Friday, 10 December 2010

Pfizer: Never Let The Truth Get In The Way

I recently found the following on Pfizer's website (at this link) and thought it deserved clearing up.

They claim that

Cigarettes don’t just contain nicotine. Each cigarette contains over 4000 toxic chemicals many of which are added to make it more appealing to the consumer. Carbon monoxide is one of the better known ones, but there are others worth mentioning too.

Acetic Acid (vinegar)
Acetone (nail varnish remover)
Ammonia (cleaning agent)
Arsenic (ant poison in the USA)
Benzene (petrol fumes)
Cadmium (car battery fluid)
DDT (insecticide)
Ethanol (anti-freeze)
Formaldehyde (embalming fluid)
Hydrogen Cyanide (industrial pollutant)
Lead (batteries, petrol fumes)
Methanol (rocket fuel)
Tar (road surface tar)

The author of this seems to not understand the difference between an ingredient being in something and said ingredient being the actual substance. Ammonia, for instance, is used in cleaning agents, but is present in soil (and thus products that grow in the soil), and various beauty products like hair dye.

Benzene is in tap water, ethanol is pure alcohol used in anti-freeze, but Pfizer are alluring that ethanol is anti-freeze therefore anti-freeze is in cigarettes. Formaldehyde is a naturally occuring substance from combustion; it is not in tobacco, but is in the smoke as a byproduct of the tobacco being lit. To suggest that rocket fuel is an active ingredient is ridiculous, because putting it near an open flame would very quickly disintegrate any would-be smoker.
And the tar in cigarettes is not road tar, it is just a term for the black residue you find in your ashtray.

Pfizer apparently are so immune from reprisal they don't even care to fact-check or be accurate anymore.

Frank Davis: Summing it up

This is a copy of Frank Davis's blog entry, which I thought you would all find interesting. Original entry here

My concern with smoking and smoking bans began one day in November 2004. I'd arrived at the River and bought a pint, and had sat down at my usual table to read that day's Independent. On an inside page there was a small article saying that Sir Charles George, president of the BMA, and chairman of the BHF, was calling on the government to ban smoking in public places. He cited a new study which said that carbon nano-particles in smoke might cause an increased number of heart attacks.

'Who the hell does he think he is?' I wondered to myself, as I lit another roll-up. I'd never heard of any senior doctor calling for anything like this before, pulling in newspaper reporters and going public. Most doctors operated discreetly in the shadows. Not this one. I surveyed his smiling face in the photo, the jowls beneath his chin spilling over the collar of his shirt.

He wasn't the last such swaggering doctor. Sir Liam Donaldson was soon to overshadow Sir Charles George, and there've been plenty of other doctors coming out of the woodwork of the Royal College of Physicians.

And I still don't have an answer to the question 'Who the hell do they think they are?' or 'How come they exert so much influence?'

But perhaps what happened was that there emerged a grand conjunction of a variety of antismoking organisations. In Britain there was Sir Richard Doll and Sir George Godber (not to mention my personal bete noire, the malignant Dr W, who inveighed against smoking like a hellfire preacher, and who regular attended BMA meetings). In the USA there was the AMA, a number of antismoking Surgeon Generals, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a variety of (at the time) grassroot antismoking organisations. And then there was Gro Harlem Brundtland, who on becoming head of the WHO in the 1990s, shifted its emphasis towards 'lifestyle medicine' - tobacco, alcohol, and food. And the WHO was of course part of the UN. And then there was the emerging EU political aristocracy, of whom Brundtland was herself one, having been Prime Minister of Norway.

Assemble together this constellation of interested parties, all of whom meet each other regularly at conferences all around the world, and pump in huge amounts of taxpayer's money, plus hundreds of millions of dollars from the Master Settlement Agreement in the USA, plus even more money from pharma companies peddling NRT, and a very powerful informal global coalition comes into existence. Its members have access to senior politicians all around the world, and to banks like the World Bank. And they control huge amounts of public and private money.

A few years beforehand, somebody like Sir Charles George was just another nobody doctor. Same for Sir Liam Donaldson. Nobody had ever heard of them. But now they were part of a very large global coalition of like-minded people. And when they asked for things to be done, they started to get done. They had clout like never before.

