Sunday, February 18

No Smoking - More Hypocrisy

On I July smoking will be forbidden in pubs, bars restaurants, taxis, buses and all indoor public places in England and Wales. Smoking has been banned in the same public places in Scotland since last summer.

In keeping with the control obsessed style of our government local councils have already been given £29.5 million of tax payers money in order to train staff to enforce the no-smoking ban. The Government could of course given the money to much needed medical research, spent it on looking after patients with cancer or hiring more much needed nurses for the NHS - 29.5 million would pay for 840 trained nurses over the next twelve months. But no - the money will be spent on 1,000 'smoking police' so that they can perform the 'essential ' task of issuing fines to smokers who are caught in the dreadful act.

The millions spent on the no smoking enforcement officers has to be a seriously crazy decision when one considers local authorities between them already employ an army of officials who are expert in the practice of issuing large numbers fixed penalty fines to the general public: parking attendants. Training these relentless automatons how to use an additional book of sticky tickets should not cost £29.5 million.

In Scotland large numbers of inspectors were trained on how to enforce the ban. Since when they have had nothing to do only 11 fixed penalty notices have been issued in the 10 months that the ban has been in force. Clearly bans on smoking in public places have proved to be almost perfectly self-enforcing. Well ok with one exception. The only place smoking will be permitted inside a public building throughout the whole of the EU is in the EU Parliament buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg !That the parliament buildings are now havens for smokers is not for want of trying it has to be said. On 1 January, the 16-strong committee of presidents actually banned smoking, only to find that the ban was extensively flouted by both MEPs and staff. Bowing to reality, therefore, the committee – which has 12 smoking members – voted to rescind the ban.
This action by the EUP is hardly surprising – the parliament has always had an ambivalent attitude to smoking. The first time I ever visited the EU Parliament complex in Strasbourg, back in September 2002, the first thing to greet visitors was the overwhelming scent of Gaulloises despite the many EU "no smoking" signs.

Today the
Sunday Times has picked up the story and records Deborah Arnott, director of the antismoking campaign group, Ash, describing the latest decision as "scandalous". "There can be no justification for politicians to place themselves above the law and it makes a mockery of the commission's proposals for an EU-wide smoking ban," she says.
Indeed so Deborah - welcome to the world of the EU hypocrisy with its armies of enforcement officers.

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