A new report which claims smokers are increasingly discriminated against has been welcomed by a pro-smoking campaigner Simon Clark.
According to the report by Simon Davies of Privacy International, legislation introduced for the protection of public health is being exploited to create a range of measures that was never intended, even by the most ardent supporters of tobacco regulation.
The report highlights seven key areas of concern: an increase in non-statutory penalties and controls; an extensive widening of the scope for restrictions; a shift toward "people's policing" of smoking; a shift from an evidence-based approach to a morality-based approach; an increase in the surveillance of smokers; a sharp increase in cases of discrimination; and a drift from public health protection to the demonisation of smokers.
Davies wrote: "This report provides clear evidence that a trend is emerging toward discriminatory action being taken not only by national government but also by individuals, family, employers, businesses and local authorities.
"In future smokers may face a choice between secrecy and social exclusion. Social organisations, landlords, service providers and employers may themselves be deemed irresponsible if they fail to pursue an exclusion policy."
Welcoming the report, director of the smokers' group Forest, and leader of the Save our Pubs and Clubs campaign, Simon Clark said: "We acknowledge the serious health risks associated with smoking, and we accept that government has a role to play educating people, children especially, about those risks.
"Tobacco however is a legal product and there is no justification for many of the tobacco control measures currently under consideration. Prohibiting the display of tobacco in shops, banning smoking in outdoor areas, outlawing smoking in private vehicles and even, in some cases, the home, is unnecessarily restrictive and a gross invasion of privacy and civil liberties.
"Thanks to the tobacco control policies of successive governments, Britain has become an increasingly intolerant and illiberal place to work and socialise. We welcome this report and hope that it will be read by ministers and civil servants as a warning of what lies ahead if the war on tobacco continues in its present direction."