Posted: 13 Mar 2012 05:00 PM PDT
|From the Chairman
It has been a very busy for myself in the last four weeks. I have been interviewed on the BBC twice and had my article in The Commentator. I also got a call from BBC Radio Humberside looking for a lady smoker, and if you look at Patsy Nurse’s blog she was not off the airwave for a couple of days. SmokeFree North East lady slammed the phone down. Also we have a new writer for Freedom2Choose but more will be revealed soon. I hope as well you are supporting Forest in their “Hands Off Our Packs” Campaign too.
I have been Chairman of F2C for about 4 months now and can I thank our wonderful Executive and you our members for all your unpaid and crucial work. I know ASH and the anti smokers read our blog and website and are a constant menace to them. Keep the good work up. Dave Atherton
Anything but ‘Plain’ Packaging
Pre-launch campaigning heats up as the Government’s consultation on so-called ‘plain’ packaging draws near.
The Scotsman gives us a good example of the scale of the debate between supporters and opponents of the measure. Beginning with a piece on Chris Snowdon’s report for the Adam Smith Institute on February 20th, there appears, the next day, ASH Scotland Sheila Duffy’s responding letter. By the 22nd, the Scotsman has announced the winner by way of an article under the alarmist heading: 430 children start smoking cigarettes every day in UK.
This more or less describes the sequence – and speed – of the ‘debate’ as reported in last month’s press.
Chris begins by explaining that the packs we are being taught to call ‘plain’ will be anything but. The gory images will grow to cover most of both sides of the packet, much like the ones being planned for Australian smokers.
Just plain misleading
Anti-smoking agencies don’t seem to have much of an argument to offer in return, so it’s back to the ad homs and the children. Deborah Arnott calls anyone who disagrees a ‘tobacco industry ally’ and smoking nine-year olds are spotted in Brighton and South Shields. Taken as a whole, it just goes to show that their anti-smoking measures are working, they say.
Pre-consultation campaigning is not being limited to the written word, however. Smokefree South West has posted roadside billboards urging people to join the ‘plain’ packet crusade – and there, on the billboard, is the picture of a perfectly plain packet of cigarettes.
Time to turn our attention to…
Described as a poison that is responsible for “illnesses including obesity, heart disease, cancer and liver problems…and contributes to 35million deaths a year worldwide”, sugar
will soon be joining tobacco and alcohol on the tax-and-regulate list, if health lobbyists get their way.
Pugh in The Mail
Pub closures data released by the Office of National Statistics prompt of flurry
of alarmist headlines
from around the country. The ONS figures cover the period 2002 – 2012. From these, an annual average is extrapolated, thus avoiding an accurate time-line of closures through the course of the decade – and masking the biggest culprit in the sudden decline of our pubs.
While Cambridge council
is prepared to spend £19,000 on finding out why the city is losing its pubs, other bodies line up to offer their solutions. The BBPA
, for example, is calling for a tax freeze. Independent brewers Wells and Youngs
of Bradford reckon bringing VAT down to 15% from its current 20% would turn things around. Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin
blames the pubcos.
And for those publicans
still hanging on in grim desperation, who are “literally tearing our hair out and we don’t know what to do to get people into the pubs”, Janet Street-Porter
has the answer – alcohol-free bars. That should do the trick, Janet!
Tax and Smuggling
Trading Standards Officers have been trawling through the bins of Lincolnshire, collecting old fag packets. They have found that a lot people have grown tired of paying exorbitant taxes for a product that they are vilified for using. One in seven discarded packs were found to be either counterfeit or smuggled, although it does not explain how HMRC can tell the difference between smuggled tobacco and tobacco legally brought into the country by cross-border shoppers.
Japan Tobacco International reckons the domestic share of illicit tobacco is about a quarter of the total market for all tobacco products. This proportion rises to almost a third in Wales.
And in Europe, Switzerland comes under fire for a banking system and business privacy laws that allow the smugglers to flourish. Japan Tobacco International is said to be under investigation for its links to smuggling.
|Things that are worse than the worst thing in the world.
According to the results of a recent Swedish study
, “the effects of being exposed to high exhaust levels and ozone… has an even greater effect than smoking,” on the risk of having a premature baby.
Staying with air pollution
, two studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, examine its role in the health of older woman. While one finds that incidences of stroke increase with episodes of high air pollution, the other suggests that prolonged exposure can speed up the rate of cognitive decline.
