On May 28, a Frenchwoman, Nathalie Masseron, launched a new association for French smokers called l’Union pour les Droits des Fumeurs Adultes (UDFA) — the Union for Adult Smokers’ Rights. All being well, their website content should be up and running by the time you read this post.

As Ms Masseron explained to Agence France Presse, and reported on 20Minutes.fr:

We want to defend our liberty … We are forbidden from café terraces, certain people want to prevent us from accessing parks where there are children, certain hotels are non-smoking, soon smokers will be prevented from renting apartments and they’re even talking about banning smoking in cars!

As a libertarian and as a smoker, I wish her and the UDFA every success as they battle their opponents, the highly vocal DNF — Association des Droits des Non-Fumeurs. They have brought 15 cases to court asking that café owners stop allowing smokers to light up under plastic sheeting — bâches — sheltering them from wind and rain.  So far, none, thankfully, has been successful. Non-smokers wanted to go inside and wanted smokers outside. That’s the price to pay. Wouldn’t it have been much better with smoking and non-smoking sections? Or a fumoir in the back where staff and patrons could go to have a congenial smoke amongst themselves?

Hocine, a smoker who waits tables at at the Café d’Albert in Montmartre, famous for artists who also enjoyed tobacco, said that the latest attempt by DNF to restrict smoking mostly altogether in cafés would lower the takings and see people go home for a cigarette and coffee. His customer Sophie, a non-smoker agreed:

If you ban smoking, no one will come to the café anymore.

And, quelle surprise, it has been the same with pubs and bingo halls in the UK since 2007. Instead of going out for a drink, former smoking pubgoers now share the hosting of ‘smoky-drinkies’, where people bring their own drinks and cigarettes. Bingo hall devotees who smoke now play online in the privacy of their own homes, even if they lose out on lunch or ‘tea’ with their friends. (Afternoon telly in the UK is full of ads for online bingo.)

In Denmark, Niels Ipsen, environmental biologist, and Klaus Kjellerup, researcher, journalist and musician, wrote in October 2011 (emphases mine):

A total of 9,000 English and Irish pubs are today abandoned after bankruptcy, and many breweries are closed (5). Result: Increased debt, broken [futur]es and unemployment.

In Denmark, the phenomenon is seen in the so-called outlying Denmark: The cafe closes in the small town’s main street. Subsequently, fewer residents visit the end of the main street, and [thus] slowly begin[s] the negative economic spiral that hits the street’s remaining stores one by one. Eventually, the town [is] deserted: Marginal Denmark in [2011].

More smoking ban[s] will accelerate this process.

The smoking ban started in Britain and Denmark in 2007. Anti-smoking and cancer-fighting charities can be proud of the jobs they have lost for the nation. And, as our Danish correspondents have revealed — which comes as no surprise to those following European and American smoking blogs — the same occurs everywhere that smoking bans have been enforced. Jobs lost? Who cares? Businesses closing? So what?

Klaus Kjellerup’s blog also carried an item about the situation in Spain, which also has a smoking society scene. Between 2006 and 2011, small bar and café owners could allow smoking or provide a smoking room elsewhere on the premises. Early in 2011, Spain’s government — driven by the World Health Organisation (WHO) — decreed that all premises had to be non-smoking. Keep in mind that this is a country where people who are retired or who work part-time can go to an establishment in their free time to spend a few hours with friends and neighbours over coffee and pastry or a beer and a snack followed by a cigarette or two. Each person would conceivably spend an hour or two at least in their favourite café or bar. Within a few months of the ban taking place:

The Spanish hotel and restaurant association FEHR says that after three months with smoking law has [seen] 53,200 employees in serving the industry [sacked]: “The smoking ban is the main reason for these layoffs,” the president said in FEHR, Jose Maria Rubio, who calls the law “a tragedy” [for] the Spanish cafes.

“The figures are even worse than they seem because there had been 15.5% more tourists in Spain in the first quarter because of unrest in the Arab Mediterranean countries,” says Rubio.

“This law is creating an economic disaster of historic proportions for our members and for many Spanish families,” he writes on the association’s website .

Non-smokers are not of the café-bar culture. And that might include many of my readers, which is fine. Yet, to many patrons of these places — even North Americans — meeting up with like-minded people does everyone a lot of good, even if smoking is involved.

