Adopting Idiocy

Dad and me, 1949

When I was only four weeks old they took me from my mother and gave me to strangers. I didn’t see her again for over twenty years.

This was a perfectly normal event in England. It was done in the best interests of the child and according to the best principles and practice of social work and the law regarding adoption. My natural mother was unmarried, and my adoptive parents were good people, but childless.

I was lucky and enjoyed not only a loving childhood, but also an adoptive father who was a man of great compassion and honour, and ahead of his time in his thinking. Against the prevailing wisdom he not only told me from my earliest memories the story of my adoption, but also kept my natural mother informed through letters and photos as I grew up. The year I turned 21 he arranged a meeting between us and she became a wonderful part of my own family and an acknowledged and well-loved grandmother of my children. I was with her holding her hand when she died aged 86, the year after my father had passed away at the same age.

Nowadays the principles and practice and the law regarding adoption have changed dramatically. Far from the old advice to sever all ties between natural parent and child and to keep the knowledge of adoption from the child, contact is now encouraged in all but the most difficult of circumstances and adopted children have the legal right to full information about their background.

Why am I telling you all this, I hear you ask?

Well, a few days ago I read that Staffordshire County Council’s social work department banned a couple from adopting because the father had been seen using an e-cigarette. Not even a real cigarette! And at least “13 other councils across England state they will not place under-fives with e-cigarette users. They include Bury, Kirklees, North Tyneside, Durham, Warrington, West Sussex, Poole, Cornwall, Camden, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall and Dudley councils.

What, in the name of all that’s holy, are they so frightened about? We know that even real cigarettes pose no danger from secondhand smoke: for example, see this WHO-commissioned study on lung cancer – Boffetta 1998 – which concludes there is no significant risk, and even some benefits, to children. To be concerned about secondhand vaping is, frankly, stark raving bonkers.

So, formal adoption services have now performed an absolute somersault, all in the name of ‘safeguarding the children’. In the past, adoptive parents were potentially banned if they planned any contact with the natural birth mother, and deeply frowned on if they didn’t maintain the pretence of natural parentage to the adopted child. Nowadays would-be adoptive (and foster) parents are banned if they smoke, and banned even if they don’t smoke but use e-cigs. As our last article ‘Of Puppies and Politicians‘ said: “Every day sees…new definitions of who are considered to be fit parents…they maintain if you are obese, if you drink even moderately, if you smoke you are not fit to be a parent…the obese, those who drink moderately and those who smoke (are) barred from adopting or fostering children. Worse still, while they are denormalising the obese, moderate drinkers and smokers, children are still suffering real abuse both by a small number of parents and state run children’s homes…

As an example of real child abuse, and in stark contrast to the extraordinary vigour with which social and other statutory services protect children from the imagined harm done by cigarette smoke and e-cig steam, here is the full published Serious Case Review into the tragic story of Blake Fowler who was killed aged 7. It makes harrowing reading. He was let down on at least 18 separate occasions when there could have been genuinely protective state intervention. Instead, there was lethargy and incompetence.

I was lucky. I survived, and was allowed to be brought up by a decent and loving couple.

Oh, did you guess? My father was a lifelong smoker.



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Of Puppies and Politicians

Of Puppies and Politicians

The time has come to talk of Puppies and Politicians: ASH whistle and they come, wide eyed and tails wagging, their only desire to please their masters. They are the politicians, those whom we elect to represent our interests: not the interests of business, not the interests of 20 or so bigoted “fake”-charity workers in London, but our interests, John and Jane Public.

Two events occurred recently that have wide ranging effects on the smoking community. Actually no, it’s not just smokers: it also includes parents and drivers, a very large part of the adult population of the UK.

