Tuesday, 19 December 2017

The New Age Of Intolerance

As Snowdon wrote on Tuesday, there was fabulous news from Austria that their smoking ban has been stopped by the new government. The Guardian - big fans of a ban in just about every policy area - reported it in its own inimitable way, putting quote marks around the word freedom, presumably because their journos don't understand its meaning.
Austria stubs out looming smoking ban in name of 'freedom'
Austria’s far-right Freedom party has announced that a planned ban on smoking in all bars and restaurants that was due to come into force in 2018 will be scrapped.  
Party chief Heinz-Christian Strache said the reversal was agreed in ongoing talks to form a coalition with the conservative People’s party (OVP) following elections in October.  
“I am proud of this excellent solution in the interests of non-smokers, smokers and restaurant owners,” Strache, who had made the move a key campaign pledge, said on social media.  
“The freedom to choose lives on. The existence of restaurants (particularly small ones) has been secured. Thousands of threatened jobs have been saved,” said Strache, himself a smoker.
Subtle dog whistle there with the Graun pointing out Strache as a smoker, I guess hinting that he's only done this for self-interest, which is incredibly hypocritical of them.

Smoking bans trample the rights of private business owners to decide what their customers are allowed to do, and the rights of employees to decide the risks they are prepared to take. Defending those rights is very much a freedom issue so it is perfectly in keeping with a politician's job, irrespective of whether or not they smoke.

What definitely is self-interest, though, is the predictable reaction we see on social media whenever there is even a hint of a smoking ban being reversed or amended. There were a few anguished cries of "cancer!", and "poison!" once the news emerged from Austria on Tuesday - one even declared that this was a return to Austrian Nazi gas chambers - but the general thrust was, as always, about not liking the smell or having to wash clothes/hair/pillows (delete as applicable). Nobody that I could see said anything about bar workers, which is the now-forgotten reason tobacco control hung on their experiment in social engineering.

Yet all that is being proposed in Austria is adoption of the 'Berlin model' where separate ventilated smoking areas are permitted, quite sensible in a country like Austria where it can get very cold. This isn't being cooped up for 40 years with a smoker with windows shut and archaic ventilation (as second hand smoking studies invariably focussed on, and even then couldn't find a significant threat without gerrymandering the data and demonising anyone who came up with different results). 'Passive smoking' is a long-run tobacco control scam but it is enthusiastically supported by the gullible, along with hideous people who really want to believe it because they dislike the smell of tobacco so - in pursuit of their own self-interest - want to poke their noses into smokers' lives.

What is fundamentally so destructive about smoking bans, though, is that they have normalised this kind of selfish, bigoted and anti-social behaviour, and we can see this clearly in the comments to a very well-written Times article yesterday by Matt Ridley on vaping.

It is behind a paywall but to summarise, Ridley argued cogently - and referring to evidence - that Britain leads the world in the industry; that innovation was saving lives while saving consumers billions; that this has led to a sharp decline in smoking prevalence and that the vapour has no adverse affect on bystanders. What's not to like if you're an anti-smoker, eh?

He went on to suggest that advertising restrictions should be relaxed; that UK health organisations support e-cigarettes; and that there should be no vaping bans, merely discussions of etiquette around their use.

Yet the reaction he received in the comments was exactly the same as those from people who railed against Austria and their smoking ban! And I mean, exactly! Here is a selection.
"No problem with people vaping and using electronic cigs, just don't want it on public transport and enclosed  public spaces....and the work space." 
"We have got a ban on “smoking” which is brilliant . Vaping is just another form of smoking. Do not create a thin end of a wedge. Keep it clean. Vape if you want to but not in my space." 
"As a reformed smoker I find the exhaust fumes from vaping as offensive as cigarette smoke. I think vapers need to be segregated." 
"The argument that vapers should be allowed to smoke indoors with non smokers is flawed. Smokers have not been permitted to do so for years , so what are they missing by a continued ban, now that that they have found a new distasteful addiction, which while suposedly less harmful , can’t be good." 
"I accept is less harmful than normal cigarettes but I object to having perfumed stench in my face when indoors in public places." 
"Smoking, cigarettes or vaping, should be restricted to open air. Even that infringes my human rights."
And my personal favourite because it perfectly encapsulates the entire debate.
"I don't want to breathe in anyone's second hand nicotine steam. Go outside!"
Because that's what it has always been about, pure, naked intolerance ... not health. Me. Me. And more me.

This is why I have always said - and will continue to do so - that the smoking ban was the most socially-damaging piece of legislation ever bludgeoned through our parliament. In one fell swoop it spoke directly to the prejudiced, the intolerant, the lazy and the anti-social. It told them that our proud history of respecting personal and professional rights to freedom were at an end; it told them that whereas before the government would not legislate just because people didn't like something, now it was open season; and it empowered nasty little curtain-twitchers and prodnoses to swarm all over Times article comments sections spouting their ill-informed crap because the government is on their side now.

Once you convince the most vile in our society that they are important and that laws can be summoned up on the back of their intolerant whims, there is no end to the things they will demand be banned, and this is exactly what has been happening since July 2007.

Yet again, e-cigs flush out the truth from the fantasy, just as I always predicted they would. 

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