When Sir Liam Donaldson threatened to resign when the UK Labour government showed signs of not wanting a total smoking ban, it would have been an insignificant protest 10 or 20 years earlier. But now that Donaldson was a player in the emergent global antismoking consortium, he was a bit more than just Chief Medical Officer. He had friends in high places all around the world, who could be persuaded to look less favourably upon a loan here, or a trade agreement there. So Donaldson got his total smoking ban. And he got his big office too.

One important feature of this coalition of interested parties is that none of their members have been elected. Not in the AMA or RWJF or BMA or BHF or ASH or the WHO or the UN or the EU. None of them. These were people who were meeting up with each other in conferences, working out between themselves what they wanted done. Since they weren't elected, they didn't need to consult the public. They didn't particularly want to anyway. They were the experts, after all. They'd done the research. Their job as doctors and researchers and experts was educate the public, and tell them what was good for them.

And now they were finding that, whereas in the past the politicians had seldom done what the doctors asked of them, suddenly the politicians had become more than willing to accommodate their requests. Smoking bans in all public places, without any loopholes for small bars or private clubs? No problem. Bans in parks and cars? Certainly. Concealed displays of tobacco, and plain packaging? Done. Floggings and nose-slittings for first offenders?

The politicians were finding themselves dealing with a very powerful, influential, and wealthy global coalition who could make life difficult for them in all sorts of ways if they didn't go along with their demands. And in this new political reality, all the key decisions were agreed in private among the key players in the coalition. The smoking bans. The fines. The display bans. Etc, etc. This was the new post-democratic order. It was government by experts and by committees. The job of elected politicians was to implement the instructions that filtered down to them from the coalition.

So when the second most senior member of the the Con Lib Coalition government, Nick Clegg - himself a smoker - , says that there's no more chance of the smoking ban being repealed than capital punishment being re-introduced, he's actually telling us just what power these people exert.

And the same is true elsewhere. It's said that one of the conditions of the Greek bail-out was that they impose a strict smoking ban. The same is probably true of Spain, which may well be needing to be bailed out soon too. In the corridors of power in the EU, in some meeting of key players, some senior doctor insisted that the bail-out funds be conditional on rigorous smoking bans. The demand was probably made over lunch in some Brussels restaurant, just after the asparagus had been served.

The politicians know perfectly well that they're screwing their own people. Smoking bans shatter communities and bankrupt pubs and cafes. That's why they can't look them in the eye and talk to them about the rain of undemocratic rules and regulations they keep imposing on them. That's why Cameron and Clegg and all the rest of them won't ever talk about it. Because they're no longer serving their own people, but a confederation of powerful interest groups which can, at a flick of a switch, shut off funding, close off hard-won exemptions, and enforce previously unenforced regulations. They spend their days in Westminster trying to placate nameless eminences grises who have more direct and immediate power over them than an electorate which only gets to have its say every 5 years or so, and whose votes are soon to be counted in ways which will be designed to neutralise public opinion anyway.

If so, more and more people will wake up to learn that their governments are more interested in serving the interests of international power-brokers and bankers and pressure groups than in serving their interests. It will become the peoples against their governments, all across Europe.

A Public Display of BMA Ignorance

This entry is to highlight a recent article by Patrick Basham,viewable here

COPD: The Smoker's Disease?

Apparently not, according to this study

You don't have to be a smoker to suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Indoor air pollution is enough for one to contract the infection, says the first-of-its-kind study conducted at 22 villages of Pune.

Out of 3,000 people randomly selected for the study, 210 suffered from COPD. "At least 93 per cent of those who had COPD were non smokers," says Dr Sundeep Salvi, coordinator of the Chest Research Foundation (CRF).

Chest Research Foundation in collaboration with the KEM Hospital, Pune, and the Imperial College, London, UK, conducted one of the largest COPD prevalence studies in a span of two and a half years and released the data on the eve of World COPD Day on November 17.

Dr Sundeep Salvi from CRF, Dr Sanjay Juvekar from KEM Hospital and Dr Peter Barnes from UK spearheaded the study. Salvi said the country requires a national COPD control programme.

The study used a standardised respiratory health questionnaire and spirometry (lung function test that diagnoses COPD). The prevalence of COPD was found to be 6.9% (5.6% amongst females and 8% amongst males).