A full year after F2C brought you ‘The Loneliness Blogs’, the government’s Nudge Unit is now telling us that loneliness is worse than smoking. The Unit’s head behavioural meddler, David Halpern, says:
‘We know smoking is really bad for you, but much worse are things like social relationships.”
That would be those social relationships built up around our social lives, then David?
At first glance it would seem that Dr. Hilary Graham is having doubts about denormalisation, the policy that drives most anti-smoking campaigns and leads directly to feelings of stigmatisation and hence loneliness. However, and despite the headlines, her objections appear to be based on practicalities rather than ethics – you simply can’t ‘denormalise’ a segment of the population that is quite happy to live beyond the ‘normal’ middle-class values you are trying to shame them into. If she aware that it also creates people like PJ Wain, she makes no mention of it.
Denormalisation is the principle behind the rise of the Play-Park Ban. Wirral
anti-smoking group, Heart of Mersey, is the latest to notch up a ‘localism’ victory when ‘voluntary bans’ were given the council go-ahead in three of the area’s parks.
The lobby group’s Jo McCullagh, explains:
“…the aim was to “denormalise” smoking so children were discouraged from taking up the habit in later years. Children learn their behaviour from adults and so it is essential tobacco use is not seen as part of everyday life in our communities.”
There being nowhere for adults to smoke indoors, Ms. McCullagh must be referring to the cleansing of our outdoor communities, beginning with community parks.
What makes these bans ‘voluntary’ is the inability of councils to enforce them. An army of municipal attendants will be trained to ‘remind’ people not to smoke, but they cannot force people to put out their cigarettes, nor can they issue fines or mete out summary punishment.
Tuesday 21st February: ASH Ireland
“has called for a nationwide smoking ban in children’s playgrounds from Ash Wednesday.” Wednesday 22nd February: Ash Wednesday
Yes. You read that right. Such is the level of power that this minority interest group now wields, it has taken to snapping its fingers when barking orders. Says Spokesman Dr Brian Maurer
, “The council can merely erect a sign asking people not to smoke.” In 24 hours.
The Welsh Assembly has launched its campaign for a voluntary ban on smoking in cars with children present. The ban will remain ‘voluntary’ right up to the point that ASH Wales persuades the Assembly that parents are still volunteering to ignore it, at which point it will be enforced.
Making us Stop
Having found that the NRT doesn’t work, anti-smoking groups are resorting to bribery. A priority target for enforced ‘quitting’ is pregnant women, who belong to a group with a relatively high smoking rate.
Scotland has already trialled ‘pay-by-results’ schemes in Dundee. Now it is Glasgow’s turn. Linda Bauld, who authored the infamous English Smoking Ban Review, is leading a study to compare ‘quit’ rates between one group on standard NHS stop-smoking treatment and a second on £400.
“We have very little to offer these people,” said the anti-smoking activist. Comparatively speaking, this is true; NHS Derbyshire is giving away £752 per ‘smoke-free’ pregnancy.
Public Health Wales has followed up January’s English report, ‘Making Every Contact Count’ with an identical report of its own. Doctors, dentists and other health workers are to badger people about their lifestyle habits, with a view to identifying ‘at risk’ patients. We are told by the report’s author, Dr. Julie Bishop, that, “research has shown that [these brief interventions]… can make a big difference”, a statement at odds with the cagey admission she also makes:
“We don’t tend to think that health professionals advising people to change is particularly effective, usually because we’ve been on the receiving end.”
Being an ‘expert’, Dr. Julie Bishop puts her faith in the research rather than the common sense she was born with.
Cross Border Shopping – Helping Each Other
“The vast majority of cross-border shoppers are oblivious to their rights and the tactics of UKBA until it’s too late! l’m asking you to help stop this.”
Our friends at Nothing2Declare
have designed some handy information cards in pdf. format, easy to print off and hand out to fellow passengers. The cards summarise your legal rights as a cross-border shopper, and include useful tips for keeping safe through customs control.
By helping to spread the word, you will be playing a vital role in the fight to restore dignity to a now second-class citizen – the Smoker.
In the words of eighteenth century dramatist George Farquhar
“Those who know the least obey the best.”
Freedom2choose: c/o John H Baker 22 Glastonbury House, Priestfields, Middlesbrough, Cleveland TS3 0LF Tel/Fax 0845 643 9469
Freedom2choose (Scotland): c/o Michael Dividson, 15, Linksview House, Leith, EH6 6DP Tel 0845 643 9552