As if the recommendations from the BMA weren’t enough, a councillor in Stony Stratford with delusions of grandeur has proposed a bylaw to ban smoking in any public place in the Milton Keynes Borough. Councillor Pail Bartlett will attempt to get the plan approved by the town council, leading to on-the-spot fines for anyone found to be smoking in the town. Mr. Bartlett said:
“Stony Stratford is a historic town which is blighted by cigarette butts. The plan that I am trying to put forward is for smoking to be banned in public in the High Street, surrounding streets, and preferably elsewhere as well. Why should people be able to smoke in my face and spoil the environment?”
Apparently his inspiration is the recent ban on smoking in New York City’s parks and beaches. How he manages to draw parallel comparisons between an English town with a population of 12,000 and the biggest city in the United States with more than 8 million inhabitants is a mystery. He may also want to analyse the success of that ban considering only one fine has been issued during the first month of the rule, despite the ban covering 1,700 parks and 14 miles of coastline.
The most interesting element of this case is the legal situation. If it was possible to outlaw smoking in a localised area such as a town, why has it not been tried before? The implementation alone would be a logistical nightmare. Where would the outer points of the ban be?
Even if the council were able to find someway to create this bylaw and enforce it, cigarette sales are bound to drop in the area, hurting local shops and businesses. It could lead to a situation where people can smoke on one side of a road but not on the other. Residents of the area who smoke will be forced to either smoke at home or travel outside of the town. Supposedly it would be enforced by PCSOs, traffic wardens and residents themselves.
But the key issue must remain the personal freedom of residents and visitors to Stony Stratford. Ciggarettes are a legal product and smokers are already subject to numerous regulations and excessive taxation. Town-by-town bans spreading around the country would not be allowed by the government. If there was public and political support for it then it would be legislated for centrally, not by local councillors.
Big Brother Watch will be keeping an eye on this case as it develops, as it may have wide-reaching consequences for the towns and cities in Britain.