Sunday, December 12, 2004


You have to admit it took balls for the government to stick to its agenda and enact the smoking ban. You might not like it but you have to admire them for persisting at a time when they could be and are being described as lefto-pinko-social engineers. Looking back 4-5 months to when I was looking ahead to this now, I was really concerned with the timing of the smoking ban in relation to the general publics perception of Labour.
My concern has passed.

Firstly, opinion polls show this to be a broadly popular move with 65-75% support.

Secondly it is being embedded very cleverly with not much stick. A small amount of smoke police across the country will ensure that the law is not zealously applied - making for growing acceptance. It seems as if the law is welcomed in the cities and that is where efforts will be made to push the smokefree message. Out in the sticks, pubs will be left to do as they please but as the law becomes the norm and people spread out about the country, I feel the rural pubs will simply agree that the environment of a smokefree pub is more enjoyable.
We will see acts of defiance but I think they will melt away.

Thirdly, overseas experience is good. In America and even Ireland where this type of legislation has been enacted the experience is that there is an initial slump but business picks up. I think that non-smokers will tend to stay longer whilst smokers may well stay at an establishment for a less amount of time, instead using the smoke break as a reason for moving on -they will still spend the same amount of net time in a bar. These people are of course the people that I see in pubs and I don’t think represent the larger pub going public. Smaller more isolated venues will have to work hard at keeping the smokers comfortable so they don’t just bugger off.

Fourthly, tis a clever time to implement it. Just before Christmas, when hopefully the better weather makes it easier to head outside and the increase in people in a festive mood will offset any potential losses from smokers turning in early.

Also my own personal observations over the weekend were encouraging. I went to the London bar on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and didn’t notice any drop off in people, nor any smoking delinquents.

Anecdotally (people I asked at the bar) there seems to be people who want to make the ban work and are planning on going out to pubs to make it so.
The ban seems to be self-enforcing with people basically either accepting it or resigned to it.
It is also self-enforcing in that from what I have read, the none-smoking public will quickly shoot you a cursed laser stare should you decide to flout the new law.
I look forward to many more evenings where I can sit in comfort at a bar, enjoy a pint and then a whisky without the sore throats and smelly clothes of previous outings. I look forward to the lessening temptations on social smokers.

On a personal note as to whether I support the legislation, I look on it from a utilitarian point of view. Firstly I was concerned with the loss of liberty involved as peoples choice as to whether their business should allow smoking has been legislated away. This loss of liberty was a decrease in some peoples utility and if it means a loss of income for the publicans then that is further loss. However I note and believe that it was right to legislate away the freedom to smoke on and in other areas of private enterprise such as transport systems used by the public. One can hear the cries that people would abandon the use of airplanes as a means for moving around when they where facing being unable to smoke on the flight from Auckland to Wellington or LA for example.
I also note that John Stewart Mill’s harm principle can be used here to describe how the liberty of smoking has a negative impact upon others. I believe that places such as bars which features as a focal point for much of our community interaction, places requirements that that environment be cleansed of an unnecessary action which does do harm to others. However the clincher for me is the record of overseas countries in that their drinking establishments have experienced increases in volume sales (although this is not uniform), combined with the utility gains in having people smoking less and smoking less around other people means I believe the action is morally justified.

I'd like your comments on your experiences over the weekend if you went out to bars.


  • Went to Felch after Wallmannsberger's Party - when I got home I DIDN'T smell like an ashtray, and I DIDN'T feel the urge to have a shower. Alright!

    By Blogger Xavier, at 5:39 pm  

  • What kind of name is Felch for a bar... Terrible

    By Blogger Constar, at 5:46 pm  

  • It's just a more appropriate name for Flesh. Either Felch or Wound. Which do you prefer?

    By Blogger Xavier, at 6:11 pm  

  • On the Civil Unions issue, it was correctly pointed out that the rights of a minority should not be subject to a referendum. Now that the minority whose rights are being reduced is not one that you personally have any sympathy for, it's opinion polls and utilitarianism all the way.

    Also, non-smokers may be in the majority but if they care so little about smoke that previous smoke-free bars have failed miserably, they won't care at the polling booth either. The minority of smokers whose social life has now been ruined will remember and will care.

    By Blogger Nigel Kearney, at 7:12 am  

  • Yes well I am sure you could push for the civil union bill on grounds of opinion polls and utility increases so not much of an argument there.

    And the *rights* of people to blow smoke in my face?
    Well I don’t know if you should simply have a right to blow smoke in my face. Also I don’t think that this ban will translate into electoral defeat for Labour, I'm certainly not worried.

    By Blogger Constar, at 8:55 am  

  • While I suffer the misfortune of being unable to frequent the Auckland establishments at the present time, I had a couple of good experiences in (glorious) Palmerston North bars.

    The Woolshed (Masseys' Shads) had a breathable atmosphere for once, made the bar a lot more pleasant. The always enjoyable Guvnor's Tavern was much nicer minus the cigar fumes. Most pleasing of all is the abscense of smoke in the pool bars; if you are going in to one of these places, chances are, youll be spending quite a bit of time there, especially if you are a (hopeless) snooker fan like myself. Spending all that time minus the smoke makes for a better time imo.

    By Blogger Brendon, at 5:13 pm  

  • Pound three night last week and Matterhorn last night, simply amazing. You go home and you don't have to wash your face (at a minimum) and next morning the throat and eyes are not sore. Fantastic.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 2:12 pm  

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