Saturday, July 07, 2007

Smoke round up

I know I am getting a bit of a bore about the smoking ban. However it is something that though peripheral in the great scheme of things acts as a shaft of light on the illiberal acts of our nominal betters. In the activities of the armies of pettifogging bureaucrats we see illustrated an unpleasant side of modern government, the hectoring, holier-than-thou sight of taxpayer funded functionaries harassing ordinary people just getting on with their lives.

Today’s round up

Up in Shropshire the council are delighted. In only five days since the ban was introduced those hard working types, their inspectors have visited a grand total of 1000 properties. OK so there is a downside “Many pubs have also faced a tough week with trade down, but they remain hopeful things will improve as drinkers adjust to the ban”. Hope is all they have of course because evidence from Scotland and Ireland suggests that many of them will go out of business. But what is that to the health police, it is only a few thousand livelihoods. (In Ireland there have been 40 months of low takings - I wonder what happened in Ireland 40 months ago?)

Over in Norfolk it appears that all is going swimmingly. The council, “has decided to implement a softly-softly approach” …Peter Riseborough, head of health and safety at City Hall, added: “There is no point in alienating people and we only enforce it when we have to”.
However this approach will only last for “the first couple of weeks”. After that it is on the spot fines and magistrates. My favourite aspect of the Norwich approach is “The council has two full-time enforcement officers to patrol the streets and hand out leaflets, in several languages, as well as free portable ashtrays, with the aim of ensuring there is no increased litter on the streets”.
Portable ashtrays? As opposed to the old fixed ones? I can see it now, thousands of our fellow citizens walking around with an ash tray in one hand, fag in the other, shoppping in a third.

However in Conwy, North Wales (where the ban came in earlier) we fines are already being handed out,
A council has handed out its first £50 fine for smoking, to a driver who had lit up in his boss's vehicle.
Conwy Council warned that future offenders may be named and shamed.
A spokesman said that the employee chose to disregard both the law, which came into force in Wales on 2 April, and his employer's instructions.
A council enforcement officer had spotted the driver, who was employed by a private company, "smoking in a place of work."”

In Nottingham a different problem has arisen,
The stench of sweat, stale beer and toilets is no longer covered up by tobacco now that venues are smoke-free”. What to ban next, to spare us olfactory disquiet? Garlic? Excercise? Dancing?

In Surrey public panic has set it as one fear is replaced with another. If you cannot smoke inside the pub, but cannot take your drink outside the pub then what happens to your drink when you are outside having a fag? Will somebody slip you a Mickey Finn? Or as it is put in a way designed to increase moral panic about smoking
THE smoking ban could hand sex attackers a golden opportunity to strike,Sutton police are warning… Police Sgt Debbie Blight (how well named) said: "The main concern with the smoking ban is that the outside of town centre licensed premises and a number of other areas in the borough are designated no drinking zones so people cannot come outside with glasses in their hand.
"I don't want people to be complacent about leaving their alcohol behind.
"It's not just the fact that somebody could come in there and put a date rape drug in their drink. There are so many things that can be put in.
"Would you want to find fag ash at the bottom of your drink? Do not leave your drink unattended."
Do not cross the road, only eat macrobiotic food, do you sex might be bad for you. Stay in bed, cower in fear citizens…somebody might put ash in your drink. How are they going to do that the drink is inside the pub, and the smoking is outside you dozy bint!

Meanwhile other council chiefs see an easy way of raising revenue. Having turfed people out of pubs (where convenient receptacles for cigarettes were available on every table) they are now going to hit everyone they spot dropping fag buts in the street for a £75 quid fine. With it seems menaces and appeals to "Save the Children".

"He (The Council official nark) was standing close to me and posturing. He didn't identify himself. I was worried he was not who he said he was - and I gave a false name and address. He said he would fine me and call the police and I said 'call the police'."He said he was told if he did not pay the fine he could be taken to court and have a further fine of £2,500.

After the incident on Saturday June 23, the social services employee wrote to the council and then complained in person to Town Hall managers. ."I don't have a problem with the principle, it is the execution of it. This is a real training issue for TWBC and an education for members of the public," said Mr Stevens, who claimed he could see no signs for Zero Tolerance.

Councillor King said the officer's description of the incident was "very different to those described by Mr Stevens".He said: "Our enforcement officers were not aggressive. We would not wish any action taken by any of our officers to cause any kind of distress to children, and we are very sorry if the exchange between our officers and their father in this situation did. "He said Mr Stevens committed two offences; dropping the cigarette end and giving a false name and address - "in front of his children", added Cllr King. (Yup the statest control freak is a Tory.

Somehow, despite littering being an offence it just hasn’t been prosecuted until now, and it seems that the Council is now trying to blame smokers for the entire £100,000 street cleaning bill.
Picture the scene, old bloke on park bench stubs out fag.
That’ll be £75,” says officious youth with a council identity badge wrapped in thick see through plastic.
Meanwhile hoodies walk past dropping detritus like a Liberian freighter in the English Channel and not a word will be spoken.

However the rebels are out and about,

A Rebellious rector risked having his dog collar felt when he piped up against the smoking ban on Sunday.The day of rest became a day of protest for the Rev Anthony Carr, of Holy Trinity Church in East Peckham, when he strolled into
Tonbridge police station and said he wanted to report a crime.But when the
receptionist asked for details, the vicar - dressed in full clerical garb - pulled out his pipe and lit it.
"He reached out over the counter as if to take it off me, but I stepped back and finished lighting it." Mr Carr told the Kent and Sussex Courier defiantly.After a quick puff of protest the clergyman extinguished his pipe…
"It was explained to him that this was not the most appropriate place for his protest and it is the responsibility of the local authority to enforce the new legislation."…

He said: "It's a petty and vindictive law. I'm not sure if I'm going to do anything else yet. I don't want to do it in someone's business because they could get fined, which I wouldn't want."…Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council's director of health and housing John Batty said he would not be pursuing Mr Carr at this point.He said: "We will fully investigate any reports of a possible breach of the legislation and, if an offence has been committed, we will write to that individual to advise them of their responsibilities in complying with the law."However, in cases where this advice is disregarded we will have no option but to consider applying the penalties available under the legislation."

Then we have Nicky Samengo-Taylor writing in a letter to the Financial Times about the idiocy of the legislation and its other H&S ramifications.
“Sir, Yes, idiocy! Crawling naked through a half-open sash window on to a
perilously small balcony at11 o'clock at night, in order to enjoy a pre turn-in
cigarette, while staying at my club in St James's, is sheer idiocy on my part.
What would "Health and Safety" have to say, especially if the same routine were
to be attempted by older members after generous enjoyment of the club's fine
And finally in this round up, we have the global governance version of this oppression,
146 countries have signed the UN’s Tobbacco Treaty in Bangkok.

No comments: