Cheap paternalism neved ends

Author: Pat Nurse
Article Published: 05/11/2008

So much has happened in the pro-choice world since my last post here and I must apologise for the lack of contact to those who like to read my words.

One of the reasons is that I've joined the world of blogging and my humble opinions on all sorts of things can be found here :

However, that said, even the blog isn't updated as much as it should be because I've also started a university course - an MA in creative writing. Thanks to our barmy and incompetent NuLabour Govt pricing the poor out of higher education, I have no idea yet whether I'll get to finish the course or if my money will run out first and I'm forced to leave. If I do get through it, manage to get one of my plays screened, or books published, then I can assure readers of Forces that the smoking ban injustices and discrimination against smokers will always be a feature of my creative work.

Back in the world of realism, I've also been leaving comments on sites on issues ranging from the new graphic warnings on cigarette packs to defending the poor's right to smoke and not be bullied into giving up.

It seems that poverty is the latest persuasive weapon in the anti-smoker's armoury. I am so fed up of reading - usually in the Guardian newspaper - of some patronising and moralistic middle-class writer saying how we poor need protecting from ourselves because we are just too thick to make the "right" choices about how we choose to live our lives.

This insulting argument is unfortunately getting a listening ear from Govt and now other organisations are jumping on the bandwaggon such as the Royal College of Nursing which is calling for more help in "deprived areas" to stop people from smoking. Well they would wouldn't they because I'm sure going into British council estates to bully the lower classes will be a nice little earner for someone in these times of economic recession.

I've also discovered that the Govt is actually encouraging discrimination against smokers... at least that's what I read into a letter I received from my MP in response to my request that she bring up the matter of smokers being excluded from applying for jobs or being dismissed because they are smokers.

She forwarded me a letter from Department of Work and Pensions Minster Stephen Timms which thanked me for "taking the trouble to raise this issue" but saying in no uncertain terms that discrimination against smokers in the workplace is not an issue at all.

He writes : "There is no law against specifying non-smokers only in job advertsiements and we need to bear in mind the ban on smoking in certain areas. Historically British discrimination law has evolved in response to problems such as race discrimination or the unequal treatment of women. This is the same for EU law. To extend legal protection on other grounds, there would also need to be evidence of a real and significant problem of unfair treatment, and that it would not be better addressed through non-legislative measures such as guidance or voluntary industry codes.

"As you will know, Jobcentre Plus provides a free public employment service to help people seeking work and employers seeking to fill their vacancies but would not do so if an unreasonable restriction was included such as no smoking outside working hours, or if the advertisement was contrary to civil or criminal law."

For your information, Mr Timms, it is an issue. Smokers are being denied jobs and the very fact that you acknowledge that there is no law to protect them from being excluded from applying for those jobs advertsied to "non-smokers only" means that you must accept this. I have also heard of smokers - and only smokers - who have been sacked from jobs on very dubious grounds.

If there is anyone out there who has lost their job or been excluded from applying for a job because they are smokers, then get in touch and let's see if we can get some legal protection and get the Govt to change it's mind. Somehow, though, I doubt it. Part of the Govt's anti-smoking stance is to encourage discrimination against smokers in a bid to get them to quit.

I also find it odd that Mr Timms mentions that it could be better addressed through "non-legislative measures" when this Govt is obsessed with law making but doesn't seem to want to make laws in favour of smokers only against them.

Of course if we had choice, then I for one would welcome jobs that are advertsied to non-smokers only and smokers only. That would be equal treatment and it would remove the argument by the anti-smoking lobby that non-smoking bar workers need protection.

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