright in the fresh air, or his own home, but the smoke in the King’s Head has become unmanageable. 

He had his first (legal) pint there on his 18th birthday. But after 62 years – minus the five he spent in North Africa – he’s had to pack it in. He can still taste the hops if he closes his eyes. In just a few weeks he’d be able to taste them again – for real.

"he’s noticed his football has suffered from the smoke"

It will probably be Mike who pours his much anticipated pint for him. He’s a student nurse at Newport Uni, just down the road, but does four shifts a week at the King’s to help fend off his mounting debts. Been doing it for nearly three years now, and he’s noticed his football has suffered from the unwanted – but unavoidable - second hand smoke. The regulars who sit at the bar are selflessly devoted to sharing their spare carcinogens with him. 

More alarmingly he is also well aware that the atmosphere isn’t just capable of lowering his game; his first year epidemiology course told him that its also lethal. Somewhere in England, one of his fellow bar keepers dies from it every week. But there’s not a lot he can do about it; he needs the money. And the sneering suggestion that he should get a job elsewhere is as useless as it is insulting. 

The man from the Brewery has tried to reassure him that the new ventilator will sort the problem, but Mike isn’t convinced. It does make the place look better; getting rid of the visible parts of the smoke. But his nursing course has also taught him that it’s the unseen bits – which the fans can’t touch – that really do the damage. It’s like protecting a miner by taking away his canary. In any case, what good is sucking the muck out if there’s a bevy of smokers busily puffing it back in. You wouldn’t try to empty the bath with the taps still running. 

Trudy, Mike’s girlfriend, is also counting the days. She likes to go down to King’s and have a drink with him as he finishes his shift; then they can walk home together. But the smoke is a pain: a hair wash and complete change of clothing every time. Oh for the day when a quiet drink doesn’t turn you into a kipper. 

"the boss wouldn’t have dared go completely smokefree on his own" 

Even the boss is getting excited. He sees real opportunities in winning back old customers – Charlie isn’t the only reluctant absentee – and getting new ones. He’s not big enough to have separate rooms and wouldn’t have dared go completely smokefree on his own. But now the Government is taking the pain, and he can think about catering, may be getting a coffee machine and families are a possibility.   

Some of the regulars, though, are unhappy. They feel persecuted, and mutter about bans, civil liberties and this being a free country. 

Well they are right; this is a free country. Charlie’s five years in North Africa helped see to that. And it will be that bit freer come the 1st July, not least for Charlie. Cheers!

Further reading

  • Smoking cigarettes – even today, there are people who argue about the risks of tobacco – it's little wonder it took 400 years to get conclusive evidence of the dangers
  • Why do people smoke? – even many people who are fully aware of the health risks involved still enjoy lighting up
  • Cigarettes – find out what lies inside every packet
  • Will the smoking ban kill bingo halls? – The Money Programme investigates
  • Institute for Social Marketing
  • Social Marketing: Why should the devil have all the best tunes? by Gerard Hastings, published by Butterworth Heinemann
  • 'Understanding adolescent beliefs and intention to smoke: the effect of antismoking information' by Nina Michaelidou, Haider Ali and Sally Dibb, presented at Advances in Consumer Research Conference, Sydney, July 2006
 

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