First on the agenda is plain packaging. Plain packaging has been in and out of the news for a long time, but to date only Australia has implemented this policy. There are many opponents of plain packaging, and very few who will benefit from plain packaging. From the outset this legislation has been contested. Simon Clark of FOREST has consistently opposed these measures on television, radio and in the press, Angela Harbutt at Hands Off Our Packs opposed the measures at the public consultations, and our own F2C Chairman Dave Atherton has spoken both with politicians and the media at length on the issue. Further opposition came from the retailers’ association and packaging manufacturers. Even the Police are opposed to it. The grounds are many and varied: one politician has been removed from her position for abusing her position during the consultation yet, despite all the public opposition in the polls (excepting Yougov whose owner sits on the board of ASH – a clear conflict of interest), the bill not only passes but is deliberately brought forward for political expediency ahead of the General Election!

What effects will this legislation have? Australia, which has already implemented plain packaging, is currently being sued by several countries for the damage done to their economies, for trademark infringements to trademarks protected by the UN and other international treaties. The same is likely to happen to the UK and it may take years to settle, it may cost us the taxpayers £millions or even £trillions to defend, and £millions more if HM government is found guilty. They had better pray that Australia does not lose its case as legal precedent will have been set under international law.

It will only serve to increase black market traffic in tobacco as it has in Australia,and increasing taxation to pay for HMRC to intercept such traffic. Worse still it creates national security issues: the government is well aware that some of the illicit profits go directly to terrorist organisations (some years ago they even produced television advertisements warning the public) like Al Quaeda. This bill is a gift for them since plain packaging is easier and cheaper to reproduce than current packaging. Giving aid and comfort to enemies of the state is a crime, it is treason, and by “taking advice” from ASH they are putting our country at greater risk of terrorist acts.

Plain packaging will not reduce the numbers of smokers. If Australia is any guide, the numbers have actually increased, including the numbers of young people taking up smoking before they are old enough to weigh the possible implications of their decision. F2C said that Sir Cyril Chantler’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.

The other issue is smoking in private vehicles with children aboard. This is another slide down the slippery slope: the same slippery slope that ASH so emphatically denies exists. Freedom 2 choose has said that:

“Holden Pearmain on behalf of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association surveyed 1,000 smokers and drivers. They found that 76% did not smoke in the car with children and 11% would ask(2).”

Legislating against something that is no more than a lack of consideration is taking a very large hammer to crack a very small nut. Many parents will act inconsiderately on occasion but that is no excuse for the state to take over parental responsibilities. The state should only get involved if there is real demonstrable harm being done.”

“Amendment 57BB introduces two worrying precedents:

The Government will be invading people’s personal domains for the first time. This could be the anti-smoking lobby’s first step towards banning smoking in private homes. Other pressure groups will use this in future as a precedent to enforce their lifestyle beliefs on the population backed by the force of Government.

The police would have to enforce a health directive for the first time. Surely the police have far more important things to do. In any case, even with police commitment, the law will be impossible to enforce. The enforcement angle will be used as a foot in the door to banning smoking in cars where no children are present which would be an entirely different matter and not one to be undertaken lightly.

Amendment 57B is an enabling clause:

It gives the present and any future health secretary carte blanche to introduce further laws on tobacco (which could be seen as a precedent for other policy areas) without recourse to Parliament. Democracy, anyone? Surely this in itself should be sufficient to reject it. ”

We also said that Philip Davies summed up events pithily by saying:

“We are supposedly here to try to defend the freedoms of people in this country. This Government want to trample over every single one of those freedoms.”

Note that this is an enabling act so it is not law yet – but can and will be made law whenever a current or future health minister wishes.

So we have a system where one person can write legislation for 60,000,000 people without opposition, without debate among our elected members of parliament, accountable to no-one and worse, without the consent of the electorate who pay their wages: truly a dictators’ charter. I remind each and every politician that they have no power to govern without the consent of the people and definitely not by the consent of the 20 or so people who work for ASH alone!

