A question of smokey aftertaste

PUBLISHED: 15:57 08 June 2007 | UPDATED: 22:51 28 May 2010

Just three weeks to go – well 23 days to be exact – before we all take a deep breath and assess how much our lives are going to be changed by the ban on smoking in public places. Quite clearly the aftertaste of that deep breath will depend directly on whe

Just three weeks to go - well 23 days to be exact - before we all take a deep breath and assess how much our lives are going to be changed by the ban on smoking in public places.

Quite clearly the aftertaste of that deep breath will depend directly on whether you are a smoker or not.

From Sunday July 1, as just about everybody knows, it will be illegal to smoke in public places and I guess everyone expects the principal battleground will be in our pubs.

And battleground it could well be. I fear that many smokers, failing to understand why they have been targeted in such a vicious way, or maybe refusing to accept the fairness of it all, will simply choose to break the law.

It is widely known that the ban has been challenged in the High Court, but perhaps less widely known that several million smokers nationwide are planning a campaign of civil disobedience, which one Bolton landlord has described as "a protest against dictatorship".

I have no idea if there is any kind of conspiracy to defy the law in pubs in and around the fens. I suspect not, and certainly hope not.

Fenlanders are generally a law-abiding lot, and I can't foresee too many landlords having any major or enduring problems enforcing the new law.

We must remember that a smoker breaking the law faces a £50 fixed penalty fine, but landlords, restaurateurs and employers, who fail to prevent smoking on their premises, face fines of up to £2,500.

So I guess it's in the publican's interest to see that his premises are smoke free - and I express sympathy in advance for the few landlords who will have to deal with customers - and there will surely be some - who believe the ban applies to everyone but them.

Local authorities will police the ban and there is a danger, particularly in the early days, that many officials will be seen as over-zealous and self-righteous by smokers who feel they are being unfairly stripped of their freedom.

But the majority - and it is without doubt a massive majority - will welcome the ban. And if it means that every time we go to the pub or restaurant we are frisked for smoking materials as we enter . . . then so be it.

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