Sunday, 1 July 2007

"NO SMOKING" in England

Sign of the times: Pub smokers have to stay outside (picture via BBC)

There were farewell 'smoking' parties last night in many London pubs to say au revoir to smoking a cigarette inside the venues. Formally, law came into force at 6 am Sunday. No smoking is allowed in enclosed public places - cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants, clubs, cinemas, theatres, offices etc. England followed suite of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, where similar regulations were in place for quite some time. Now London is on the same level as New York having total ban of smoking in enclosed public places. However, similar moves towards anti-smoking regulations did not have noticable effect in Paris, with its traditionally smoke-filled cafes and bars. As my French friend said, no one is taking seriously anti-smoking regulations in Paris. I am not even mentioning Yerevan here, since limited public smoking ban adopted couple of years ago was not enforced in practice, as expected. Just like in Paris...

I completely agree with England's Health Secretary Alan Johnson who hailed the initiative as the "single most important public health legislation for a generation", as it intends to cut the deaths from second-hand smoking and curb the rates of cancer. I am not a smoker, and as one may imagine, without even considering public health benefits, on personal level only, I am more than happy with the prospect of spending my evenings out in smoke-free bars. In fact, some of my heavy smoking friends also agreed, in principle, that it's a good measure and it may make them consider cutting down the number of cigarettes per day or even quit smoking for good. On the other hand, government must do more to help people quit smoking.

However, with all my strong opinion in favour of this regulations, I must admit something which I am not proud of, but that's how I feel. Well, I must admit that smoking creates some sort of environment, atmosphere - difficult to describe - shall I say arty, creative, underground, sexy... Yes, I know how bad it sounds, but I find the process of cigarette smoking may be sexy too. And I want to remind that I am a non-smoker and I hated the taste of nicotine when I tried smoking couple of times, just to see what/if I am missing, and I never wanted starting smoking afterwards. But the process of it, the whole aura is a different thing... Who knows, may be in time, we will watch films of current generation, where smoking parties would be considered 'underground' in the same way as drug-using in Warhol's films, and appeal to many people.

Back to the law, there are some smokers' rights campaigners that want to challenge it, but it is clear that they will not have success, battle for smoking is lost. There are hefty fines in place to enforce the regulations: £50 for individual smokers and £ 2500 for owners or managers of the venues. Even though the recent survey showed that British are not as law-abiding as it was assumed ("law-abiding majority is a myth"), London is not a Yerevan, it's not a Paris, and I do not anticipate major problems with the implementation, people will abide the rules (regardless that survey, in my opinion, they are still much more rule-abiding than in many other places, if not the most), and the rules will be enforced.

*Source of pictures: Getty Images

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