I'm a little late on this one, but over at Comment is Futile, a chap called Peter Kellner has been discussing how the government should escalate its vendetta against smokers.
Mr Kellner has a particular interest in all this because he happens to be the chair of the editorial board for the latest report from Action on Smoking and Health—'Beyond Smoking Kills [PDF]'—which sets a target of reducing the smoking rate from 23% to 11% by 2015; a ridiculously ambitious target that will require the most draconian action imaginable.
For once, freedom is not the issue
Our new report finds that measures against smoking are no longer seen as an attack on personal liberty. What now?
What now indeed? Once you shrug off the prickly issue of individual liberty, the juggernaut can roll on forever. As Iain Dale has pointed out, the left-wing media are now unable to discuss the issue of smoking in anything approaching a balanced way.
This morning, Five Live had a phone-in titled 'How far should the smoking ban be extended?' Not 'Should the smoking ban be extended?' which is a neutral title, but 'How far...' which indicates a tacit acceptance that it should be extended to some degree.
For decency's sake, though, it's more politically palatable to move towards prohibition in increments. When you're going down the slippery slope it's best to walk in baby steps or you might fall on your arse. And so the immediate goal is to ban smoking in vehicles. Not an easy sell, you might think, because although the mob at ASH managed to persuade the public that privately owned bars and restaurants are "public places", most of us still see the inside of our cars as being a private place. So, naturally, they're playing the tried and tested "think of the chiiiildren" card and demanding a ban on smoking in a car if an under-18 'child' is present. Once that is achieved it should be a simple matter to extend the ban into private homes.
To test the water, Peter Kellner and his chums at ASH have commissioned a YouGov survey and they are chuffed with the results.
One of our most striking findings is that as many as 77% of the public would support a ban on smoking in cars carrying children under 18. Only 11% oppose this. For the great majority of people, the health of children outweighs the freedom of adults to do what they want in their own private space.
ASH always seem to use YouGov to conduct their surveys and, as Taking Liberties have pointed out, they tend to show rather more support for the anti-smoking pogram than those conducted by other companies. This is particularly true of surveys of attitudes towards the smoking ban, which — in 'Beyond Smoking Kills' — is also said to be supported by 77% of the population. As Taking Liberties says...
These figures may be true of ASH/YouGov polls, but it's worth noting that surveys conducted by Populus and the ONS prior to the ban produced very different results. For example, a poll by Populus for Forest, published on 7th February 2006 (a week before MPs voted for a comprehensive ban), showed clear public support for the government's manifesto pledge to allow smoking in private members' clubs and pubs that don’t serve food.
According to the survey, 59 percent believed that smoking should be allowed in pubs that don't serve food; with 63 percent supporting smoking in private members' clubs. The poll also found overwhelming support for the introduction of designated smoking rooms in pubs and bars that do not serve food (66 percent in favour, 30 percent opposed).
In 2007, a year after Scotland introduced a public smoking ban, another Forest/Populus poll (in Scotland) suggested that a clear majority continued to favour restrictions rather than a total ban. (See HERE.)
Meanwhile, annual surveys by the Office for National Statistics found that while the majority backed curbs on smoking, the majority did NOT support a comprehensive ban.
Why the difference between the various polls? Well, as I recall, ASH tended to offer people a stark choice: smoking or non-smoking (in "public" places). Forest/Populus and the Office for National Statistics gave people a choice of smoking, non-smoking, mostly smoking (with smoke-free areas), or mostly non-smoking (with separate smoking areas).
Indeed they did. And the question "do you think people should be able to smoke anywhere they damn well please?" is very different from "do you have a problem with sealed off smoking rooms?"
YouGov differs from other pollsters because its respondents sign up to participate and are able to invite their friends. Once they sign up they can pick and choose which survey to fill in. And since all surveys are done online, the third of the population who do not have internet access are excluded. No doubt YouGov does its level best to invite a representative sample of the population but it can't be easy when you're using a self-selecting group of internet users.
God knows, in these dark days it's quite conceivable that only 11% of Britain's bovine population would consider a ban on smoking in their own cars to be an illiberal, piece of shit idea but still I wonder. There is no indication of what the exact question was in the latest survey regarding banning smoking in cars. Nor is there any indication of why ASH keep employing YouGov to conduct their studies.
Perhaps you could ask YouGov's president. His name is Peter Kellner. Yes, that Peter Kellner.