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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 14:32 GMT
Suffering in smoke on the buses
In this week's reader's article, Lorna Gilchrist, who lives in Glasgow and works in East Kilbride, complains about those who light up on public transport.


Can anyone tell me why some people think they can get away with doing whatever they please on buses?

Man smoking
A ban on smoking in public places comes into effect this year

I use the bus every day and it seems that every one I get on has some dodgy character sitting at the back, or even better upstairs at the back, smoking and therefore being totally inconsiderate to all other passengers.

There is nothing I detest more than being forced to inhale second-hand smoke.

Buses are quite confined spaces and so it is worse than in a pub or club as at least then you have the choice to either move away from the smokers or leave the venue altogether.

I can hardly get off the bus to avoid the smoke if I'm on my way to work as who knows when the next bus will appear!

It is especially irritating when the person in question has only travelled three or four stops. Couldn't they just have waited?

I've never seen anyone being told to stop smoking on the bus or heard of anyone being reprimanded for doing so

If fines are going to be imposed on people who smoke in public places when the ban comes into force, will this also apply to those who smoke on buses?

I can't see any reason why not.

I do not even know if there is already a fine for this as I've never seen anyone being told to stop smoking on the bus or heard of anyone being reprimanded for doing so.

The bus drivers do not do anything about it and I believe this is either because they cannot smell the smoke in their little cocoons or, the more likely reason, they are afraid to do so in case they are verbally or physically assaulted.

That is also my fear and why I myself do not bother to speak up. It would probably make absolutely no difference anyway.

Until the bus companies take steps to solve this problem it looks as though I will have to suffer in smoke.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and are not endorsed by the BBC.

You sent us your views on Lorna Gilchrist's article.

Its not just the neds that spark up on buses. I've seen many a driver do so and was choked once by a elderly 'gentleman' lighting up a thick cigar. The only thing that these people have in common is the lack of respect for anyone else around them. Care has to be taken when fitting smoke detectors that the are not easily tampered with (eg opened and rewired like the emergency doors, or blocked with chewing gum). Perhaps busses should radio ahead to get an inspector on with the power to take said persons bus pass and, if necessary, use CCTV to back it up.
JT, Glasgow

Last time I asked a ned to stop smoking and to open the window he called me a slag and said he was going to 'fill me in' when I got off the bus (I was pregnant at the time). A few people looked round but I had no backup, as per usual. So I went downstairs and told the driver who, to his credit, was all for phoning the police but the ned hit the emergency exit button and legged it down the street. I'm all for smoke detectors on the bus, because if one went off I'm sure nobody would have a problem in identifying the culprit so their journey wouldn't be interrupted.
Tracey Main, Grangemouth

The buses round about where I live are almost all double-deckers, and in general the non-smokers sit downstairs whilst the smokers sit up the stairs. Provided a window is open (and there is usually at least one), I don't see what the problem is with smoking on the buses. Smoke travels upwards, and if smokers are confined to the top level and adequate ventilation is in place (be it an open window or a small fan), then there can be no cause for concern to those non-smokers who sit downstairs. I do, however, agree that smaller and single-decker buses should probably remain smoke free. Trains should have a separate carriage for smokers, and restaurants should segregate as well. Common sense has to prevail, but the victimisation of smokers by the media and the government has got to stop. Bill Stitt wrote in his reply that 'fortunately smokers are now (literally) a dying breed' - I find this statement appalling (there is nothing fortunate about anyone dying), but it sadly typifies the kind of attitude that has started to prevail amongst the chattering classes. Most of the respondents seem to think that only junkies, neds and drunks smoke, when this is clearly not the case. Further to this, the lack of support in getting people to put their fag out is probably not as a result of fear of intimidation - it might just be that only a tiny minority of people actually care. Our grandfathers and fathers fought and died in two world wars to give us freedom to act as we wish. Passive smoking was almost unheard of 15 years ago - all of a sudden the media whip up a frenzy and smokers are ostracised and portrayed (on TV and in the paper) as killers? I think not - drink, drugs and speeding in your car are far quicker ways to die than sitting next to a smoker on the bus.
Kris Wardrope, Saltcoats, Ayrshire

I totally agree with Lorna. You should try getting the Lanark to Sanquhar bus where even the drivers light up! The no smoking stickers appear to have been removed to let people smoke. And don't get me started on those same drivers who use their mobile phones.
Max, Lanark

Let's get seriously tough. Why not allow drivers to take their vehicle to the nearest police station with locked doors, where the offending scum can be charged with assault. Yes also to smoke detectors, with the circuit linked to the bus' emergency fuel cut-off. I'm sure other passengers will soon vent their frustration on the smokers if their journeys are interrupted.
R Hill, Edinburgh

I totally agree with this, smoking is not allowed on buses, and the 50 fine should be imposed, there is no need for it, can smokers not cope for 30 minutes without a smoke? Well being a smoker myself I say they can and if they are that addicted -buy some gum! I have, unfortunately, seen many a driver, as well as passengers, smoke on buses. There should not be an excuse for this assuming they have a break once every few hours. If I sat at my desk smoking whenever I felt like it, I am sure I would have been sacked!
Louise, Glasgow

