2 Choose

Freedom 2 Choose

Should the Smoking Ban be Amended?
Was it too draconian, depriving smokers of their rights to choose?
Should Clubs, Pubs and other places of leisure being able to choose about having one dedicated smoking room?

Reviewing some of the effects and arguments- Report on Freedom 2 Choose (F2C) Meeting, September 2010

F2C held a meeting on September 20th, to discuss the smoking ban and its effects on pubs, clubs, shisha cafes and the communities they serve.  It was held at the Kingley Park Club and Institute in Northampton. 

F2C organiser, the indefatigable Phil Johnson, chaired the meeting and thanked CIU National Executive member Barry Slasberg for hosting it at his club.  (Barry is Kingley Park’s Secretary). Phil also thanked two local Conservative MPs for taking time out to attend- the Right Honourable Chris Heaton Harris, MP for Daventry and the Right Honourable Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering. 

Phil gave a short introduction about the issue of rights of smokers, which have been ignored by the ban, and the possibility of introducing amendments that would allow for pubs and clubs, where possible, to have one enclosed smoking room.  Phil pointed to a growing body of evidence that the smoking ban is accelerating the closure of pubs and clubs, as well as bingo halls and shisha cafes.  The hospitality industry, he stated, according to the surveys and the results they bring forth, is being brought to its knees.  He also pointed out that good ventilation systems can actually produce cleaner air than we breathe out on the street. 

First to speak was Barry Slasberg (President SE Midlands WMCIU)
Barry gave a well balanced speech all about freedoms and equalities, pointing out that he was a lifetime non smoker but that the smoking ban had seriously affected him because of his own club, as well as others, losing custom.  He pledged his support to F2C and the path they were taking.  He was in favour of being able to have an enclosed smokers room in places where this would be possible. 

Next to speak from Suhayl Ismail, Director of the Midlands Shisha Organisation.   Suhayl pinpointed the dire situation shisha bars have been put in - something a good few attendees had perhaps not considered.  He gave his own family’s business as an example.  It used to employ 4 people and his family had invested money in it but now it barely ticks over and only Suhayl works there now.  The shisha uses only small traces of nicotine and this is a social activity that has been decimated by the ban.

Ruth Cherrington, from Club Historians, then gave a short presentation about the varied contributions that clubs make to local communities, from children, women, men and older members.  Where are they to go when clubs close down as many now are because of this added pressure of the smoking ban?  She talked of the deprivations caused in all walks of life and highlighted many specific examples from her research and writings on clubs. 

Dave Atherton, F2C Executive and Southern Area Club Liaison Officer, then gave a short but precise factual account of statistical evidence which seriously called into question some of the key arguments circulated by ASH.  Figures he had collected indicate very strongly the rapid acceleration of pub closures since the ban.  Between 1980-2006, pre-ban, 0,65% of pubs closed each year.  After 2007, this figure had risen to 2.77%.

MP Chris Heaton Harris answered a question from the floor and then went on to say that F2C were pushing all the right buttons, making the right presentations but should be careful with their language which should be toned down and be more objective.  He also informed the meeting that F2C were on course to fit in with Cameron's "Big Society."  Like other speakers at the meeting, he was a dedicated non-smoker but concerned about the freedom to choose issue and also the effects of the ban on jobs and communities.

MP Philip Hollobone was equally helpful and advised the meeting that David Nuttall’s "Ten minute Rule Motion" re Pubs & Clubs smoking ban, needs to be seriously addressed by everyone concerned about this issue.  He suggested that we immediately start contacting our MPs to ask them to support this motion on the 13th October as success will bring this topic straight back into Parliamentary debate.  

After some further discussion and questions, Phil closed the meeting and reiterated the whole point of it:  it was all about PRO-CHOICE and not simply trying to overturn the ban altogether.  Smokers should be listened to and treated equally and not demonised as second class citizens. 

Ruth Cherrington

Sept.  24th 2010



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