Calling On All Politicians

Freedom 2 Choose is strictly non-party political and our members’ political allegiances cover a wide spectrum (including the well-known Apathy Party). However, we have very recently had sight of a political manifesto that goes some way towards meeting our aim of rolling back the smoking ban.

Fresh from their astonishing by-election results, UKIP have just unveiled some of their key manifesto pledges for the 2015 General Election. They can be seen here:

H/T http://www.ukipdaily.com/courant-times-9-october-2014/

Two pledges are of particular interest:

“– UKIP will amend the smoking ban to give pubs and clubs the choice to open smoking rooms properly ventilated and separated from non-smoking areas.  

– UKIP opposes ‘plain paper packaging’ for tobacco products and minimum pricing of alcohol.”

Sanity at last.

So Messrs. Cameron, Clegg and Milliband, when will you realise the terrible damage that the smoking ban has caused and follow suit? You’ve had plenty of time and opportunity so what is your excuse?

We at F2C estimate that at least 14,000 pubs have closed since the ban came in and the vast majority have done so as a direct result of it. In addition, we estimate around 200,000 jobs have been lost. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) estimate that they are still closing at an astonishing rate of 31 every week.

Even more serious is the fact that pubs and clubs were the centre of social life for millions of people. People who are now socially isolated in a way that is probably unique in British history.

And don’t say you didn’t know: we told you so here and here and here and here.

Answers on a postcard please. Or on the F2C blog.

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Give Them An Inch

Smoking break

Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, our illustrious health zealots. Not content with discrimination against minorities who indulge in legitimate lifestyles, they want yet more! They want your employers to dictate your lifestyle choices for you. With open discrimination against smokers gaining ground within the NHS, now Nottinghamshire County Council Public Health is demanding further intrusions into the personal lives of the County’s workforce.

The wannabe Karl Astels of Public Health for Nottinghamshire County Council, and the petty Gauleiters of the Council really intend dictating your lifestyle in exchange for employment. Even with their lies gaining support from the legislators, even with their blackmailing threats of no treatment for smokers, they are not satisfied. These pathetic creatures want your homes, your jobs and your sense of wellbeing. They have no tolerance for  anyone who thinks differently to themselves, no tolerance for those who choose their own lifestyle, no tolerance for anyone but those who agree with their view of life.

Well, Herr/Frau Doktor Astel, Herr or Frau Gauleiter: WE are not Jews from the Weimar republic, WE do not live in the early days of the Third Reich, you do not have any right treating us as such. In fact the time has come for all decent people to put an end to your vile policies: there is no place for you or your kind in the healthcare industry or politics. 60 million human beings died putting your kind down only for you to emulate Hitler and his band of thugs.

It is not acceptable to any decent human being for you to behave in this manner. If we were gay or coloured you would be prosecuted and sent to jail, unlike your mentors who were tried and then executed. You can push people so far before they make a stand, you have pushed far enough: if you really want to end your political careers then carry on. If you really want to be in the front lines of ASH’s war on smokers then there is a price: enough is enough. As John Paul Jones said from the quarterdeck of the Bonhomme Richard when called upon to surrender by HMS Seraphis, “We have not yet begun to fight”.*

 

* In 1812 Great Britain was again at war with the United States of America, During this war, two frigates fought a long battle near Ireland. The ships were the USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Seraphis. When called upon to surrender Capt. John Paul Jones USN made this quote. It was the only time that the US Navy and the Royal Navy came to fight in war.

 

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Something for Stoptober

I am a smoker: I’ve known love, I’ve known heartache, just like everyone else, yet I am allegedly different.

I am a smoker: I’ve made choices, some good, some bad, just like everyone else, yet I am allegedly different.

I am a smoker: I like animals, and the natural world around me, just like everyone else, yet I’m allegedly different.

I am a smoker: I like the arts, music, cinema, good food, just like everyone else, yet I’m allegedly different.

I am a smoker, I treat all with courtesy and respect until proven unworthy of either, just like most other people, yet I am not afforded the same courtesy.

In October those people who believe they know how I should best live my life will once again try to force me into a lifestyle I do not want against my will, it is not sufficient for them to deny me social access with my peers in safe and comfortable surroundings, they will instead claim I am a danger to society, the same society that I chose to defend at risk of my life, a simple thank you would have sufficed but no, they had to remove the freedoms I defended, the same freedoms my predecessors fought and died for in two great wars.