Among those identified to have COPD, only 7% were smokers and 93% were never smokers, indicating that smoking is clearly not the most important risk factor for COPD in India. More importantly, 23% of the COPDs occurred in age group less than 40 years, which has not been reported earlier, says Salvi.

It has always been believed that COPD starts occurring after 40 years and above in people who have smoked for over 15-20 years. But in India, indoor air pollution seems to be the most important cause so the disease occurs in earlier age groups as well because of exposures from childhood, he explained.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Guardian article

My article on smoking shelters on hospital grounds was published in the Guardian today. Follow the link to read it and leave your two cents.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Senior Citizens Punished Again

Philipina got worldwide attention with our recent petition, but that was just the beginning. America is now trying to roll out a nationwide ruling that senior housing will be smokefree:

An addiction to smoking may soon get some Burlington residents kicked out of their homes. A new smoking ban at a few of the city's subsidized housing complexes has resident smokers upset.

The policy change is part of a national movement headed by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make low-income housing a healthier place for all its residents.

But why? Secondhand smoke isn't a risk to anyone if they smoke in their rooms, or a provided smoking room. And fires? Well, then candles and stoves must be included in the ban too. And aerosols - what if one gets left by the window and explodes in the direct sunlight? We know it's not about health though, because these tyrants won't even let them smoke outside, instead they must go to the street. That's right, all those senior citizens must now walk to the street, risking attack, assault, falling over and injurying themselves and even getting hit by cars, because smoking by the front door is too dangerous.

But Jackie Allen is a non-smoking resident and says she's thrilled with the policy change.

"I absolutely love it. Before you couldn't sit out there without five to 10 people immediately lighting up. I would have to leave because I can't take the smoke."

you'd expect someone of that age to be able to do the simple arithmatic of "10 of them, 1 of me, i'm in the minority."

Housing officials says this new policy isn't meant to single out any particular population

It doesn't single out any particular population at all, oh, except smokers. But they don't count apparently.

Housing officials says this new policy isn't meant to single out any particular population and explains that many area landlords have no smoking clauses in their leases.

This is a nationwide policy affecting only senior citizens, people who literally have nowhere else to go. It isn't the same as a private landlord making an individual decision.

The comment section contains 3 comments from the same person, who will hopefully one day understand how it feels to be treated this badly:

Cigarettes are $7-8 a pack, and going up. At a pack a day, that's $210-240 a month. Decker Towers is public housing, subsidized by the taxpayers. The residents, who receive SSDI or SSI, pay 33% of their income, typically $250-400. That means that most could swing between 50-66%, instead of %33 of their rent if they didn't smoke. Why do taxpayers have to underwrite someone's habit? Residency there is voluntary.It's not a right, but a privilege, although many today consider it to be an entitlement.
So, in a sense, we're paying for their cigarettes.
Also, what about added costs for medical problems? Hey, smoke away, just don't ask me to pay for it by subsidizing it.
Simple solution- pay for your own place out of your monthly check, and smoke 'til you drop.... Or take advantage of the cessation help that's being offered, and stay.

The financial argument never stacked up. They're senior citizens, they paid tax their whole life and so it's their own money that is being used. Secondly, they're smokers, who pay far and above the usual tax rates non-smokers pay, and the so-called costs removed for treating smokers is substantially smaller than the gross sum collected. So these people are paying for themselves.

How is it fair to expect someone who has smoekd for 50, 60+ years to suddenly quit? The fanaticism is such now that people don't even think of the harm to health that can be caused by such a change in lifestyle habits at that age.

It's All About Health - Honest

Ok, you can pull the other one now. We'd take the diatribe of 'it's all about health' much more seriously if you could produce a study, any study, that shows why it's justifiable to ban smoking on beaches and in parks. Given you can't even find an independent study finding indoor SHS to be a cause for concern, the odds of finding one in an outdoor setting are nil.
We'd take it more seriously if your 'it's for the chiiildren' bullshit didn't mean moving smokers out of adult settings like pubs, where children shouldn't be, and into the home where children naturally are.
Or if you didn't talk about removing adopted and fostered children from the care of smokers, to be placed back in the care home, even if said smoker only smokes outside. Because being in a care home feeling neglected and unloved is preferable and healthier than living with someone who smokes but not around you?
Or if a bus driver hadn't lost her job for smoking an e-cig, which, as yet, is legal to use wherever you please.

But this, well, who can actually justify this is for 'health' and not social hate?

