Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Prodnoses, Fussbots and the Erosion of Liberty


Last year, my local authority - Swansea City Council - made national headlines when they decided to designate Caswell Bay (one of numerous award-winning beaches to be found on the Gower Peninsular) as a smoke-free beach. Whether it was successful or not I have no idea as I have not visited that particular beach this year and typically the Welsh weather throughout the summer months was not exactly conducive to enjoying a day at the beach.

What was evident is that in their 'due-diligence' before engaging the measure (i.e. they conducted surveys that quite obviously only spoke to non-smokers) was heavily slanted toward getting the result they desired - i.e. a ban on smoking. They chose not to include vaping in this ban, but that is only because I and several other Swansea Vapers were very vocal about this sleight on civil liberties and because we already had a vaping ally on Swansea Council in the form of Lib-Dem Councillor Peter Black (who asked several questions on the matter on our behalf).

This year, Swansea City Council are attempting to come back for a second bite at the cherry. They have launched a consultation of what people thought about the smoke-free beach in Caswell Bay and the way the survey is structured makes it clear that they are considering expanding these smoke-free spaces to other beaches within the region.

I encourage everyone who reads this blog to complete the survey - regardless of whether you are a smoker or non-smoker/vaper.You can find and complete the survey here

For those of you who do not know the Swansea area, understand that Swansea is a coastal City on the South West Wales coastline. As well as it's own large beachfront, Swansea City Council's coverage includes the entire Gower Peninsular - which is a designated area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the first in the UK).

I have never counted the number of beaches on the Gower Peninsular (there are a huge number of official as well as unofficial beaches/coves to be found), but to give an idea of the extent you can have a look at the website dedicated to the Gower here

It is true to say that Swansea and the Gower relies heavily on the tourist trade. During the summer months one can find tourists of all nationalities holidaying in the area. On sunny days, the Gower roads (which are frequently little more than country lanes) are completely gridlocked with people flowing to the beaches. On top of that there are numerous hotels, guest-houses, B&B's and camping/caravan sites that rely on the tourist trade for their incomes. To immediately alienate any tourist that might be a smoker from visiting Swansea and the Gower would seem to be counter-productive to an area that relies on such trade. But hey, when have smoking bans ever been about health ?

Whilst I am not a smoker myself, I maintain grave concerns over the creeping prohibition that is being instigated by the anti-smoking people. Smoking is a legal activity still enjoyed by approximately 10 million people in the UK and smoke-free spaces such as being proposed by Swansea City Council is (in my humble opinion) discriminatory and affront to a so-called free society that we are supposed to enjoy in Wales and the UK in general. There is no evidence whatsoever that smoking in an open space causes any danger or nuisance to other people in the vicinity. There has been NO public clamour to clamp down on smoking in such spaces but Swansea City Council, which is Labour-controlled incidentally (aren't they all ?), seems to think that this is something that will earn them brownie points. As a council tax payer to Swansea City Council, I am only too aware of the cash shortage issues the Council have and I really think their money would be better spent on the many priorities and neglected areas of the City than on 'pie-in-the-sky' initiatives like this. Especially when nobody has asked for it and nobody is bothered about smoking in the areas (apart from the inevitable handful of snowflakes who always have a complaint about every little minutiae of other people's lives). In fact, as a council tax payer I strongly object to Swansea City Council wasting money on such measures - a fact that I have made clear in my submission to the survey.

There is nothing to suggest the ever creeping prohibition that has spread out from initial bans on smoking in public enclosed spaces includes vaping as yet. But unless this proposal is stopped at source, I think we can all see that ultimately they will eventually include vaping too.

It has always been my belief that people should be allowed to live their lives in peace the way that they choose to live that life (a fact that is enshrined in the Charter on Human Rights which this country supposedly adheres to). It is also true that a Council (or Local Authority if you prefer) is there to provide services (which all of us residents pay for). It is NOT there to police our lifestyle choices. Swansea City Council has already banned dogs from the beaches during the summer months (despite the fact that by deed of our council taxes, WE (Swansea Residents) own those beaches). Last year they banned smoking from Caswell Bay and by the look of things by next year they hope to ban smoking from ALL of the beaches in Swansea and the Gower. Where will it end ?

I implore you all to look at and complete the survey. It matters not where you live. The survey is open to all. As a resident of Swansea I felt compelled to give my opinion, but Swansea relies heavily on the tourist industry and therefore views from people anywhere in the world will count (in fact they may well carry even more weight than mine).

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