The use of legislation to impose a lifestyle that is not wanted is governmental abuse, those who support such abuse are no better than a National Socialist government who ruled abusively.  It is clear that those who died fighting National Socialism died in vain, their surviving comrades a significant number of whom are smokers and have been all their lives, the smokers who came after them and now it seems those who choose to vape, or those who are over the prescribed weight or drink a little more than the recommended limits will become subject to National Socialist policies that will force them to change a lifestyle that they enjoy. 

This nation condemned National Socialism. Our judiciary along with the allied nations tried and executed most of those who made the laws, those who enforced those laws, the media who supported those laws, the Doctors who used them for their own ends, mistreating or refusing to treat whole sections of the community; worse still they euthanized those who could not take care of themselves. They punished the Military for their part in this great human tragedy. Rightly so, for they are supposed to defend their own people not assist their government to systematically abuse them.

I stand against any policy that places one group over another, that creates inequality, that places the lives of a minority at risk of abuse, even at risk of their very lives. There is no place for such legislation in any country, there is no place for any organization that promotes inequality or hatred be they within or outside of government. I am but one of a growing minority who grow less tolerant of those politicians, charities, and other organizations that seek to control every facet of our daily lives.

Are you?

JW

Photo credit: AP Photo/Putnam

 

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F2C AGM Saturday 6 September, London

 photo ThePavillionedit_zps2a2d052c.jpg
Freedom2Choose’s AGM will be held this coming Saturday 6 September at the Pavilion End Pub, Watling Street, London, EC4M 9BR. The formal meeting (members only) starts at 2.00pm and will be very short, maybe 10-15 minutes. There will be informal and lively discussions afterwards and friends and supporters are welcome to join us. Do come along and look for us round the pub (or outside if you’re a smoker ) if you can make it – we haven’t bothered to book a room for 10 minutes. The pub closes at 5.00 pm and some of us may then drift elsewhere…

Map here (the nearest tube station on a Saturday is Bank and the pub is 5 minutes walk):
 photo mapPavilionEnd_zpsb8e8e008.jpg

 

 

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Plain Packaging Greek-style

 

I’ve been smiling at the recent discussions in the UK about introducing plain packaging of tobacco products.

Not because I think it’s a good idea:  I think it’s bollocks.
Not because it’s based on decent and honest research:  it’s based on complete tosh.
And certainly not because it will prevent even one 10 year old from trying smoking:  it won’t.

It’s because I’m reminded that every summer Greece’s leading cigarette manufacturer, Karelia, produces a special edition of packets with lovely pictures featuring the best of Greece.  This summer is no exception and amongst the pictures of yachts in the Aegean and ancient temples I have chosen the one above: beautiful bougainvillaea. They’re nice cigarettes as well and I brought back a few hundred for my own personal use.

The health warning in Greek translates as the more familiar: ‘Smoking seriously harms you and those around you’.

For more detailed analysis of the analytical tosh and political machinations behind plain packaging you could do worse than visit Chris Snowden’s posts below, although many excellent bloggers have also written on the subject.

The plain packs meta-lie (part one)

The plain packs meta-lie (part two)

 

 

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Prohibition Fever at the BMA

Al Capone’s Ghost must be smiling and his successors laughing.

On the 24th June this year, the BMA voted to ban the sale of cigarettes (forever) to anyone born after the millennium. So in 2018 it would be illegal for an eighteen year old but legal for a nineteen year old. And with each successive year thereafter, the discrimination would notch up accordingly.

The effect of course would be to progressively drive young and eventually older people into the hands of modern day Al Capones.

Freedom2choose chairman Dave Atherton appeared on BBC radio Wales and Freedom2choose Scotland’s Belinda Cunnison was also allowed a brief slot on BBC radio Scotland.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b047pj88

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b046ppbz

Update:

Unfortunately the links have now died but can be listended to below:

Wales – The case in favour is here:

BBC%20Radio%20Wales%2025%206%202014%20-%201.mp3

Dave Atherton and other’s responses are here:

BBC%20Radio%20Wales%2025%206%202014%20-%202.mp3

Scotland – Introduction:

BBC%20Radio%20Scotland%2025%206%202014%20-%201.mp3

Belinda responds:

BBC%20Radio%20Scotland%2025%206%202014%20-%202.mp3

Additional Comments:

It is much easier to make a false claim than it is to debunk it. This means that in a few minutes on air very few claims can be disputed. So a few comments about some other assertions that various doctors made on these programmes is in order:

  1. One doctor asserted that this proposal would stop young people smoking. He then contradicted himself by noting that most people tried cigarettes at around 13 or 14 years of age. Clearly these would have been bought for them so this crazy notion would make no difference at all.

  2. Others claimed that most smokers started smoking by their early twenties and became addicted young. More on addiction below but the real reason for people starting young is obvious. If you like something then you are likely to continue to do it. If you don’t then you’re unlikely to change your mind as you age.