Free Speech: Not Where Tobacco is Concerned

A little nugget that has been doing the rounds lately (I found it courtesy of Head Rambles and Juliette Tworsey) is that smoking news that isn't anti is being banned from the Irish Examiner. To quote directly, in correspondance to the head of Forest Eireann (Forest's Irish branch):

“John, the editor says there is no way he going to allow his paper to
be used in any way as a vehicle for a lobby - funded or not – that
condones or promotes the consumption of a hazardous subject - legal
or not. “

In other words, anti-smoking news will gladly be carried in its printed papers, but anything not anti won't be. This isn't just pro-smoking stuff, but neutral content too. So, for instance, if Forest, or indeed you or I, write a perfectly balanced and justified letter to the editor explaining that a smoking ban in cars is scientifically without merit, it will be barred from print.

Anyone with half a brain (and I'll refrain from jokes about the Irish intellect here) can acknowledge that a balanced point need not be condoning or promoting anything. It's a similar argument to someone saying 'the risk of AIDs from intercourse is pretty low, relatively speaking' being tacit condonement for sleeping with as many people as possible. It's not a logical progression and it makes no sense.

It's perplexing that the Irish Examiner has focused this on tobacco, and we can see how much this is an encompassing new regime by seeing if any news stories come up on alcohol that don't only call for minimum pricing, or topics on the war on drugs only look at promoting its cause. Any dissent from condemning the evils of the world will show this for what it really is: horseshit.

Most troubling, though, is the blow to free speech. What sort of society, supposedly developed, actively bans freedom of speech? The editor is really saying the readers who keep him in a job need to be spoon-fed content and are so fickle to their lifestyle habits that the slightest mention that something may not kill you on sight will encourage them to engage in said activity to the nth degree. Well, if that is the case, let them do it. The world's a crowded place and if we can lose some idiots then i'm sure we'll be better for it. Besides, it'll help Ireland's ruined economy.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Philipina Schergevitch: Petition and the Media

Hopefully most of you are aware of the petition I started to try to keep Philipina Schergevitch in her home. For those of you unaware of the story itself, click here. The upshot of this alarming story was the aforementioned petition; in 4 days we got 88 names, one for each year she has been alive, and emailed it off to the Housing Association. Unsurprisingly I've had no response (yet) but the original story was in newspapers all over Canada, and signatories for the petition were citizens from the UK, Austria, America, Canada, Australia and some other European countries. This is another demonstration that we can all pull together when we need to.

Last night Eddie Douthwaite of Freedom2Choose Scotland emailed me the following, a scan of the Scottish newspaper Sunday Post's article on Philipina and the campaign. The article can be read here.

Following this, Michael McFadden sent this link. Read it, weep, and show everyone you possibly can. The more people understand where this tirade is coming from, the more hope we have of gaining enough support to stop it.

Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who signed the petition and helped spread word of it, the support was overwhelming.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Guest Post from Juliette Tworsey: Life in LA

Life in Los Angeles -

My friend Rich White asked me to write a bit about what life is like living in Los Angeles, from the perspective of a tobacco smoker, a musician, and a resident. I moved here from my hometown of Chicago a few years back with the intention of breaking into the music industry with my band FireBug. To be honest, smoking was never an issue that I really gave much thought to, because it was basically a non-issue; it was just something that, as a musician, I was used to being around, as well as something that I enjoyed partaking in, especially when writing. After moving to California though, I began to realize that smoking was fast becoming a political, as well as an economic, issue. Arriving in California post-ban, I began to notice the crowds of people standing outside of the clubs, rather than inside the clubs. The clubs that ignored the ban never had this issue and they were always hopping as a result; there was no mass exodus from the venue(s) as soon as the known band with all of the friends hit its last chord; no, people hung around to check out the new and unknown bands, rather than bolting out to the nearest private party. Concurrently, venues with large and accommodating smoking patios still are the clubs with the most regular customers who are willing to hang around to check out a new act. In Los Angeles, you see, patios are somewhat of a more workable solution (although prohibition still hurts), due to the fact that the weather is mostly temperate and it rarely ever rains. With that said, there are some venues that are making it increasingly difficult to draw a crowd. In the last few years, I have witnessed an increase in vitriolic hatred towards smokers, due in large part to the never ending barrage of anti-smoking adverts that we are subjected to almost daily, thanks in large part to the voter-approved prop 99. [more information on prop 99 here]