I think everyone is of the same opinion - that smoking on buses is inconsiderate as well as unlawful - but what to do about it? The examples of the bus drivers taking on the smokers or getting the police to do it for them are all very well, but they're not paid 7 an hour to put themselves and their uniforms at risk. And peer pressure doesn't work if people are too scared and the smokers are ruffians who don't give two hoots for the law or for others. I propose a smoke alarm which both highlights the offence - a piercing beep or the voice of an English lady repeatedly saying 'attention, someone is smoking' - and disables the bus. That way, the venal but determined smoker will have no choice but to stub it out so that everyone can get where they are going. (Obviously the driver will operate a manual override function, should anyone want to deliberately stop the bus by lighting up).
RAS, Glasgow

Surely loud smoke detectors and CCTV on buses should be enough of a deterrent.
Craig Cockburn, Scotland

If something as simple as this can cause you all so much stress I'd hate to think what would happen if you had to face a real crisis. You people should get out more. As for a smoker on the bus polluting the air, where do you think all the exhaust fumes from the bus and other traffic end up?. That's right, you're sitting in a bus full of cancer-causing particulates anyway so it doesn't make much of a difference if the odd lout lights up a cigarette really.
Mark, London

I got a First bus in Cambuslang (motto 'transforming travel') and as the driver opened the doors a cloud of smoke poured out the doors, literally. Once on the bus it was obvious that there were several neds and nedettes at the back on the bus smoking cannabis and hurling insults to everyone else on the bus. The driver did nothing, why did he not radio for the police to intercept the bus? You are not supposed to eat on a bus either, but look at the discarded junk food wrappers on buses and you will see that's not enforced either.
Mark, Glasgow

I totally agree with Lorna's comments, This type of thing is becoming more and more typical. Glasgow is wanting to portray itself as a stylish city to overseas visitors yet a minority of people acting in this manner can make it such a miserable place. I have been in the situation where even just looking at someone on the back of the bus smoking has nearly resulted in physical assault. I would like to see adequate fines being put in place when the smoking ban comes in not only on the smoker but also on the bus companies for not doing enough to stop this in the first place. I have to pay to use the buses and should not be subjected to someone else's ignorance.
Scott, Glasgow

'No smoking' signs have been on buses for around 10 years and people still defy them. The weirdest thing I experienced was that, once the signs were put on the top deck, people would start to smoke on the lower deck, as if that 'privilege' had been taken away from them. A total ban this year is the only the way, smoking is in every way an unacceptable practice within social life.
Ewan, North Lanarkshire

While I totally agree with Lorna's comments on those moronic passengers who light up on the bus, what about the drivers who think it's OK to smoke while driving. Do the rules not apply to them?
Douglas Jardine, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow

I use the 89/90 bus service in Glasgow, as well as the 61, and I have to say that these buses always have smokers and drinkers hurling abuse - and when I once challenged the bus driver about not doing anything, I myself got a torrent of abuse because he was just there to drive the bus... Now, I am a smoker, and I can wait till I get off the bus into an open space area - so why can't they?
Callum, Glasgow, UK

I recently asked a guy to stop smoking on Lothian Buses number 10 and he threatened to smash my head through the window! I complained to the company who admitted there was very little they could do as the smokers generally push the doors open if you tell the driver and they call the police. Other passengers just put their heads to the floor, which didn't help. I think the ban on smoking should also include bus stops as you can't stand there with small children if someone is smoking and the stink then follows the person onto the bus if you need to sit near them.
Martin O'Donnell, Edinburgh

Here's a solution. Fit smoke detectors which are linked to the ignition on the bus. Person smokes, ignition cuts out and nobody gets anywhere until the smoke has cleared. If the smokers don't care about the rest of us breathing their smoke, why should we care if they can't get to where they are going? Better still, install sprinklers linked to the afore-mentioned smoke detectors.
Ed Murray, Living in Coventry but from Glasgow

I did once end up in hospital with an asthma attack after someone lit up behind me on a single decker bus. I was afraid to say anything, but did think the obvious coughing might make its point - of course it didn't though as only selfish and inconsiderate people would ignore all the signs and do just as they please. My only regret is that I had managed to get off the bus and to the company I was working for then who took me to the hospital, if the bus had had to divert to the nearest A&E (which was Hairmyres and a long way off the standard number 18 bus route from Glasgow) the person who had inconvenienced me might have found themselves sufficiently inconvenienced never to do it again.
Katy Cameron, Glasgow

Quite right. I am a smoker who is in favour of the upcoming ban. I also get annoyed at folk just lighting up on buses when there are kids and non-smokers about. On several occasions I have asked them to stop, and mainly they have been OK. Last week I was on a bus, and a couple of young boys got on. They started to light up. I asked them to cut it out as kids were on the bus. This they did. A couple of minutes later a mother of one of the kids lit up. What are you supposed to do? Smoking on buses should be monitored, with smoke alarms being fitted as well.
John, Glasgow