Many difficulties arise with smoking bans. As Ms Masseron stated, there are problems with:

– Renting a flat.

– Spending one’s free time quietly minding one’s own business.

– Going to bars or cafés.

– Being able to smoke in a hotel room or on a beach or in a park, even with no children around.

Along with that, in the US, are bans on hiring smokers — even if they have a quiet gasper off-premises. In the UK, some smokers must clock off and on when they go for a smoke break.

What about the non-smokers who waste endless hours talking about nonsense when taking a notional tea break? Believe me, I’ve seen more than I care to remember. Meanwhile, smoking rooms in the UK were full of people reviewing reports, presentations and holding one-on-one meetings.

At the Cleveland Clinic, the CEO — Dr Toby Cosgrove — bans potential employees who test positive for nicotine:

As a healthcare institution devoted to the health and well-being of our patients and employees, it is our responsibility to do something to help those who suffer from this terrible addiction.

Except he is doing nothing to help smokers. He’s only preventing honest people from getting a job. That’s helpful?

As the Canadian volunteer association CAGE (Citizens against Encroaching Government) observes:

In fact you can be engaging in criminal activities outside your working hours and you can still get a job at the Cleveland Clinic but if you test positive for nicotine you become persona non grata. 

That’s right, and there are other companies around North America who also do this. They’re probably starting in Britain, too. I remember in 2006 when the executive in charge of our division took a phone call to answer a survey on employees who smoked (I was in the room). This person responded:

I would rather not employ smokers, but I have two who are very efficient workers. But I am against smoking.

She actually had more smokers than that under her supervision. She only reported on the ones of whom she knew.

Sadly, many British physicians today would deny smokers NHS care, when smokers pay at least three times more tax to support it than they receive in treatment for tobacco-related diseases. The Christian Post carried a précis of an article from the UK’s Observer:

In an optional opinion poll taken out by Doctors.net.uk, 54 percent of 1,096 British doctors said they believe they should have a right to withhold care to non-emergency patients in an effort to spare limited resources.

The doctors were asked, “Should the NHS be allowed to refuse non-emergency treatments to patients unless they lose weight or stop smoking?”

It is hoped that astute readers noted the words ‘patients unless they lose weight’. The goalposts are always shifting.

Seriously, smokers should go to the head of the queue for NHS treatment. They’ve earned the equivalent of the Olympic Gold for tax payment. More than 75% of the price of a pack of cigarettes in the UK is tax. In France, it is 80%.

And that goes for Americans, too. For these gold-plated employee health insurance plans, if the employer is so belaboured by smoking employees, why doesn’t he allow them to pick up the monthly excess? The payroll department could easily figure it out.

The Czech Republic has realised how important smokers are to tax revenue. Klaus Kjellerup’s blog reported in September 2011 (emphases in the original below):

It is rare to hear political authorities … say … that the state [does well out of] smoking, and that today’s smokers are over taxed because of high tobacco taxes.

It happened, however, in Prague in [A]ugust 2011, national public TV channel, Czech Television, the Czech Minister of Health & [M]edical, Leos Heger was interviewed about a new government analysis of smoking effects on the Czech economy.

The analysis shows that the tobacco tax in the Czech Republic [contribute]s 10 times more than the cost of disease treatments of Czech smokers.

But, that’s not enough. As I write, UK supermarkets are in the process of placing all tobacco products behind white or black shutters labelled with the words … ‘TOBACCO PRODUCTS’. A laminated sheet of paper lists the cigarettes and tobacco available. Shutters must be opened and shut for every tobacco request. Halfway around the world, Australia is currently conducting an energetic debate on whether to have plain packaging for cigarettes. The same debate is going on in the UK.

MEP (European Parliamentarian) Roger Helmer wrote:

There is no question that smoking is a bad for your health. I would recommend that anyone who does smoke stops. However, this doesn’t mean I believe it is justifiable that the state should intervene to remove the intellectual property of a company selling a legal product in a misguided attempt to stigmatise a legal activity …

There is no majority consensus behind standardised packaging, despite what we were told by a recent YouGov poll. The poll in question made claims based on a highly leading question and the President of YouGov happens to be on the Board of Trustees of a taxpayer funded anti-smoking lobby organisation, ASH. And even if there was a consensus, government should exist to support individual rights rather than to pander to calls from vested interest groups

As a non-smoker, the reason I am deeply concerned by this proposal is because I believe that people should be able to do as they please, without interference from a nanny state. Government should not be able to force its views on adults engaging in a legal activity; free citizens who choose to smoke shouldn’t be a target for the Department of Health ...

