Friday, February 02, 2007

Smoking Ban Rant

What are the law-enforcers thinking of?

Our small office in Bristol was this week informed of the action it needs to take in order to comply with the ban on workplace smoking that will come into effect later this year.

Apparently, we are required to place a sign in every room of the building reminding people that this is a no-smoking environment. Every room! There are only eight of us working there and no-one has ever lit up in the building in the two years I have worked there. Despite this, we all need to be reminded of the new legislation at every turn. Apparently we are incapable of reading the paper, listening to the news and discussing the implications of the law for ourselves - which in the case of this office are....none!

I know it's a minor issue. It's only a few signs. It's the thinking behind it, however, that I find so numbingly depressive. It's a symptom of a serious social sickness. At some point, we closed our eyes for a minute and have woken up in a society ruled not by wisdom (a moral and intellectual trait) but by procedures (an administrative one). Like Gulliver, we find ourselves tied down by little people and petty rules.

Don't get me wrong. I support the smoking ban and believe in the social benefits it will bring. It's just the procedure of its implementation that is driving me to despair.

This is a serious problem in the long run. Firstly, it is an expensive way to live - these rules need endless administering, interpreting and enforcing by an army of bureaucrats, all of whom are paid for by our taxes. This is in addition to the cost of material resources needed to produce these endless notices and regulations. Secondly, it erodes freedom. The law of the land, apparently, is not enough. We need strictures and procedures to enforce our compliance - which would be forthcoming anyway. The rare offender who lights up in any office in Britain later this year will find the resultant social pressure (not to mention the media interest) quite sufficient to encourage them to stub out their offending fag without reference to a plethora of signs.

In this sense, we are infantalized by our government rather than respected by it. I don't know about you, but personally that approach bothers me. I obviously value human responsibility too highly in this bureaucratic age.


Anonymous said...

I'm presuming you are director of this company and are recieving an ample wage? The time it took to create your lttle 'rant' would undoubtedly have cost more to your company than popping out to buy a few signs to comply with what can only be descibed as the best thing our Government has done in many years. Stop moaning and think about other companies; pubs and restaurants, where the staff will be able to breathe non toxic air as they work. I feel your comments are very narrow minded and selfish. As a health professional who has cared for many sufferers of cancer and COPD, I can only support this movement and ask that you think again about what this means for both adults and children of our country.

atlanticwriter said...

Dear Anonymous,

Sadly, I am a mere middle manager on a modest wage, not a director.

My rant was written in my own time and cost nothing to the company.

My post, you will notice when you read it again, is not a critique of the new law - of which I am an enthusiastic supporter. It is a critique of bureaucracy - the drive to centralize everything and the assumption that all organisations require the same approach in order to comply with the law.

Like you, I hope the new law will save many lives.

Thank you for reading.