Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Cuban Revolution



The fightback against New Labour's fascistic ban on smoking in public places has started. Here's my piece from The Spectator on how cigar smokers are leading the way.


For British lovers of La Diva Nicotina, 1 July 2007 was a black day indeed. The government’s draconian ban on smoking in enclosed public places was a blow to all puffers, but perhaps for Britain’s 800,000 cigar smokers its impact has been worst of all.

Popping outside for a quick Marlboro Light on the pavement is one thing, smoking a Montecristo Especial No. 1 in such circumstances is something else altogether. Cigars are meant to be savoured, not rushed: something which the ban makes almost impossible outside of one’s own home. Gentlemen’s clubs have been badly hit. ‘The ban has completely changed club culture as the post-prandial smoke is no longer to be enjoyed. I think it makes it much more difficult to really get to know someone,’ bemoans Piers Russell-Cobb, managing director of Media Fund. For female cigar smokers, the situation is even worse. ‘In the past I’ve had to get used to the fact that some people see cigar smoking as unfeminine,’ says Sallyann Everett, a tobacconist. ‘Now, I’m worried that whenever I light a cigar I might be committing a crime. The ban has made me feel paranoid.’

However, all is not lost. After a depressing four months in which smokers, in the words of Sallyann, have been made to feel ‘like third-class citizens’, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The fightback against New Labour’s particularly noxious brand of killjoy illiberalism is being led by the charismatic figure of Ranald Macdonald, elder son of the 24th Captain of Clanranald. Macdonald has worked tirelessly, over 19 years, to build his wonderfully cosy Belgravia club/restaurant Boisdale into an oasis for cigar smokers. Boisdale has the largest selection of Cuban cigars you’ll find in such an establishment (19 brands and over 120 different sizes and vintages). But the ban has hit business hard. ‘My sales were 15 per cent down in September,’ Macdonald told me over a Hoyo de Monterrey smoked on the little seated area outside his restaurant. ‘The evening trade has been badly affected. We have live jazz every night and jazz and cigars go together. You can listen to jazz without a cigar, but it’s somehow not quite the same.’Macdonald’s assault is two-pronged. On 1 November, Boisdale opened Britain’s first cigar terrace, a 6 x 9 metre roof area, where patrons will, once again, be able to smoke their Havanas legally.

At the same time, Macdonald, together with fellow cigar aficionado Jemma Freeman, managing director of Hunters & Frankau, Britain’s exclusive distributor for Cuban cigars, is launching a new single-purpose campaign to gain exemptions from the ban for bars, pubs and clubs. ‘Seventy-four per cent of the population in Scotland favour exemptions,’ says Macdonald. ‘It’s a question of convincing the politicians that such a move would have public support. The lie put out by the pro-ban lobby was that Britain was only following the European example in imposing a total ban. It wasn’t. Other countries have worked out compromise solutions.’ Macdonald prefers to use the phrase ‘bully state’ to describe the sort of country Britain has become: ‘nanny state sounds too middle-class’. ‘We’ve certainly become a lot less tolerant than we were 30 years ago. I’m afraid there are a lot more unhappy people out there who seem to derive pleasure in telling people what not to do.’

Jemma Freeman is also aggrieved that Britain did not follow the example of other countries. ‘I’ve just been to Spain and it’s so dismal to return home and not be able to enjoy a cigar while out with friends or colleagues. The ban is destroying the culture of bonhomie — I sometimes think the government doesn’t want people to meet up in public and would prefer it if we all stayed at home.’ Jemma is keen to stress that the battle for exemptions is not ‘an upper-class campaign’. ‘The ban has hit working men’s clubs hard too and it’s very sad that they are threatened. Many establishments spent thousands of pounds in installing air ventilation systems for smoking areas, yet Parliament still voted for a total ban. I can’t see why you and I can’t sit in a fully ventilated smoking room into which no staff would need to enter during service hours and smoke to our hearts’ content.’

Britain’s draconian ban is also causing cigar lovers from other countries to think twice about visiting the country. ‘If I’m not allowed to smoke, then I won’t come to Britain,’ says Swiss artist Tatjana Tiziana, who says cigar smoking aids the creative process. ‘Instead of banning smoking, the government would be better off doing more about climate change. It’s a far bigger danger to the world than cigar smoke.’

4 comments:

David Lindsay said...

The Hungarian People's Alliance.

Claire upon Tyne said...

As someone who used to be a bar tender I can safely say that thank goodness they brought in the smoking ban.

I am certain that if it were not for the ban I would have been imprisoned for taking the life of an arrogant cigar wielding pensioner.

I think my face and teeth have just returned to their normal colour after serving him countless pints of Scotch through a thick fog of pensioner exhaled cigar fumes! It's only taken three months.

Plus, what is the point of someone paying money for a cigar only to walk in to a bar so the bar staff can have the 'pleasure' of inhaling the horrible stuff...right in our face...plus...the smoke hangs around for DAYS! Ok..a couple of hours.

Neil Clark said...

Claire: what would be the problem of having both smoking and non-smoking bars or individual smoking/non-smoking areas in bars? So people who hated smoke but who wanted to work in bars, could work in non-smoking establishments, whereas those who smoked themselves or who didn't mind smoke, could work in the smoking ones? Whatever happened to the idea of compromise?

"what is the point of someone paying money for a cigar only to walk in to a bar so the bar staff can have the 'pleasure' of inhaling the horrible stuff..?" you ask.

well, people, surprise surprise, like smoking cigars in a social setting. Of course, you can smoke cigars at home, but for most smokers, it's not the same as smoking them out, in a bar or club.
You may as well as what is the point of people going to bars anyway, where they can always drink (much more cheaply) at home.

We've become an incredibly intolerant nation in the last few years ,where people who don't like such and such an activity try to have it banned.

Despite our difference on this issue, good luck with your blog and with your homelessness campaign.

Neil

Claire upon Tyne said...

Neil:

I agree in principal that the individual should have freedom of rights to a degree but when that right infringes upon another individuals health then that is another matter. What about the rights of non-smokers? Passive smoking is a real threat to the indiviials health, I could post various facts and figures but I'm sure you will already aware of many of these.

"what would be the problem of having both smoking and non-smoking bars or individual smoking/non-smoking areas in bars"

The smoking and non-smoking area in bars has been around for a while and it does not protect non smokers/children from passive smoke inhalation.

"people who hated smoke but who wanted to work in bars, could work in non-smoking establishments, whereas those who smoked themselves or who didn't mind smoke, could work in the smoking ones"

Firstly, Many businesses were reluctant about the smoking ban and worried about the possible negative impact on their takings. Given the choice many would have remained smoking establishments. ( or remained half and half)

Secondly, many people who work in bars and restaraunts are people who would rather be working somewhere else. Many students for example use this as a way of earning money as the hours are felxible. Giving the businessess the choice as my first point highlighted would take us back to sqaure one.

"people, surprise surprise, like smoking cigars in a social setting. Of course, you can smoke cigars at home, but for most smokers, it's not the same as smoking them out, in a bar or club.
You may as well as what is the point of people going to bars anyway, where they can always drink (much more cheaply) at home."

Someone drinking in a public environment such as a bar or restaruant does not imapct the health of:

1. The staff serving the drinks
2. The other customers whether they be drinkers or non drinkers.

"We've become an incredibly intolerant nation in the last few years ,where people who don't like such and such an activity try to have it banned"

I think the non-smoking campaign was a lot more serious than someone not liking a certain activity. Smoking(although the persons choice) and Non-smoking have serious consequences to the individual.

Thank you for taking the time to view my blog..

Best wishes

Claire