The advent of the citizen bully….and the control freak…

Seemingly almost overnight, there is a new class of bullies in town who think that it’s within their every right to harass anyone who smokes; like the bouncer who goes out of his way to yell at me when I’m outside smoking before going on stage to perform (“the smoke might wander in through the door”); this particular place is no longer home to many of the local bands that were beginning to play there, as no one wants to go there. Other venues, with more accommodating space and staff, have picked up where others have lost customers. Oh, and then there’s the doorman with the rather Stasi like demeanor who works at a rather well known venue downtown who thinks that he personally owns the city sidewalk, and thus has taken it upon himself to self-aggrandize his own “authority” by berating me (and other smokers) for smoking out on a city sidewalk; a city sidewalk, mind you, that is fit for rats and skid-row, but not for smokers. …Twas the most stressful Patti Smith concert that I had ever been to, though she rocked. I vowed to never patronize that venue again, and I haven’t been back since. Oh, and what to say about the guy who sat across from me and my boyfriend out on an outdoor patio at a local restaurant (it’s byob!) that we frequent. You see, even though we were outside, and seated nowhere near the man, it was simply just too much for this creature to even SEE someone smoke a cigarette. Did I mention that in addition to being nowhere near him, my little plume of smoke was going in the opposite direction? He felt that he had the moral superiority, being a non-smoker, to tell me to put my cigarette out. I did not. He, the poor and feeble minded creature, was simply stunned by my resistance. I am not an unreasonable person you see, if my smoke really was going in his direction, the solution would simply have been to move. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions when one is dealing with rabid, anti-smoker bullies. Of course, when this man got up with his significant other to exit the premises, he proceeded to rev up his old Volkswagen that gassed us all into oblivion with diesel fumes; everyone on the patio began gasping, for real this time. Go figure.

The latest fad…not having to see a smoker as an excuse for outdoor bans, the misappropriation of funds, the misalignment of priorities when it comes to public safety, and the danger to local businesses…

This rather new phenomenon of not having to see a smoker has begun to take hold at an increasingly alarming rate. We now have politicians who use this very premise as a reason to ban outdoor smoking, even though it has absolutely NOTHING to do with health or public safety. When I leave my place of residence daily, I (along with my boyfriend and smoking neighbors) am now treated to the pervasive and over-bearing no smoking signs that have recently been placed outside in the park (which everyone has decidedly chosen to ignore, much to my delight at giving the finger to the “man”) which sits directly in front of my house. The city, of course, had money for the placement of no-smoking signs, whilst at the same time telling our neighborhood watch coordinator that it did not have enough money to post neighborhood watch signs. I suppose that the message of anti-smoking is more of a pressing issue than actual public safety. Priorities are priorities you know, especially in this time of recession, furloughs of public safety personnel, and empty storefronts. As a result of the recent onslaught of outdoor smoking bans, there are now many towns in and around the Los Angeles area that I and many of my friends no longer frequent; Burbank, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills are but a few. This in turn means that many of us Angelinos are not spending money to support many local businesses, such as restaurants and bars; and when less people spend money at local restaurants and bars, that also means that less money is spent at local retail shops as well, as is evidenced by the many empty store fronts that now litter the Southland.

Bullying backed by the law…..

A friend of mine recently received a $250 ticket for smoking outside on a sidewalk in Burbank. He was standing outside of his work, presumably following the “law” by not smoking inside, when he was approached by not one, but TWO police officers on bicycles. Failure to pay the fine in Burbank results in a warrant for your arrest. At one local neighborhood watch meeting that I attended, our local L.A. City Councilman was more interested in berating smokers for sitting on park benches than on discussing the recent onslaught of robberies and hate crimes in my neighborhood. That moment, I had an epiphany of sorts.

Hatred towards smokers becomes “acceptable”……

I then realized how deep the hatred went, and how screwed I am as a smoker in California. I realized that what once was merely a tiny seed of hate, to be brushed off as a mere nuisance, had now grown into something that had the potential to morph into a full-blown hate campaign, backed by our government and our taxes. Suddenly, my previous comparison to the Stasi doorman above seems almost reasonable. For example, this is a poster on the side of the road that I encountered in Hollywood on my way back from band rehearsal recently:


This, having been the second time that I have come across such an advert (the last one encompassed the entire wall of a building), has me thinking that it can’t be long until hate crimes against smokers follow. Now the anti-smokers think that it’s ok to literally berate smokers in public, unchallenged.

