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February 15, 2006


Nothing like a bit of 'healthy' debate in the blogosphere eh Serge? Of course that's all it is and it would take a bit more than a disagreement with one of my opinions to stop me thinking of you as a 'blog buddy' :)

However, this is a biggy for me. I have no problem with smokers exercising their right to choose to smoke. It's their informed decision and the freedom to choose our actions must be observed in any civilised society. But, and there's always a but (no pun intended), where those choices adversely affect others, that choice takes on a different hue.

I understand that it's a person's right to smoke but when their smoke affects the health of the person next to them or the person serving them and that person can't do anything about it, that's unfair. What about that person's right to choose not to subject themselves to the harmful effects of smoke?

Always a tricky subject when it comes to freedom of choice. You'll never solve it unless someone takes the initiative and compromises. But where a choice has such negative effects on the health of others, I think the compromise should come from the smokers.

I wonder if I'd think the same if they banned beer?

BTW - there are still a few of us who are all for leaving the Americanisms to the Americans. Up the Albion!

Let me start by saying that I have athsma. Most of my friends that smoke (which aren't many anymore being this is America) know this and are very kind to me by not lightling up.

However, not everyone is my friend and not eveyone is as thoughtful as Serge is to those around him. I have had to ask to be moved when people started smoking near me (even if I was in the "non-smoking" section and it was drifting).

Is this fair? Is this what we mean by "personal" freedom? That said, I am much more likely to frequent a non-smoking establishment than a smoking one. So, should smokers have a place to hang out where I couldn't enter due to my health concerns? Maybe so.


We'll continue this discussion in person when I travel across the Atlantic. We'll make it a Blogging Buddies debate, over a fine Belgian beer or two.

Andrea - when are you planning on making the trip to 'yurp'? Let me know and if I can make the hop over the channel, I'll buy you both an Oerbier or 2

There is no freedom of choice anymore... Freedom of choice is a myth. Look at all those rules and laws!
The ban on smoking in public spaces/pubs/restaurants is just another rule on top of countless others.

By the way, I repeat it, if you don't agree with me, I behead you !

Sam, my goal is to visit sometime between Summer and the end of the year, but more than that I don't know yet. It all depnds on the "home logistics." We'll all definitely get together when that happens.

@Sam: ban beer? Then I predict a riot! Where the compromise is concerned: smokers have already compromised a lot. And so they should - after all, they are the ones producing the smoke. The question is, however, how far you can take this? Also: is the smoke that harmful as now is often hysterically claimed? Comparisons with exhaust fumes are ludicrous but because of that people are now thinking they are going to die instantly whenever someone smokes anywhere near them. But yes: you have the right not to expose yourself to cigarette smoke. But I will no longer have the right to do it the other way around. And the publican does not have the choice of making his pub smoke-free or not. He simply has to. That is not a choice. Smoke-free areas, smoke-free pubs,... no problem. But not by an imposed and general ban. The latter is of course the easiest solution; but simple solutions are not necessarily the best. Zero-tolerance does not bring people closer to each other, and does not create a situation in which they try and co-exist.
@Kami: sorry to hear about your asthma. I understand completely that smokers must be a nuisance to you. I feel sorry that smokers do not always take non-smokers' wishes into consideration. Isn't that always the problem: some spoil it for everybody else? And I guess restaurants should try harder to separate smoking from non-smoking sections. I prefer to eat at the non-smoking section myself. I'd settle for a small smoking corner somewhere anytime.
@Andrea: Just say when. But careful with Belgian Beer. Especially if you decide to go for Sam's offer of an Oerbier or two, you might end up in a state of uhm inebriety. And that's not allowed in public spaces, not even here (unless, of course, it is not too obvious :-) ).
@Sidney: so that's why you moved to Manila? ;-)

Serge, I concur. I do not wish to enter into a political debate because it surmounts my intellectual capacities by far, but why does the UK have to follow suit with the US? Yet the European and transatlantic political spectrums are full of contradictions. The UK has a so-called labour government yet implements right-of-center policies. Britain has become such a paranoid society obsessed with gun crime although civilians are no longer allowed to own guns, obsessed with binge drinking although drinking was restricted, and I could go on and on...

Mind you, I'm not saying that Europe is a better place because we have seen many silly laws introduced since the EU shifted into higher gear. I am glad however that Belgium is not following this pseudo-fascist (a burdened word, I know, but you'll all catch my drift) route.

On smoking: I was in Italy over the weekend where smoking has been banned in public places since 1 january. You might think otherwise about a country like Italy, but people were very disciplined. I heard no one complaining, not even smokers. A person wanting to smoke a fag simply goes outside for five minutes. Fantastic, everbody happy.

I know what you mean: at home I have to go outside if I want to smoke too. And I don't mind. And yes, everybody happy here too. If I were to live in Italy I would probably not mind stepping out either, but I am a big NIMBY ;-). No, seriously: in summertime - no sweat. But when it's pouring, freezing, ... like it often does around here: just a small smoker's corner isn't too much too ask for, no? Besides: outside there are too many exhaust fumes from cars passing by. And now THAT is something which is really harmful stuff!

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