In his article “The smoking ban killed the British pub. This vandalism is Labour’s defining legacy”, published on Tuesday, January 21, 2014, Mr. Peter Oborne – who’s the Daily Telegraph’s chief political commentator – accuses the Labour Party for having literally destroyed the “institution” of the English Pub with the recent introduction of the smoking ban.
No, I’m not a big fan of the Labour Party, but one must give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Imposing a ban on smoking cannot be a bad thing. If anything, the British government should invest some money for educating people NOT to smoke anything, instead of wasting them on cancer treatments.
To the contrary, though, Oborne seems to be pretty adamant on the fact that the smoking ban is a bad thing. As he writes in his op-ed: “This is hopeless… Mr Perkin’s intervention cannot be taken seriously unless he first acknowledges the insidious role the last Labour government played in the destruction of the nation’s pubs – and promises reparation.”
Toby Perkins, the “Shadow Pubs Minister”, being the Labour’s Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. Oborne calls Perkins into question and accuses him of paying no attention to what he defines as the “calamitous” smoking ban.
Let’s skip on the fact that – according to other sources – Mr Perkins has previously voted against the smoking ban.
And let’s also forgive Mr Oborne for the improper use of the word “vandalism”, since the fact that he knows what vandalism really is must be taken for granted, given the fact that Oborne – repetita iuvant – covers the position of CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR at the Daily Telegraph. Which, in turn, is one of the most important newspapers in England. By the way, the word “vandalism” comes from the Vandals – a Germanic tribe particularly dedicated to the sacking and looting of cities – and it refers to the act of literally destroying properties.
But let us focus on the real issue, instead.
Oborne, in fact, is depicting the smoking ban as a catastrophe for the English nation. He writes that “the British Pub is internationally famous” (Pol Pot was very famous, too), and he even goes mathematical in underlining that pubs are closing “at the rate of 26 per week”, which is more than a thousand per year.
“Town and countryside are littered with pub corpses, boarded up and often awaiting permission for conversion to flats or houses,” Oborne adds. The scenario almost resembles Dante’s Inferno. One can virtually perceive the tribulation, it’s a Calvary on the mount Golgotha; it’s almost moving.
But that’s only the beginning. According to Oborne, the ban on smoke represents not just a social, but also an economic calamity, in fact: “…The people [that the ban] …was supposed to protect – the bar staff – have suffered catastrophic job losses as a result…”
In Oborne’s j’accuse, Toby Perkins – as previously mentioned – would be culpable for focusing only on blaming the big pub companies in this García Márquez’s style “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”.
It seems like a classic case of the wise man pointing at the moon and the idiot looking at the finger. Or, if you wish, a case of totally missing the point, as seen in Thomas Cathcart’s memorable story of the stars and the tent (“Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!”). However, once cannot help but notice that two of the main catastrophes of modern-day Great Britain – and of the world at large – bear precisely the names of “tobacco” and “alcohol”. And since Mr Oborne since to be fond of math, let’s take a look at the numbers, but keep in mind that smoking alone is responsible for at least 100.000 deaths every year in Great Britain.
Quoting from the Health and Social Care Information Center
-In England in 2010, 20 per cent of adults reported smoking, which is similar to 2009 where 21 per cent of adults reported smoking but much lower than the 39 per cent in 1980.
-In England in 2011, over a quarter of pupils (25 per cent), had tried smoking at least once and 5 per cent were regular smokers (smoking at least one cigarette a week).
-In 2010/11 among adults aged 35 and over, there were approximately 1.5 million hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of a disease that can be caused by smoking. The annual number of admissions has been rising steadily since 1996/97, when the number of such admissions was 1.1 million.
-In 2010/11 among adults aged 35 and over, around 459,900 hospital admissions were estimated to be attributable to smoking. This accounts for 5 per cent of all hospital admissions in this age group.
-In 2011 among adults aged 35 and over, around 79,100 deaths (18 per cent of all deaths of adults aged 35 and over) were estimated to be caused by smoking.
-In England in 2010, current smokers smoked an average of 12.7 cigarettes per day.
Now, I understand that compared to the loss of hundreds of jobs and the closing of thousands of pubs throughout the nation, the data shown here aren’t so alarming.
But perhaps if we also add the 9.4billion Pounds that the English government spent for cancer diagnosis alone in 2010 and the 8,748 deaths related to alcoholism (in 2011), the picture could change a bit.
Consider also that, according to Italian institute for Statistics, 70.000 to 83.000 people died in Italy in 2012 because of smoking. More than twenty-five percent of these were 35 to 65 years old. Sarcasm apart, it is clear that this IS a true economic catastrophe, especially compared to the loss of odd-jobs and pubs full of drunk smokers. Pubs are an English institution? Then they are a horrible English institution, unless they can function without selling death and allowing people to kill themselves. British people would be better off alone, in front of their Tvs, if that’s the price to pay for being “social”. Change the institution. This isn’t rocket science, work it out Mr Oborne.
You might have noticed that I’m fond of quotes and paraphrases. I won’t name any philosopher/historian/poet/statesman today. But instead, I feel like paraphrasing the CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR OF THE DAILY TELEGRAPH himself: Mr Oborne’s intervention cannot be taken seriously unless he first acknowledges the insidious role that tobacco and alcohol play in the destruction of Great Britain’s human lives – and promises reparation.
This article also appears on L’Occidentale