Monday, March 13, 2006

The Smoking Ban - this time in Scotland

Things are slowly starting to wind up towards the smoking ban coming into force in Scotland on March 26. Many of us are looking forward to much pleasanter eating and drinking environments, although others continue to insist that this constitutes the erosion of yet another essential liberty. In my view, smoking is a filthy habit which should be confined to genuinely private environments or done in the open air (but not just outside people's places of work). It demeans the concept of a "liberty" to attach that term to an activity which involves filling the air with noxious fumes. However, the reality of eradicating smoking from public places in Scotland is going to be rather more complicated than my rather simplistic views might seem to suggest. It is obviously naive to imagine that the ban will achieve complete and comprehensive acceptance and compliance from Day One. However, to avoid the whole issue descending into farce it is essential that sufficient resources are dedicated to (a) ensuring compliance and (b) promoting wider public understanding of the details of the ban, including why it was introduced. Sitting here in Edinburgh I do not see that happening - and we are getting rather close to D-Day now. People are often swift to point that the smoking ban in Ireland has achieved a relatively high level of acceptance and compliance. However, it seems to me that there is a world of difference between the public authorities of a small state such as Ireland which has comprehensively embraced modernisation in recent years enforcing a smoking ban and the authorities of a sadly rather discredited public institution such as the Scottish Executive trying to do the same. I do hope that whatever work it does to promote and secure compliance with the smoking ban works to the credit, not the discredit, of the Scottish Executive.


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