Every day sees further encroachments on the rights of ordinary parents to raise their children, and new definitions of who are considered to be fit parents. A glance at the work of social workers tells all: they maintain if you are obese, if you drink; even moderately, if you smoke you are not fit to be a parent, if that were not the case the obese, those who drink moderately and those who smoke would not be barred from adopting or fostering children. Worse still, while they are denormalising the obese, moderate drinkers and smokers, children are still suffering real abuse both by a small number of parents and state run children’s homes where, if the press are to be believed, paedophiles are rife and all manner of abuses both physical and mental take place. The latest case to come to our attention is that of seven year old Blake Fowler who died after no less than 18 opportunities to help him were missed.

Then there are the drivers, some of whom are also parents and smokers or obese. They pay dearly for their right to own their car: they pay road fund tax that should maintain the roads they use yet grind to a halt due to poor maintenance or if a few snowflakes land on our roads. Like smokers, they pay excessive tax on petrol, treated like a cash cow, fined for slightest infraction when good advice is a better option. There are persistent offenders, of course, and they are the ones who should be fined for breaking the law, but they are a small percentage of the driving population.

As of October 1st smoking drivers will become a more lucrative cash cow, penalised by taxation for buying tobacco, penalised for smoking tobacco in their private vehicles, the same vehicles they are penalised for owning by excessive petrol taxation. It has been claimed that smoking in cars produces 11 times the amount of toxins produced in a bar before the health act 2007 prohibited smoking. All vehicles have some form of air conditioning, yet no one cares that it admits thousands of times greater pollution into their car than smoking a cigarette, and diesel fumes are claimed to be a greater source of cancer than smoking ever will be, but it is the smoking drivers who are penalised, not the oil companies.

This legislation is bad on so many levels, formulated at the behest of no more than 20 people when thousands said no, legislation that victimises the majority of the voting population, parents, drivers and smokers alike. It helps promote the senseless bullying of at least a fifth of the voting public and is worthy only of a dictatorship

These politicians have the audacity to introduce this legislation scant months before the General Election. Perhaps the time has come to reassert the fact that they govern by our consent alone by removing them from office at the ballot box

Perhaps now is the time to talk of Puppies and Politicians….

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HMRC want to ban ALL Tobacco Leaf for everyone

Except for Big Tobacco

A quick post to draw attention to the Government’s consultation on raw tobacco. Responses to the consultation have to be in by 30th Jan 2015!

Nothing2Declare have written about it here:

And have also given suggestions as to possible responses here:

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Looking Back, Looking Forward: a New Year Review

After four years of David Cameron’s Coalition Government with the Liberal Democrats, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Labour Party has never been away. Certainly, its spirit of the nanny state has lingered far into Cameron’s term of office.

In April 2015 the display ban for smaller shops comes into force and hard-pressed convenience stores will have their costs increased and inconvenience maximised. There has been no amendment to the smoking ban. In fact, the first shots across the bow have been fired to ban smoking outside, with local councils all too willing to see if they can get some traction with the public.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, wanted to pass a ban not only in parks but in squares in London, such as Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square. I received the press release and, on the eve of his announcement, tweeted to him a link to his appearance on the BBC’s Room 101 where he argued against the smoking ban and also against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban. By lunchtime, he had changed his mind. I do hope by my pointing to his hypocrisy I had a hand in getting him to back down. Do not think this will be the last time the anti smokers will try to ban smoking outside, they had to try long and hard for indoor bans.

However, 2014 has been dominated with plain packaging for cigarette packets. It is certainly the first time since the smoking ban that such an effective campaign has been launched by the pro-choice lobby. Even now, our Government is on the back foot and has yet to announce its decision.

It’s not surprising seeing that since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia youth smoking has risen 36%, smoking rates have remained static, and the black market has increased.

The Australian Government is also under threat of being sued by the tobacco companies.

Under the World Trade Organization rules and the Trade-Related Aspects Of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Article 20,  it is made quite explicit that “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.”

Australia will have to prove that plain packaging did lead to a reduction in smoking, which is highly unlikely, and estimates for damages are put at £11 billion. We may finally have won an issue.

