Smoking in the Open Air

It seems that more and more organisations are trying to claim ownership of the open air. But, by its nature, the open air has no permanence in any particular place – it is constantly on the move. There have been circumstances in the past where the ‘open air’ could be considered to be stationary for all intents and purposes. In winter especially, in towns and districts which were heavily industrialised, SMOGS were prevalent and quite widespread so that citizens were forced to breathe, for example,  serious concentrations of sulphur derivatives. It was for this reason that the ‘clean air acts’ of the 1960s were enacted – and rightly so. But these considerations do not apply in relation to tobacco smoke in the open air. There are no such concentrations.

We have recently seen the pathetic attempts of Councillor Bartlett to have smoking banned on the streets of Stony Stratford. Let us be clear about what his proposal actually meant. His proposal was that smoking should be banned IN THE OPEN AIR. It had nothing to do with ON the streets because people do not smoke ON the streets – they stand or walk ON the streets. Nor do they smoke ON railway station platforms. The whole smoking ban is not about ON at all – it is about IN – IN  ‘substantially enclosed places’.

The question that now arises is this:

Do landowners, or leaseholders of land, have the right to ban smoking within the confines of their land? Now…we have to be careful here. What about smoking on petrol station forecourts? Ha! Ha! It would seem that smoking in the open air CAN be banned! But wait! That is not so. The ban on smoking on petrol station forecourts is not about smoking in itself – it is a ban on ‘naked flames’. Thus we see that signs which say, “No Smoking” on forecourts, really mean, “No naked flames”. It would be silly, for example, to ban the smoking of fags, but permit the striking of matches. And so, such bans on smoking on petrol station forecourts are NOT examples of smoking being banned in the open air.

 Do landowners, or leaseholders of land, have the right to ban smoking within the confines of their land? I think that the answer must be, “No” – unless there is a real possibility of fire. For example, a farmer may have acres of ripe wheat which is very dry. In those circumstances, he could justifiably ban smoking on his land – but not simply because it is his land!

And so we ask,” How is it that railway station owners are claiming to be able to ban smoking on open platforms?” The fact is that they have no such right because they do not own the open air. What about football stadia? That case is different. The point there is that there are lots of people in close proximity and the possibility of fire is much, much greater.

And so we see that ‘smoking bans’ in the open air depend entirely upon the particular circumstances of the place. As regards football stadia, for example, it makes no sense to ban smoking and allow, or even originate,  firework displays.  Such displays are too dangerous in places where people are in very close proximity. 


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