Andrew Stone is wrong to support the government's ban on smoking in enclosed public places ('The Drag Factor', December SR).
Stone argues that smoking in pubs and at work is a lethal hazard and socialists would not accept self-regulation with regard to any other health risk, therefore the state has to intervene. However, the link between passive smoking and lung cancer remains unproven despite the British Medical Association's 'estimates'.
Anyway there is a crucial difference between smoking and the need for safety at work. Smoking is something that a portion of workers do, whereas safety issues are raised in response to an employer's callousness, usually caused by his desire to avoid incurring extra costs. When we criticise the lack of safety at work, we do not attempt to remove workers' freedoms; rather we are attacking the bosses' mean spiritedness.
If we were to proceed logically, socialists should demand smoking and non-smoking rooms. We should also demand decent air-conditioning. Applied to bars, there are already pubs with non-smoking areas and a policy of non-smoking at the bar in Wetherspoons, for example. This suggests that self-regulation does work with regard to this issue. Bearing this in mind, we should not view smoking as a welfare issue; rather the restrictions being imposed are part of the broader attack on civil liberties that the government is famous for. If we recall, the first country to restrict smoking in public was not Ireland. It was Nazi Germany.