Kim Stone, Landlady of the Barley Mow!
Rather to my surprise, on Saturday May 31st I found myself addressing a meeting at the Barley Mow pub in Granby Street, Leicester, and calling for a review of the smoking ban which has led to a serious loss of business for many pubs and bars in the city . The meeting took place in the up-stairs bar of the pub, which before the ban would have been full of customers. It was organised by Phil Johnson of Freedom2Choose, a campaigning group, and attended by members of the licensed trade concerned about the impact of the smoking on their businesses.
Now of course I myself am a non-smoker, and I hate smoking. But I believe that the decision to smoke is a personal choice that grown-up people are entitled to make. There has to be a balance between the rights of non-smokers to fresh air, and the right of smokers to smoke. A system of smoking areas or ventilated smoking rooms in licensed premises could protect the rights of both groups. The current legislation challenges smokers’ fundamental right to choose their own life-style.
They tell us that smoking is dangerous, and I’m sure that’s true. So is drinking. So is driving, and mountaineering, and bungee-jumping. Politicians have to learn that responsible citizens must be free to take risks. The Nanny State must back off and let free adults make informed choices.
I had the opportunity to talk to a number of licensees whose livelihoods are under threat as a direct result of the ban. There’s no compensation for them. And half their customers are out on the pavement, or at the back under make-shift awnings like second-class citizens. I can understand their sense of grievance.
I certainly don’t want to promote smoking. But on this occasion, I was promoting freedom to choose.