I totally agree with Ms Gilchrist's comments, and it always seems to be the people who are on the bus for less than 15 minutes who light up, I must admit though I have been on the bus a few times and the driver has asked people to put there cigarettes out and the reply is usually a tut, being a non driver and using the bus everyday I also must say some drivers are also very guilty of smoking on the bus, I'm not expecting them to go all day without there fix but if a passenger sees the driver smoking they think it's ok for the to do so also.
A Young, Motherwell, Lanarkshire

Speaking as a former bus driver, Lorna Gilchrist is correct in her remarks about the drivers fearing to leave their cabs. The policy when I was working in Edinburgh was, If a driver leaves his cab, he does so at his own choice and if he suffers any injuries may not be able to make any claim. Further to this, drivers as well as other public service workers should not go to work with a fear of being abused physically or verbally. I'm now employed in a local authority where I'm more of a target. However I now have the added protection of a "uniform" where I can take remedial action. Which, due to the mentality of some of these people is taken quite often.
Lyall Downie, Edinburgh

It's not just the busses where this problem exists, but it happens on the underground as well. What makes it worse down there is that you are utterly sealed in and isolated from the tube 'drivers'. I have put up with neds smoking on the underground many times and find it disgusting. What is worse is that i have seen people smoking drugs on public transport as well
Alan, Glasgow

I stopped catching the bus because of these ignorant people. I really don't know why they seem to think the "no smoking" signs don't apply to them. And it's not just the kids who think they're being "hard" by smoking where they shouldn't, it's pretty much everyone, from teens through to little old ladies. I wish the bus companies would enforce their No Smoking policies and fine these ignorant people.
James Hadfield, Mansfield, UK

I myself am a smoker, but one of the things that I detest is smoking on a bus. It gives me a sore head and I feel terrible after getting of a bus with someone smoking on it. Also - has anyone noticed that no-one dares smoke on a train? Is this maybe because there is an ticket examiner on the train? Maybe they should bring back the clippies on the bus!
Laura-Anne, Larkhall, South Lanarkshire

I share Lorna's frustration. FirstGroup have signs on all their buses but do nothing to enforce the policy. I don't feel it is down to bus drivers because sooner or later one will be attacked and killed or seriously injured. There are unfortunately people in our society with so little regard for others that no amount of policing or controls will have any effect on.
Matt, Glasgow

I have travelled often on the 66 FirstBus from Glasgow to East Kilbride and have seen drivers tell people to stop smoking. On one occasion in St Vincent Street the driver told a young male to get off the bus as he refused to put his cigarette out. When the male refused the driver called for the police on his radio and apologised to all the passengers for the delay. The male then got off hurling abuse and threats at the driver who stood his ground. So well done to those drivers who do what they can to stamp it out.
Ronald Smith, Glasgow

I totally empathise with Lorna, I experience the same thing every day on Edinburgh buses. But the driver can't be expected to police this - we would never get to our destination! And though I have spoken up on occasion, it hasn't been without fear, and we can't expect all passengers to take things into their own hands. I have some hope that the new law will help. If the bus company risks being fined heavily if someone is caught smoking, then it could become economic for them to employ conductors again, and this I think is the only way the smoking ban on buses can be effectively enforced.
Duncan Hothersall, Edinburgh

I have seen people smoking on buses in Kirkcaldy, not very often I admit, but it does happen still. Usually they are either drunk or a 'ned'. Drivers don't want to say anything either out of fear of assault or perhaps they don't care - probably the former though. The ban will cover 'all' enclosed public places and this includes public transport. But who's enforcing it, as the drivers currently don't...
AJ, Kirkcaldy

I agree with you totally, until public transport is run and controlled properly then people with the option of using their own transport will continue to do so.
Neil Gillespie, Lochwinnoch

Very interesting article and brings up a very good point. Though I am sure that this happens regularly there seems to be no control or indeed punishment for this. I am hoping and indeed expecting that the new laws and enforcement officers will also cover the buses and impose the required penalties.
David McGuire, Balmullo, UK

I worked in Scotland a couple of years ago and had to use buses every day for commuting. On several occasions I asked people to stop smoking. I never had any backup from fellow passengers. On a couple of occasions I was threatened but nothing came of it. Bus drivers were completely disinterested when I complained about smokers. One way to encourage people to use public transport is to make the environment appealing - no smoking, no swearing and no blaring personal stereos. Until that day comes (never, I think) I will use my car whenever possible.
Gerry Shepherd, Witham, UK

Like Lorna I am dismayed at the amount of smoking that takes place on buses - and not just tobacco. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times the driver has come upstairs to tell people to stub out but I don't blame the drivers - they don't get paid enough to tolerate the abuse and possible violent reactions. I think the bus companies should consider increasing the number of inspectors (there certainly seem a lot fewer these days than, say, 10 years ago) or install smoke detectors in an effort to embarrass the smokers. But the bottom line is that the type of people who smoke on buses have little shame generally and are unlikely to respond to pleas for a bit of respect. Fortunately smokers are now (literally) a dying breed.
Bill Stitt, Edinburgh


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