With another cold winter in the offing and more news in the headlines of Scottish pubs closing, Freedom to Choose (Scotland) has launched a petition calling for a review of the Scottish smoking ban.
The petition struck a chord with frustrated pub goers, publicans, and with the media. Unlike earlier petitions, Freedom to Choose (Scotland)’s Petition 01451 is formally based on a European air quality standard, document EN 13779. Published since the implementation of the smoking ban in Scotland, this document treats tobacco smoke as just one of a number of airborne toxins that air cleaning technology removes from indoor air spaces on a regular basis. Media coverage spurred online interest over the weekend of 21 September, and petition signatures shot from a few dozen up into the low hundreds as internet debates raged back and forth over the harms of the ban versus the harms of exposure to low levels of environmental tobacco smoke.
Smoking ban legislation has generally rested upon claims that "there is no safe level of secondary smoke", and "ventilation doesn't work". The degree to which secondary smoke is hazardous to one's health is keenly disputed and is obviously related to such factors as degree of concentration and duration of exposure. Modern air filtration technology can remove it, just as it can remove other toxins. The technology for such air handling has improved significantly in recent years, with some affordable devices "claiming a single pass kill rate of 99.999% of bio hazards while removing particles down to the level of 1 micron or below, equivalent to a single particle of cigarette smoke".
Freedom to Choose (Scotland) asks, "Does the 'health lobby' understand the mechanics of air cleaning engineering better than those who work in the field?" and criticizes the health lobbies’ claim that technology capable of removing anthrax, swine flu, C Diff, and MRSA is helpless in the face of something as ordinary as wisps of smoke from a few burning leaves. Freedom to Choose (Scotland) also claims that the smoking ban has prevented the hospitality industry from catering effectively to up to one quarter of the adult population in Scotland while contributing to the closure of nearly one-fifth of Scottish pubs.
The impact on pubs in Scotland and the rest of the UK has been replicated in other areas that have sought strict enforcement of imposed smoking bans, most recently in Bulgaria where a 50% decline in business since the ban was introduced in June cannot be put down to a long-term trend. The smoking ban, as it stands, has also caused extreme hardship in some non-hospitality areas such as hospitals, where smoking patients stand outside in the winter, attached to IV drips while wearing nothing but wispy hospital gowns.
Freedom to Choose (Scotland) now urges the Scottish Parliament to allow the Scottish hospitality industry to flourish and allow venues the option of offering smoking accommodations by setting air quality standards that can be met through the use of modern air cleaning technology. Spokeswoman Belinda Cunnison says the organization hopes for a return to rationality, and a departure from special interest pressure politics in arriving at an acceptable and constructive compromise that will benefit the health, happiness and livelihoods of all Scots – smokers and non-smokers alike.