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Last Updated: Monday, 26 March 2007, 05:19 GMT 06:19 UK
Ban means year of 'freedoms lost'
The ban on smoking in enclosed public places came into effect on the morning of Sunday 26 March, 2006.

In a series of articles from interested parties supporting and opposed to the ban, Neil Rafferty, from the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest), looks at its impact one year on.

Mr Rafferty claims the legislation has been an attack on freedom of choice.

One year on and the Scottish Executive is telling us that Scotland is a better place.

Bingo hall
Bingo operators say the smoking ban has affected their trade

Well, I suppose it's slightly better if you're a non-smoker whose only concern in life was whether or not your local pub was smoky.

But for those of us who care about freedom of choice and want our country to be a place where the people, not the politicians, are in charge, then Scotland is far, far worse.

We have had a year of bingo halls closing down, local pubs and clubs facing real financial difficulty and decent, law abiding people being forced into the street because they like to smoke.

And all of this against a backdrop of smug, arrogant politicians like Jack McConnell and Andy Kerr and shrill public health campaigners like Maureen Moore of Ash telling us that we should all just do as we are told.

(Meanwhile the political establishment in Edinburgh will no doubt be happy to see bingo halls and clubs going to the wall as a consequence of the ban. "This means we can force the working classes to stop drinking and gambling as well," you can hear them saying.)

It's been a year of freedoms lost, of businesses damaged and communities undermined

The executive will boast that the compliance rate has been high and therefore Scots have "embraced" the comprehensive ban.

But when the government threatens you with a sizeable fine - and ultimately prison - then people tend to do as they are told.

So it is perhaps more accurate to say that we have been forced to accept the ban rather than embracing it.

The ban was justified by a very deliberate, calculated strategy of deception about the effects of passive smoking.

The politicians and the anti-smoking fanatics invented figures to scare people into believing that a comprehensive ban was necessary.

One year on our position is exactly the same: If there is any risk at all from passive smoking it is so small as to be statistically insignificant and there are many independent experts around the world who agree.

Smokers have now been forced to light up on the street

But the executive, addicted as it is to propaganda, will continue to peddle this fraud and might even bring out some bar staff whose lives have been "saved by the ban".

Odd that before the ban came in they claimed that dozens of bar staff were dying every year because of passive smoking and yet were unable to name any of them.

So it's been a year of freedoms lost, of businesses damaged and communities undermined all for the sake of some highly dubious claims about passive smoking and a strange, totalitarian obsession with the 'good of the nation'.

And it was all so unnecessary.

Of course many people do not like to be bothered by tobacco smoke and there is absolutely no reason why they should be.

We advocated a mixture of smoking and non-smoking venues so that everyone could have a choice - including bar workers.

And we know the majority of Scots agree with us because we asked them.

Last month Forest commissioned Populus, one of the country's most respected polling organisations, to ask Scots whether private clubs should be allowed to have separate smoking rooms - 74% said yes.

The anti-smoking fanatics will say that Forest only cares about cigarette sales

We asked if smokers should be allowed to set-up and run their own private clubs - again, 74% said yes.

We asked if bingo halls should be allowed to have separate smoking rooms - 66% said yes.

We're not saying that we want to turn the clock back to the era when smokers had it all their own way.

But we do believe that everyone should have some measure of choice.

That's what living in a free country is all about.

The anti-smoking fanatics will say that Forest only cares about cigarette sales.

No doubt there will be comments on this article to that effect. So what?

That's what they always say when they've lost the argument. But what we really care about is freedom.

Smoking carries some big health risks but as an adult in a free society, it's your life and your choice.

And if a group of adults want to get together and start a club where they can socialise, drink and smoke without bothering anyone else then they should be able to - and no smug, arrogant politician should have the right to stop them.


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