Smoking KillsToday, the Commons will vote on whether to disagree with the Lords in their amendment to ban smoking in private vehicles in the presence of children.

Anyone who can read knows that smoking kills. And I know, for it killed my stepfather and an uncle. Why anyone does it despite the clear warnings and often lurid images on the packets is a mystery not explained by appeal to the addictive qualities of nicotine.

People who wish to live long and healthy lives ought to choose not to smoke. They certainly ought not to smoke in cars or other indoor spaces with children.

Unfortunately, free people make bad choices. The earliest documentation which comes to mind of this fundamental problem with humanity is Moses’ renewal of the Covenant with Israel in Deuteronomy 29-30. For example:

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

And of course the people failed to abstain from murder and theft and all the other curses that afflict life in society that they and their children might live. Regulation was ultimately “weak and useless”: it turned out a better hope was required.

This then is the problem: not smoking in confined spaces with children is such an obviously good idea that no one should do it but we can rely on people to make the bad choice irrespective of whether or not we pass this law.

So which path to go down? Demand liberty and personal responsibility, sure in the knowledge that freedom “will, on balance, release more forces for the good than for the bad.” Or forever extend legislation and regulation to cover every potentially harmful choice, apply ever greater resources to enforcement and apply ever-greater punishments to exact compliance?

Much has been written about this choice but I am moved to refer to What Type of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear, a chapter in Democracy in America (1835) by Alexis de Tocqueville. The chapter is well worth reading in full: the kind of despotism democratic nations have to fear is just that into which we continue to slide. Tocqueville wrote:

After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupifies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

I will vote against the proposed ban on smoking in private vehicles in the presence of children but not because I think it is a liberty worth preserving. It is not and I should be happy if no one ever smoked again, whether or not in a car and whether or not with children.

I will disagree with the Lords and vote against the ban because I wish to live in a country of free and responsible flourishing adults who are more than the “flock of timid and industrious animals” which Tocqueville foresaw. I will respect the dignity of adults to exercise their own free will and to take responsibility for the health of their own children.

Smoking kills. Don’t do it in front of the children. Preferably don’t do it at all. But abstain because you choose life for you and your children and not because I say so.


  1. Steve, if you were in charge of tobacco control in this country I would have quit years ago.

    Gentle persuasion is far more effective than hectoring nannying.

    The reason people smoke knowing full well the risk of 7-10 years early mortality are complex.
    I could give you a blow by blow account of how lung cancer develops in smokers, via tar induced genetic mutations and account for 90% of all lung cancers.

    As usual Steve your principles stand you apart from many of your colleagues, save currently Jacob Ress-Mogg.

  2. Interesting and well written article with some valid points well made.

    However, if good people make bad choices surely its up to someone (the elected government maybe?) to stand up for the rights of the children who have no voice and help / encourage good people to make better choices don’t you think?

    With some people, gentle persuasion (i.e. knowledge that smoking for example is bad at best and a killer at worst) isn’t quite enough.

    I could see exactly the same argument for children wearing seatbelts in a car. I see the principle and argument identical. No sane or responsible adult should drive with children unprotected in the rear.

    Dave – you’re a rebel. If the government made smoking compulsory who you campaign to ban it? 😉

  3. Steve,

    Good for you. When I saw the title of your post, I feared that I was to be disappointed—I am thrilled that this is not the case!

    Smoking is stupid, for sure (and you know that I do it). However, it has to be said that long-term studies (30 years, in one case) have shown no correlation between adverse health effects and moderate levels of second-hand smoke.

    Indeed, there is, in fact, a slight correlation between children exposed to mild levels of smoke and lower levels of lung cancer—an result that can be attributed to a small hormesis effect.



  4. harleyrider1778

    Dave I would like to know how you make a connection of tar causing LC in smokers as Ive yet to see any proof of end point conection to any disease outcomes. Please explain?

    As far as 7-10 years dying earlier how do you quantify such a statement as it cant be quantified. Each person is individual and we find here in America the average age of death is 78.5 that’s inclusive of everyone regardless of disease,lifestyle choises or whatever.