It has been a busy year for F2C in the media, with a record sixty TV and radio appearances, including a listening audience of 50 million on the BBC World Service. In addition, F2C is increasingly being asked to defend the lifestyle choices of alcohol, salt, sugar and fat. Personally I have also done online gambling and The Sun newspaper’s Page 3, and have had a busy year writing for Breitbart.

In May 2015, we also have the General Election. The only party that so far shows any sympathy for smokers is UKIP, whose latest published policy statement says it “will amend the smoking ban to give pubs and clubs the choice to open smoking rooms properly ventilated and separated from non-smoking areas” and that it “opposes ‘plain paper packaging’ for tobacco products and minimum pricing of alcohol”. It is thought that UKIP is one of the reasons why the Tories have not announced their decision on plain packaging, and there are rumours that introducing the measure may be delayed until after the election, if at all.

In 2015 F2C are ready to continue the fight for freedom, and Chris Snowdon’s recent paper on the smoking ban and 6,000 pubs closing may finally bring the Coalition to consider amending the ban.

I would like to express my warmest thanks to the members and supporters of Freedom 2 Choose and in particular to its Executive Committee members for all their hard work keeping F2C going and running efficiently. It really is a team game and I cannot express my appreciation too much. I also give a very warm welcome to Chris Garcia to the Executive Committee. He is making a very positive impact already.

May I also take this opportunity to hope you all had a happy Christmas, and to wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. I am sure the health nannies will not want you to smoke, drink and eat too much…..

Dave Atherton
Chairman, Freedom 2 Choose

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Nightlife Burning Out

Former Croydon bar infamous for its fingerprinting policy

Most people are aware of the ongoing dramatic rate of pub closures but if you assume this is due to a new generation switching over to late night bars and nightclubs, you’d be wrong.

There was a time, just ten years ago, when going to after hours venues could be a glamorous affair with that risqué feel where those creatures of the night would socialise. You could be at a table with a cool glass of bourbon and coke in one hand and a burning cigarette in the other having all the time you want as you have fun with friends and the opposite sex. Today a typical night is very different. Instead, you’d be holding a drink in some hazy plastic cup with thoughts of whether to go for your next smoke or not, while indoctrinated paranoid security watch you don’t even pick your nose. Eventually you’d decide to find your way outside through endless stairs and corridors to then be reminded to either down your expensive plastic drink or risk leaving it behind with the other cocktail of drinks on some sticky and drenched table. Next thing you know you’re shuffled along a cattle grid in near zero temperatures and coatless due to the cloakroom policy. Your only thoughts now are to finish that cigarette and get back inside. Once back inside if your drink hasn’t been nicked your table definitely has and so has one of your friends who was made to leave for managing to be happy. And so the whole torturous process repeats itself again and again while the whole venue is just one huge sweaty rugby scrub attempting to get in and out.

It is obvious the UK smoking bans never took into consideration the nightlife industry as well as the pub industry and members clubs. To say the ban was implemented in the name of health and safety is in complete contradiction with reality. This has led from the one so called problem of “second hand smoke” being solved only to then create an endless amount of other problems including noise disturbance and violence. Instead of progress coming in the form of ventilation as in other countries, delusional UK local authorities are answering this health and safety disaster with yet more and more legislation, with the responsibility of enforcement being put on the nightlife industry. For quite a while the industry has being playing ball with local authorities putting the state before its customers, but now even the industry is saying they can’t take any more. With more and more demands for more and more security while being made to sell less and less drinks, late night bars and clubs are struggling to make any profit even if they do achieve managing the logistical nightmare handed down to them. It’s no wonder then that most late night bars and clubs are now in serious need of refurbishment with many more simply going under.

If you assume this article reflects the past through rose tinted glasses and the present with exaggerated pessimism, go abroad to more liberal countries and you will notice the difference instantly. While many countries have exemptions for their smoking bans, in many others local authorities have come to their senses in refusing to enforce such an illogical and oppressive policy after a certain time, something our own local authorities should learn from.


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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:


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?


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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