The Council House Smoking Ban


I used to do a lot of radio and television. In the past few years, I have largely given up. The BBC no longer pays for appearances, instead expecting its contributors to drive to London or to remote studios for the love of being broadcast. The quality of discussion has dropped through the floor. Until about five years ago, it was still possible to go on air and make one or two comprehensible points. The presenters nowadays tend to be authoritarian hags and girlie-men whose job is to switch off anyone who fails to agree with the ruling class. Internet radio discussions are far more civilised, and may soon get larger audiences.

For these reasons, the approach this morning, from BBC Three Counties Radio, earned a curt rejection. The issue I was called on to discuss is a growing call for smoking to be banned in council accommodation. According to The Independent:

Smoking should be banned in all new council houses to protect children from harmful second-hand smoke, a public health chief has said…. Anti-smoking campaigners consider smoke-free housing to be the next major frontier in reducing the harmful effects of passive smoking.

This is a step in the War on Smoking I have predicted for years. Smoking has been banned almost everywhere else. Why not redraft council tenancies to ban smoking? Indeed, why stop here? The next step will be to lean on insurance companies to make it hard for private landlords not to ban their tenants from smoking. After that, it will be more pressure on the insurance companies, and perhaps on mortgage lenders too, to cover owner-occupied properties.

No one expects these bans to be universally obeyed. They will not at first be universally enforced. The idea is to bring them in, and leave them for a while. First enforcement will probably be against the sort of council tenants who deserve to be evicted on other grounds. After that, the vice will gradually tighten. Before it is very tight, smoking will have been effectively made a criminal offence.

What is to be done? What are we, as libertarian activists, or merely outraged smokers, to do? The tobacco companies have obviously given up. The days when they employed Chris Tame to wear out the anti-smokers ended a quarter of a century ago. Go on the radio and mention personal freedom, and see how long your microphone stays switched on. Spend your own money on putting a case to the people – you might get more response going about a field and telling the sheep not to get into that lorry the farmer has backed in through the gate.

So, what is to be done? In the direct sense, nothing is to be done. Speaking for myself, perhaps nothing should be done. I gave up smoking many years ago, and am not affected by the restrictions. I see the inflated prices and the plain packets. I see miserable smokers huddled in doorways. I walk past them. There may be some truth in the mantra First they came for the smokers. There is certainly truth in the observation that the more hysterically they go after the smokers, the less time the usual suspects will have to spend on harrying me.

If there is one, the answer does not lie in Freedom to Smoke movements. The cause of all these campaigns against smoking, drinking, fatty foods, petrol, diesel, coal, fighting, flying and driving, various kinds of sex, and dissenting opinions of all kinds, falls under two headings. First, the directors of these campaigns are employed or funded by the State, and these apparatchiks measure success by how many lives they visibly control. Second, we live in a culture dominated by the people I mention in my first paragraph – the authoritarian hags and their girlie-men associates. Leave these two parts of the cause in place, and the only question is what gets regulated out of existence first.

The real answer lies, I think, in a recovery of manly virtue. We need more stiff upper lip and less hyperventilating – more self-respect, and less self-righteousness. We need to find leaders who want only to be obeyed, not loved. Tracts on the non-aggression principle are beside the point – so too Adam Smith Institute reports on how to privatise the paving stones. The first are so esoteric in the present state of opinion, they do not even need to be banned. The second give us more of the state we already pay for. The first and only step to recovery is to play the man. Do this, and the spell of our managerial state will be broken on the spot. We can purge it. We can shrink it. We can drive out its former agents and beneficiaries as the Puritans were driven out after 1660. The new state of affairs resulting may not be libertarian by design, but will, by its nature, be less inclined to meddle than the present ascendency of hags and girlie-men.