  3. A doctor claimed that health problems wouldn’t occur until they reached their 30s or 40s. But even Richard Doll’s famous ‘British Doctors Study’ claimed that health issues only began to occur from age 50 onward. Incidentally, the average age at death for lifetime cigarette smokers in this study was 73 years. What’s more, most of those deaths occurred during the 1950s and 60s when life expectancy was less than 65 years.

  4. Addiction:

    If nicotine really was addictive then how come NRT products have a 98.4% failure rate?http://freedom2choose.info/news_viewer.php?id=969

    As to the claim that it is similarly or more addictive than heroin, there is no evidence to support that whatsoever. The nearest thing is the US Surgeon General’s report of 1988 which was the first report claiming that nicotine was addictive. So where did he get his evidence?

    The answer is that it was from a 1984 paper by Jack Henningfield, an advisor to the Surgeon General and also a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry. Here are a couple of quotes from the McTear vs ITL court case. The full text is 600 pages long but there is a 60 page summary here: http://boltonsmokersclub.wordpress.com/the-mctear-case-the-analysis/ .

    Please note that this case (from 2005) is the ONLY time that a British court has been asked to consider anti-smoking ‘evidence’. The two top anti-smoking ‘experts’ in the UK were amongst those testifying. James Friend (appointed by the Government to chair the ‘Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health) and Richard Doll both gave evidence under oath.

ITL’s expert witness:

[5.398]…
“Figure 5 showed nine histograms each showing two bars, one for placebo (P) and the other for the “drug” under investigation (D) or simulated gambling (SG). In all nine histograms the D or SG bar was higher than the P bar. Professor Gray said that the significance was said to be that nicotine increased scores on this scale to the same degree as that seen for morphine and amphetamine, for example, and from the way the figure was drawn that appeared to be the case. It has subsequently been pointed out by Warburton, however, that the scales on the vertical axes of each of the histograms were quite different from each other. This was standardly regarded as very poor scientific methodology and should have been pointed out by the referees of the paper at the outset; it was something that graduate students were taught at an early stage not to do. For morphine for example, the P value was below 4 and the D value nearly 10; the same for amphetamine. For nicotine, the P value was 5 and the D value just below 7. But the scales had been set so that the difference between P and D for nicotine appeared to be as large as that for amphetamine and morphine, though this was simply not the case.”

And then the judge’s view:

“[6.206] Professor Gray’s evidence accordingly is consistent with the averment for the pursuer that once individuals such as Mr McTear have started smoking it is difficult for them to wean themselves off the habit. It provides no support for the proposition that tobacco is more addictive than cocaine, or more addictive than heroin for that matter. There is no evidence before me which provides support for the conclusion in USSG 1988 that the pharmacological and behavioural processes that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Indeed, insofar as this relied on Henningfield 1984, it lacked a sound scientific basis.”

The Henningfield paper is here:
http://tobaccodocuments.org/pm/2057063013-3023.html

See also: http://wings.buffalo.edu/aru/ARUreport03.html

Postscript:

The final consultation on plain packaging has begun so if you haven’t acted yet please be sure to read this.

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Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) which 10 years ago were in their infancy and now seem to ubiquitous with an estimated 2 million users in the UK alone. Whether you see them as potentially as tools to oppress smokers seems to have passed as e-cigs seem to be the new smoking evil. Basically world and national governments want to denormalise and restrict e-cigs as tobacco smokers are.

The European Union (EU) wanted to have them classified as medicines but MEPs voted against but did vote to restrict the nicotine content to 20mg/ml which would probably make them useless for heavy smokers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Federal Drug Administration want to classify them as tobacco and apply the same restrictions on advertising, to be highly taxed and indoor restrictions.  It seems that even the sight of an e-cig “renormalising” smoking is giving them, pun intended, the vapers.

Big Pharma’s fingerprints are probably all over this. The biggest critics include Professor of Engineering Stanton Glantz, John Banzhaf of Action on Smoking and Health America and Tobacco Free Kids all of whom are in receipt of Big Pharma funding.

It is my belief that any e-cig users sniffy towards tobacco smokers will be keeping their council and can see that they are being treated as just as appalling as smokers. Certainly that is the impression I get talking to industry representatives.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy my article in Breitbart I did recently and also on the 25th April I was on BBC Radio Ulster discussing e-cigs with Andy Dougal Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, which Tony has been kind to record.

