The only other organisations in the world still pushing this lie are the tobacco multinationals. Here are three quotes at random from a recent British Medical Association (BMA) press release:
'Dr Peter Terry, chairman of BMA Scotland, said: "Passive smoke kills... Tobacco smoke contains 4,000 toxins and more than 50 cancer-causing substances".' 'The tobacco industry has proposed that ventilation is the solution to the problem of passive smoke, however, scientific evidence proves that conventional ventilation and air-cleaning systems do not provide effective protection against the health hazards of second hand smoke.' 'The World Health Organisation (WHO) concluded that...there is no evidence for a safe exposure level to second hand smoke.'
Is this all 'misinformation being peddled by the media'?
As soon as we accept that passive smoke is halfway as dangerous as all respectable scientific opinion now claims, there is no way we can logically oppose a ban on smoking in enclosed public places.
It's not true that socialists always oppose government bans and prohibitions. For example, we support a ban on dangerous substances like asbestos. We wouldn't oppose a move to ban the BNP, and we wouldn't vote to repeal the drink-driving laws either.
What is the alternative? Barry Curtis believes that 'self-regulation' is the answer, and quotes a decision by Wetherspoons as an example. Congratulations! Thatcher would be proud! Instead of regulation we should let the free market decide! This is no position for socialists to adopt. It's no accident that 'self-regulation' is the favourite rallying cry of the bankers when their crimes are laid open.
The cigarette manufacturers spend millions trying to associate their product with notions of freedom and liberty. They are delighted when people equate smoking bans with intolerance and repression, and we shouldn't fall for it.
Yes, smoking is an expression of alienation, and the cigarette break is often an act of defiance, or even a chance to have a few minutes to yourself during the working day. But we should be clear that there's nothing progressive about smoking; it's not in your interest, and it's not an expression of freedom. It's promoted by some of the most ruthless capitalists in the world, who make addicts out of children and kill half of their customers.
As socialists, we want to be taken seriously when we argue over health and safety issues. But if we line up with the tobacco multinationals, and compare the BMA with Nazi Germany, then we will end up a laughing stock.