Government is the tool of its citizens – it exists to serve them – not to belittle or marginalise them and this is exactly what this preposterous piece of legislation does. It says that smokers are pariahs on society who need special laws for their products, such as the introduction of the display ban last month. The organisations that the Department of Health funds to campaign against smokers call this process “denormalisation”, a phrase that sounds like it was handpicked from Orwell’s 1984.

I remember clearly when liberal and conservative journals of American record said at the end of  1984, ‘See, nothing happened, despite the doom-mongering about Orwell. Except that you now have to wear seat belts. And you might not be able to smoke on short-distance flights. But that’s only for two hours. So what?’

Now look what’s happened. Scope creep.

My theory — and I’m sticking to it — is that the Left drives the Nanny State. I picked this up from the fora on France’s RMC (Radio Monte Carlo, broadcast from Paris’s 15th arrondissement). The most rabid anti-smoking listener there has a Che Guevara avatar. He is forever banging on about smoking. The more conservative members advise a bit of give and take. No, he won’t have it. Also, just before the first round of the presidential elections in France in 2012, Nathalie Arthaud of the hard-Left Lutte Ouvrière told RMC’s Les Grandes Gueules (‘The Big Mouths’):

Drinking is so dangerous. We advise all our members against consuming alcohol.

Yet, France has one of the most sensible alcohol policies in the world. And — every bar and café has the rather lengthy law on public drunkenness prominently displayed in its premises behind the bar. Look for it — it’s even framed.

But, you may say, ‘Churchmouse, there are plenty of conservatives who oppose smoking and drinking. Church groups, too.’

They only pull it in from the Left. And don’t get me started on pietism and holiness folks, they of the whited sepulchres.

The Left starts the debate, makes a moral crusade out of it and, before you know it, conservatives and churchgoers — dopey as some of them are — jump on the bandwagon, fearful of being left out: ‘Oh, golly, I’d like to be a part of that, too!’

As a result, we have gay marriage, STDs, teenage pregnancies, spiralling abortions and other moral relativist positions — where does it end? Oh, no, it’s smoking — and drinking — which are immoral.

A young Dane, Rasmus Brewer, observed that his fellow Danes of a similar age are Socialist — and conformist:

I prefer to think that this is a more deep[er]-lying instinct to limit freedom, for those who are different than ourselves. I think that somewhere inside of us all is an ugly need to undermine other people’s work – especially those who are more successful. It has magically been done in the middle of [the] ’68-ers rebellion to disguise this hatred and confuse the hippie movement [with] the proclaimed love for everything socialist.

Note the constant mentions in the West of communitarianism: ‘Your right stops with me’. In other words, ‘My rights count more than yours do’. How warped is that?

Let’s be careful how we journey along this dark road. There are rights and there are responsibilities. Not so long ago, we were all able to get along peaceably. Since then, in the socio-political realm, online debate has become more hostile. Internet frequenters noticed this during the 2008 Obama-McCain presidential contest — ugly and vile, especially towards Sarah Palin. There are things, including slogans, which the Left produced and cannot be repeated here. They were absolutely foul. I believe they were angry with John McCain for having chosen a female running-mate when their side forced their woman — Hillary Clinton — to give in without a primary count at the Democratic National Convention. No, I’m not a Hillary fan, but, good heavens, let’s do things by the book.

Meanwhile, back in France, an RMC forum reader, YANNGIO says that the level of debate on the radio station’s fora has gone downhill quickly. Whatever happened to civility and tolerance of differing views?

Angel06 responds with:

Let others rest on their convictions. They’ll go into meltdown. Some on here have reinforced the truth … That’s the way forward … 

And that’s my position on smokers in society.

Tomorrow I’ll start exploring some of the nefarious untruths of advocacy groups, taxes and anti-smoking policy.

UPDATE – November 20, 2014: The UFDA site has relocated to Twitter.

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