Banning council tenants from smoking

The anti-smoking brigade just laid its anti-pleb prejudices bare.

Smokers get a rough time these days. First they were banned from smoking in pubs and clubs – then bus stops, train stations, public areas and even in their own cars. Now, smokers might be banned from lighting up in their own homes.

Housing associations and councils are considering asking tenants to sign contracts promising not to smoke inside their homes. The president of the Faculty of Public Health, Dr John Middleton, has been at pains to state that this does not mean ‘evict[ing] a load of tenants for smoking’, but rather that new premises would have ‘smoke-free agreements from the start’. He said that ‘adults smoking in the home damaged the development of children’s lungs and put babies at risk of cot death’.

Many private landlords have smoke-free clauses in tenancy agreements. But to force such clauses on those who are dependent on help for housing is different. It’s a blatant attempt at social engineering: smoking-obsessed public-health lobbyists want to force council tenants to live a certain way. By using the ‘what about the children?’ line, Middleton and his ilk reveal their damning view of working-class parents – that they don’t care about their children’s health, and need to be slapped on the wrist every time they reach for a fag.

This panic about smoking has become hysterical. In defence of the ban, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said that ASH ‘had a call last week from a woman whose granddaughter had cystic fibrosis and had never been able to visit because neighbours’ smoke from communal areas drifted into the grandmother’s home’. But council tenants are more than capable of working out their disagreements between them.

Furthermore, many parents who smoke choose to smoke outside their homes, or open the window after the kids have gone to bed. Council tenants are no different. The idea that working-class children need to be protected from their parents reveals the disgusting prejudice behind these proposals.

Smoke-free council housing is not a sensible health measure. It’s a declaration that poor people, people dependent on subsidised housing, can’t be trusted to live their lives, and look after their children, independently. This distrust and disdain for working-class people is palpable in these crusades against our lifestyle choices.

Ella Whelan is assistant editor at spiked. Follow her on Twitter: @Ella_M_Whelan

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