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Friday 10 April 2015, Christopher Snowdon

The state should butt out of our bad habits

The smoking ban is the pinnacle of authoritarian puritanism.

There is something uniquely spiteful about the smoking ban that makes it an outstanding candidate for repeal. This draconian piece of legislation managed to combine bureaucratic overreach, class warfare, junk science and the tyranny of the majority to create an act of cultural vandalism that has closed thousands of pubs, clubs and bingo halls. For the ‘public health’ lobby, it is the jewel in the crown because it enshrines their vendetta against smokers in law and stamps the new puritanism into the very heart of daily life.

It was a triumph for incessant shrieking and co-ordinated propaganda. Private property was somehow redefined as public property. Publicans who were happy to allow smoking were somehow redefined as victims. The paper-thin justification for the ban - that it would ‘protect’ bar staff - was an obvious fiction from the start. The real aim was to get smokers to quit by making their lives miserable. Why else would it be illegal for a smoker to run a pub for smokers? Why else would a workman be banned from smoking in his own van? Why else would the anti-smoking lobby want the ban extended to parks, streets and cars (including cars with no passengers)?

I was a smoker myself when the ban came in so my opposition could be attributed to self-interest and sour grapes. But I am not a smoker anymore and my hostility to this vindictive piece of nanny statism remains as strong as it was on 1 July 2007. It is the wound that won’t heal, a constant reminder of the power of the majority over the minority. In that respect, it is a useful piece of legislation. For millions of people it is a daily reminder that the government is not their friend.

Christopher Snowdon is director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs and author of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist and The Art of Suppression. Visit his blog here.

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