    By literally agreeing with their inpossible claims is the same as surrender to the health facists……… Hate to bust on ya but its a war and we don’t do any good by condoning any of the enemies claims that can never be substantiated with any proof.Unless they happen to just create it like they usually do!

  5. harleyrider1778

    Lung and Bronchus. Invasive Cancer Incidence Rates and 95% Confidence Intervals by Age and Race and Ethnicity, United States (Table *†‡

    Rates are per 100,000 persons. Rates are per 100,000 persons.

    Note the age where LC is found…………..OLD AGE group incidence hits the 500/100,000 at age 75-85

    AGE it seems is the deciding factor………. Cancer Sites Combined&Year=2010&Site=Lung and Bronchus&SurveyInstanceID=1

  6. harleyrider1778

    This pretty well destroys the Myth of second hand smoke:

    Lungs from pack-a-day smokers safe for transplant, study finds.

    By JoNel Aleccia, Staff Writer, NBC News.

    Using lung transplants from heavy smokers may sound like a cruel joke, but a new study finds that organs taken from people who puffed a pack a day for more than 20 years are likely safe.

    What’s more, the analysis of lung transplant data from the U.S. between 2005 and 2011 confirms what transplant experts say they already know: For some patients on a crowded organ waiting list, lungs from smokers are better than none.

    “I think people are grateful just to have a shot at getting lungs,” said Dr. Sharven Taghavi, a cardiovascular surgical resident at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, who led the new study………………………

    Ive done the math here and this is how it works out with second ahnd smoke and people inhaling it!

    The 16 cities study conducted by the U.S. DEPT OF ENERGY and later by Oakridge National laboratories discovered:

    Cigarette smoke, bartenders annual exposure to smoke rises, at most, to the equivalent of 6 cigarettes/year.


    A bartender would have to work in second hand smoke for 2433 years to get an equivalent dose.

    Then the average non-smoker in a ventilated restaurant for an hour would have to go back and forth each day for 119,000 years to get an equivalent 20 years of smoking a pack a day! Pretty well impossible ehh!

  7. harleyrider1778

    Research has shown that smoking is strongly linked to lung cancer, but this discovery may help scientists improve treatments for lung disease in the future……..

    p53 mutations in smokers and non-smokers

    The main claim made by Rodin and Rodin is that `there are no significant differences between smokers and non-smokers, either in the frequency of different types of mutations or in the frequency of their occurrence along the p53 gene’ .

    They argue that a link between smoke-induced mutations and DNA adducts could be fortuitous, and that it is selection of {pre-existing endogenous mutations rather than smoking-induced DNA damage that determines the p53 mutational spectrum in lung tumors}. Another recent report also claims that there are no differences with respect to G?T transversions between smokers and non-smokers

    The point here is that diferent assays can be shaken up in observed changes to create an outcome. Genetic studies dont used unbiased observers during their laboratory stages!

    What they are finding is that cancer is going to happen in a particular site anyway and that smoking can aggrevate the site where it occurs.

    Human papiloma virus and lung tumors

    Detection and significance of HPV16, 18 infection, P53 overexpression and telomerase activity in patients with lung cancer]. H Niyaz, C Zhao, Y Li. Zhonghua Jie He He Hu Xi Za Zhi 2000 Nov;23(11):679-682. 110 specimens of lung cancer. “The positive rate of HPV16, 18-DNA in the lung cancer group was higher than the normal tissues group and inflammatory lesions group (all P < 0.01)." No other details in abstract.

    Niyaz – Zhonghua Jie He He Hu Xi Za Zhi 2000 abstract / PubMed
    Detection of human papillomavirus in non-small cell lung carcinoma by polymerase chain reaction. A Miasko, W Niklinska, J Niklinski, E Chyczewska, W Naumnik, L Chyczewski. Folia Histochem Cytobiol 2001;39(2):127-128. High risk HPV was found in 1/22 squamous cell, 1/5 large cell, 1/13 adenocarcinomas; low risk HPV found in 1 adenocarcinoma.

