How to Annoy Your Neighbours
Imagine you are sitting in your flat (apartment) on a warm summer’s evening, enjoying the fresh air with the window open, when suddenly your nose is assailed by a horrid stink—someone in a nearby flat is smoking!
What to do? Close the window and try to ignore it? Go round to the neighbour and politely ask him or her to stop making your life unpleasant? After all, many non-smokers find tobacco smoke really objectionable.
Despair not! Help is at hand! You can be supported to find solutions to be smokefree!
Let me explain. The Public Health Specialty Registrar and the Director of Policy of the highly esteemed ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) organisation, with the assistance of four other people and twenty workshop attendees, produced a report (November 2018), Smoking in the home, New solutions for a Smokefree Generation, which was subsequently endorsed by thirty-eight organisations. So it must be important!
Let’s take a look at this fascinating document.
First, we have a Cross-party introduction. To give you a flavour, here is a quote:
By adopting a place-based public health partnership approach we can help deliver targeted support to the doorstep of those smokers who find it hardest to quit.
Delivering support to the doorstep? It reminds me of the days in Britain when milk in glass bottles was delivered to your home.
Then there is a Foreword from the Chairs, one of whom, Ruth Tennant, says ‘the number of people dying from smoking related diseases remains unacceptably high.’ Oh really? Well, would Ms Tennant then please tell us what number of people dying from smoking related diseases she thinks is acceptable.
Next we have not just a Summary but an Executive Summary (!) which is followed by Key Findings and Conclusions, full of wonderful ideas such as:
…take the strategic lead in developing local policies and partnerships to support smokefree homes.
The language of the next section, Recommendations, likewise, is not going to win any prizes from the Plain English Campaign:
…set a vision for smokefree housing and develop a cross-departmental plan of action…a clear strategy in place to support the reduction of smoking in the home…support implementation of local strategies.
Why are they only concerned with the reduction of smoking in the home? Why not its abolition?
And then this appeal to Public Health England:
PHE should support the development of national support and guidance on what action can be taken to support those experiencing smoke drift.
The above are typical of the cliché-ridden waffle with which this sixty-page document is filled, including the word ‘support’ which occurs no less than 177 times—and I haven’t even yet mentioned the inevitable stakeholders and focus groups!
Finally, at page 15—one quarter of the way through the report—we come to the Introduction where we are reminded of the doleful fact that:
Every time someone breathes in secondhand smoke, they breathe in over 4,000 chemicals, many of which are highly toxic and over 60 are known to cause cancer.
Oh dear. But it gets worse:
…approximately 10% of all children remain exposed to tobacco smoke in the home, and in homes where one or more parent smokes this increases to nearly 40%.
This is shocking, but what can be done about it? Unfortunately, ASH admits their hands are tied:
What this report is not about: This report is not about the introduction of any smokefree housing legislation or about imposing blanket bans on people’s individual freedom to smoke in their own home. (Emphasis in original.)
So what’s left? A vision!
Government should set a vision for smokefree housing and develop a cross-departmental plan of action. The vision: No child should be exposed to smoke in the home.
Quite right, but how are they proposing to make the vision a reality?
Unfortunately, in this area where we really need something to be done, we are told:
Action to support tenants not wishing to be exposed [to cigarette smoke] appears to be limited.
Instead, they propose to:
support smokers in their quit journey…support smokefree homes…smoking cessation support…additional support should be provided around smoking. Etc.
In other words, the only thing to do is to close the window and put up with it.
Further comment on this wonderful report is superfluous—unless you’re old enough to remember the British radio comedy series from the 1950s, The Goon Show, from which I shall let this line, spoken by a character with the splendidly Dickensian name of Henry Crun, be the last word:
Thank you, thank you for your support, I shall always wear it.
Text © Gabriel Symonds