by Einar Du Rietz

Hey Lady! Got a Light?

Don’t you agree? On the anti smoking issue, that is. On the one hand, people in general are just giving up, resigning in the face of oppression and harassment. On the other, some – maybe an increasing amount of people – are beginning to feel that enough is enough. Some even dare to say so in public.

Let me be one of them, enouraged by a – today non smoking – brother in arms.

Dr Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance has made a bold effort to reintroduce science into the debate, otherwise carried out either by uninformed legislators or the, often just as uninformed, public.

The passive smoking, or as it is sometimes referred to, Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), roughly took off about 30 years ago with a widely quoted EPA report in the US, quickly dismissed as nonsense by a subsequent analysis from the Congressional Research Center, not gaining much attention. Legislators followed. Air traffic came first, then public buildings, airports, trains, restaurants, now even pubs, and the hyenas are out sniffing for balconies, peoples homes, and now even their cars. Oh, yes, forgot the outdoor cafes, already banning smoking in some places, and probably the top thing next European summer. Sure, there has been a load of more or less scientific attempts since then.

Writes Gabb:

“The argument from “passive smoking” is based on falsehoods. There is no way of gathering meaningful data, nor even sound epidemiological evidence that passive smoking exists. The alleged figure of 300,000 children harmed every year in the UK by passive smoking is what is called a “junk statistic.” It is in the same league as the claims made in the 1980s about the number of people who would die of aids by 1990, or the claims made in the 1990s about the numbers who would soon be dead from mad cow disease. It is almost as gross a falsehood as the fraudulent global warming claims made by British scientists.”

Letting voodoo into the rules for governmental buildings is one thing. As for the airlines, well, the result apparently was less cost for ventilation/fresh oxygen, and a jump in so called air rage, which in turn was used as an excuse to cut down on the free drinks.

But moving further, to the situation today, when it’s regarded as perfectly normal to harass smokers standing on the sidewalk (where-else should we be), it’s strange to notice the – frankly rather stunning- disrespect for private property. Some European countries still allow smoking in bars, if not in restaurants, but even that is to be taken away. Germany, seems to be one of the few decent countries left. Austria introduced a rule a few years ago that you had to have separate sections and advertise on the entrance door if you were a smokers place or not. Quite acceptable from a patron’s point of view. This is now tightening. Belgium has fallen, as has France. One of the last times I had a decent smoke indoors was in the secluded smokers area (air proof) at one one Copenhagen’s oldest hang-outs, in connection to the Climate Fiasco in 2009.

Remains the fact that smoking can be impolite, just as hitting on total strangers, or invading private property. Remains the golden rule of survival in a civilized society: Common Decency.


  • Einar Du Rietz is a journalist and communications consultant based in Europe. He has authored several environmental reports for the Electrolux Group and written many blogs for the Center for the New Europe at CNE Environment.