    Miasko – Folia Histochem Cytobiol 2001 abstract / PubMed
    Extremely high Langerhans cell infiltration contributes to the favourable prognosis of HPV-infected squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma of the lung. J Miyagi, T Kinjo, K Tsuhako, M Higa, T Iwamasa, Y Kamada, T Hirayasu. Histopathology 2001 Apr;38(4):355-367. HPV was detected in 12 cases (19.4%) of 62 adenocarcinomas, and in 29 cases (49.2%) of 59 squamous cell carcinomas. "Furthermore, there was no significant correlation between either Langerhans cell infiltration and smoking, or HPV infection and smoking, in either squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma cases."

    • harleyrider1778

      Note the Rodin and Rodin study was done in 2000 then 4 years later still no proof of smoking causing any disease in anyone.

      7 October, the COT meeting on 26 October and the COC meeting on 18
      November 2004.

      “5. The Committees commented that tobacco smoke was a highly complex chemical mixture and that the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke – induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available. The Committees therefore agreed that on the basis of current knowledge it would be very difficult to identify a toxicological testing strategy or a biomonitoring approach for use in volunteer studies with smokers where the end-points determined or biomarkers measured were predictive of the overall burden of tobacco-induced adverse disease.”

      In other words … our first hand smoke theory is so lame we can’t even design a bogus lab experiment to prove it. In fact … we don’t even know how tobacco does all of the magical things we claim it does.

      The greatest threat to the second hand theory is the weakness of the first hand theory.

  8. Well done for doing the right thing. I hated my parents smoking in the car in the 70s, but that was probably at the start of the major TV propaganda that instilled fear into everybody – another method of making sure the masses behave like sheep.

    My generation, now going into our 50s, seems healthier than today’s youngsters. Everyone I grew up with that I still know about grew up with at least one smoking parent. Every single one. Some started smoking themselves and some never did, but to my knowledge, not one has suffered any sort of major physical health problem.

    SHS is, I believe, such an overblown fallacy that those responsible should be taken to court. The entire agenda is driven by the UN/WHO/Big Pharma and politicians around the world are falling for their lies.

    And what of the safety of children when mum or dad or whoever is driving is distracted by gasping for a smoke and not concentrating? Will the Government also make plans to increase the number of ambulances and hospital beds to deal with this?

    There are far too many gullible fools in parliament.

  9. This is a brilliant and thoughtful reflection on the nature of the problem and easily the best piece on this subject that I have read.

    I wish you were my MP, keep up the good work!

  10. So, if you follow this logic why have a speed limit on our roads? Is not an imposition of a law for driving at a certain speed to save lives the same as an imposition of a law for not smoking in the car with children present to save their life?

    I agree we all should exercise personal responsibility. Most of us do. However, the problem is not all human beings do exercise that right responsibly. Whenever that is the case and until that changes democratic societies have to make an assessment as to what is socially acceptable and socially unacceptable and these manifest themselves in our laws. We vote our politicians into power to gauge and assess the will of the people they are in contact with every day.

    If the medical evidence that has been published is sound and unequivocal, then I would have no issues supporting this legislation. Too many times I see children in the car without seat belts because of irresponsible parents exercising their free will against governing laws.

    If second hand smoke is putting children’s health in jeopardy and parents can’t be bothered in spite of this evidence, then quite frankly they deserve all they get.

    Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect society.

    • Ray Seagrave wrote
      “If second hand smoke is putting children’s health in jeopardy”


      That’s what should be considered.

      The propaganda vs.

      And it’s not “child abuse”, as the obviously implanted meme goes.

      It’s ‘potential’ exposure to a “risk” that ranges from infinitesimal to zero.

      Like allowing (or not even observing)your infant child to try eating daisies, or earth.

      Hmm, Polonium risk from phosphate fertiliser perhaps?? Keep them in cocoons!

      Read some serious scientists comments here:

  11. Jonathan Bagley

    Tocqueville expresses my feelings perfectly.I will read the chapter. Thanks very much.

  12. Thank you for voting the way you did and for thinking through your reasons for doing so so clearly.