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/04/25/E-Cigarettes-to-be-Subject-to-Restrictions-Despite-Evidence-They-Help-People-Stop-Smoking

BBC%20Ulster%20ecigs%2025-4-14.mp3

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Plain Packs: Politicians Steal Trademarks and Help Bootleggers

(George Orwell)

So Sir Cyril Chantler, a paediatrician fresh from a fact finding mission to Australia has recommended that plain packets of cigarettes are to be introduced. Health Minister Jane Ellison has said “it is very likely to have a positive impact on public health and stop children from starting to smoke.”

Labour’s Luciana Berger is tripping over herself when she said “There is an overwhelming body of evidence in favour of standardised packaging and there can be no excuse for a further delay.”

The Liberal Democrats seen a bit mute for some unfathomable reason.

Ironically David Cameron  said in 2008 “The era of big, bossy, state interference, top-down lever pulling is coming to an end.” To be fair he did reject the proposal originally but a defeat in the House of Lords forced him to reconsider.

Before Nick Clegg’s banishment from politics he said in his Freedom Bill will “roll back the power of the state.” Another LibDem fail.

Sir Cyril’s guestimate of 2% reduction in youth smoking is seen as “reasonable,” and “significant if smoking is to become denormalised.” The effect will barely register by their own metric and there is nothing like ratcheting up the ante on discrimination of smokers.

Sir Cyril’s “fact finding” tour from Down Under seems to have been a waste of taxpayer’s money. While far too early to draw any firm conclusions, certainly there seems to be no evidence of any reduction in smoking or sales.

Black market cigarettes are increasing in sales. A report by KPMG, paid for by cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris International (PMI) found a rise in contraband from 11.8% to 13.3%. PMI also have reported a rise in sales of 0.3% during 2013.

Another effect of brand homogeneity has been an increase in costs at the point of sale. Identical packs have seen a dramatic increase in sales times.  The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) reported in September 2013 on the effects in the retail trade, amongst many negatives these two stand out.

·         “Overall, around three-quarters of small retailers have experienced an increase in the time taken to serve adult smoker customers, and three in five report additional time is spent communicating with these customers about tobacco products.

·         Three in five small retailers have faced increased frustration from adult smoker customers, and nearly two-thirds have seen an increase in the frequency of staff giving the wrong products to customers (primarily due to difficulty in recognising/distinguishing between brands).”

With some Conservatives rebelling, Nick de Bois’ piece on Conservative Home is quite compelling.  He describes the policy as a “reckless risk” and poses “do we really want more criminals selling more fake cigarettes to children?”

Then we have the World Trade Organization (WTO) and inevitably the European Union (EU). It seems directly against the principles of Article 20 of Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) from the 1986 Uruguay Round. The clause is quite unambiguous: “The use of a trademark in the course of trade shall not be unjustifiably encumbered by special requirements, such as use with another trademark, use in a special form or use in a manner detrimental to its capability to distinguish the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings.”

A number of countries including Ukraine, Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Cuba gave lodged objections.  If the Australian and British governments lose their taxpayers stand to pay £millions in compensation to tobacco companies.

Never mind 64% of people rejected plain packs and admit the government admits to the result in their literature.

Never mind that the previous hapless Junior Minister pro plain packs Anna Soubry failed, possibly wilfully to report to the House of a Commons European Scrutiny Committee from January to June 2013 on the EU Tobacco product Directive.  The Conservatives have not been good on tobacco all round.

The positives from this are that since the smoking ban in 2007 is the first time bullying of smokers was defeated. It may have been resurrected like a decaying corpse but at worst any government now knows any future restrictions will be fought hard at considerable political cost and inconvenience. As other nanny statists want to go the “new tobacco” route, as in sugar, salt, fast food, alcohol being the “new tobacco” we may yet see a white flag being waved over Parliament on smoker prejudice.

If you look at previous Ministers for “Smoking” they do not have staying power. Gillian Merron the Labour MP for Lincoln Central was dumped at the last election. Anne Milton who one Westminster insider described to me as NVG, not very good was sacked. Anna Soubry has been packed off to Defence (see above) and too can be looked upon as sacked. Et Tu Jane Ellison?

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/health/10035-TSO-2901853-Chantler-Review-ACCESSIBLE.PDF

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/2008/jun/23/davidcameronspressconferenc1

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-26873410

http://www.pmi.com/eng/media_center/documents/kpmg%20report%20on%20illicit%20trade%20australia.pdf

http://www.aacs.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Impact-of-Plain-Packaging-on-Small-Retailers-W2-Final-Report.pdf

http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2014/04/nick-de-bois-mp-plain-packaging-doesnt-work.html

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/212074/Summary_of_responses_to_consultation_-_standardised_packaging_tobacco.pdf

http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/27-trips_04_e.htm

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Tony Benn April 3rd 1925 – 14th March 2014

 (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images – via London24 )

Like him or loathe him Anthony Neil Wedgewood Benn was a one off in politics, formerly 2nd Viscount Stansgate which he renounced to enter the House of Commons as an MP eventually rising to Chairman of the Labour party and holding two cabinet positions during the Wilson and Callaghan years died this morning aged 88.

Tony Benn as he chose to be known was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963 and lent his name to the left wing of the labour party in the term Bennite. After he retired from formal political involvement he became more involved in grass-roots movements and became president of the Stop the War coalition. He was also considered to be one of the countries most popular politicians in several polls throughout his long and distinguished career.

Tony Benn was one of the politicians who was not in favour of the Health act 2006, indeed like his contemporary Harold Wilson he was an avid pipe smoker, in 2008 our Secretary wrote inviting him to write a piece for our front page. His reply was kind, agreeing 100% in respect of the smoking ban. And though he never took never took up the invitation he did express regret that there were too many other more pressing matters to attend to despite his opposition to the ban. In part he said “At least when they imprison me for my pipe I can smoke in jail”

We don’t presume to make this article an obituary but simply to note his sad departure from this life celebrating his views on freedom of choice, especially in regard to smoking.

There is an entertaining little episode described here:

http://www.newstatesman.com/node/135127

“We sat in a non-smoking carriage, but Benn opened his briefcase and took out an old BR sticker that read “smoking” and placed it smack on top of the “non-smoking” sign on the window pane. He held up his pipe: “No one minds, do they?” he asked of the carriage at large. A chorus of “Go ahead Tony” greeted him: rules simply don’t apply to Benn. “

Maybe he did think that rules did not apply to him though it would certainly have been very much contrary to his life long anti-elitist principles. On the other hand, what this certainly demonstrates is that the vast majority of people have no significant objections to ‘environmental tobacco smoke’ (ETS).

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A Review of ‘Unlucky Strike’


The facts should make society much more relaxed about smoking than it is. But prejudice and perverse incentives in the political and legal systems have pushed policy in the opposite direction. It’s time for a re-think and a redress. Let’s see if you agree?

- From the preface to the book.

John Staddon is James B. Duke Professor of Psychology, and Professor of Biology and Neurobiology, Emeritus, at Duke University.

The main thread running through Professor Staddon’s book is the notion of ‘private health’ versus ‘public health’. His strong contention is that smoking is not a cost to society and he backs this up with references to published papers. And that is even without considering pension savings or tobacco taxation.

He also explains, with evidence, that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) poses no significant health risk to third parties. And disputes the notion that smoking is ‘addictive’ in any normally understood sense.

Given this, he argues that smoking is in no sense a ‘public health issue’  and instead is a private one. Thus there should not be any public health campaign at all against smoking.

He begins with a very brief history of tobacco and continues with the issues raised by Fisher in the 1950s. He concludes that the evidence of health risk from active smoking is now overwhelming although he does not say why he is so sure. He then points out that many activities are risky but are a matter of personal, informed, choice. We at freedom2choose fully agree with this sentiment.

In many ways he appears to have come into the debate from a different angle from other writers. Regrettably, it seems that the only group speaking up for smokers that he has heard of is ‘Forest’. He can’t really be blamed too much though because despite our efforts; groups such as Freedom2Choose, Forces, CAGE, NYClash and the Smoker’s Club (to name just a few) still tend to have a rather small media presence.

The book is also crammed with information on anti-tobacco litigation and the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA).

“The MSA appears to violate both Article 1, Section 10 of the constitution barring compacts between states as well as federal anti-trust statutes (it enforces a legal cartel).
… it is in essence a protection racket (extortion). You (the tobacco companies) pay me (the states and trial lawyers) a large amount of money. In return you get protection from competition (the agreement forms a cartel) and from state lawsuits.”

And smokers rather than the tobacco companies are forced to pay for it all without even being consulted.

On the downside, this is, at 130 or so pages, a very short book. Despite that, he covers a lot of ground and such conciseness has merit in itself.

That said, it is very well written and highly readable. Numerous colour illustrations by David Hockney are provided which help to illuminate his case. Strongly recommended.

And as to the question posed at the end of the top quote: the answer is YES, we fully agree.

Update:

The publishers of ‘Unlucky Strike’ have been in contact and have uploaded this review to Amazon. It is on the front of the book’s website page as their main review of the book. As such it appears in the ‘Product Description’ section.

The only downside is that the Amazon facility has removed all formatting so it is a little difficult to read.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unlucky-Strike-Private-Science-Politics/dp/1908684372/ref=cm_rdp_product

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