So, are people still smoking in Southern California?

The irony is that I have never seen so many smoke shops open in such close proximity to one another as I have witnessed in the last couple of years. This would seem to imply that, despite anti-smoking statistics, people are now smoking MORE, not less. The real irony here, of course, is that the more anti-smokers push on with increased draconian legislation, the more that people seem to want to smoke. Ah, but what would I know…I’m only someone who actually lives in the city.

Is there really “public support” for such extreme measures, such as outdoor bans and smoke-free housing?

If you read the press release of any grant-seeking anti-smoking “non-profit”, one would be greeted with a resolute “yes”; However, if one were to ask the opinions of people who live in the real world, the answer would emphatically be “no”. A few months back, I decided to embark upon my own little survey (to see if my suspicions had merit) when I walked all around several neighborhoods in Los Angeles with fliers about the proposed outdoor smoking ban (which passed) in L.A.. What I encountered shocked me: about 90% of the people that I approached thought that the anti-smoking movement had gone too far, many of whom were angry with the new proposed restrictions; and when I say angry, I mean angry; I even got yelled at by some people who thought that I was an anti-smoker, and one guy even grabbed the flier out of my hand and said “give me that, I’ll make copies and make sure that all of my friends know about this” (this was in hipster Silverlake, btw). I even encountered a couple of anti-smokers (that owned upscale businesses) who themselves thought that an outdoor ban was going too far, “Well, I certainly don’t have anything against smokers…or businesses that choose to cater to smokers…” was a response that I got from a few people whom I would have deemed to be “pompous” in nature and societal stature; much to my surprise, they were quite reasonable folks without the slightest hint of pomposity about them; which is not to say that those types don’t exist here in California, what has become quite obvious to me though, is that they comprise a very small minority that seems to be mostly confined to grant-seekers, politicians in ivory towers, insecure control freaks, and hypochondriacs.

There is hope for peace…

Alas, there is hope: most people in California are decent people who have no desire to bully smokers, or anyone for that matter. I know this because I actually got out of my house and off of my couch and talked to some of them.

California is a beautiful place with many problems, which include a soaring deficit, one of the highest un-employment rates in the country outside of Detroit, an un-affordable housing market, and an infrastructure that is crumbling. Still, there are many things that I love about California, like its coast, its mountains, its deserts (a soulful place of inspiration for me), its creative people in the film and music world, its diversity, etc... It has however, become a very stressful place to live if you are just a person or a business owner just trying to go along making their way in life. We’ll see what happens in November here. Maybe there will be some real change at the ballot box, maybe there won’t. If you decide to come to California for a visit and you’re a smoker, just know the places to avoid and plan accordingly. Also know that it is not personal, as most of us here are quite reasonable and tolerant of others’ lifestyle choices, it’s just that we’re currently ruled by fanatics. Look at the bright side though, there’s a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana that voters are going to vote on this November and that can only be good for the rest of us smokers, as we’re all going to have to band together to find/demand a place to smoke; and if the ballot measure fails this time around, maybe we’ll see a new coalition formed that represents freedom of choice for all

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Radio 2 Interview

Yesterday John from Freedom2Choose kindly offered me the chance to appear on Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 show to discuss two Bournemouth hospitals overturning their smokefree policies and erecting smoking shelters. For the full story, read here.

For my short stint on the show, you can listen here from about 1 hour 30 mins into the show

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Didn't people die for freedom?

The anti-smoking brigade is developing frightening speed lately, winning legislation after legislation to ostracise, demonise, denormalise and alienate smokers. Note that's "smokers", not "smoking". They work from the premise of being anti-smoking, but it's nothing more than a ploy, similar to their cries that it's all for public health. Anti-smoking wouldn't mean banning tobacco products from being in possession, that resides solely under the anti-smoker banner.

Hot on the trails of the news that Vancouver has banned smoking on all its many acres of beaches and parks comes the news that it is now illegal to have tobacco products on state owned outdoor properties in Orange County, Florida. This includes parks and pavements and, bewilderingly, the legislation includes a limit for state employees that they can smoke only four cigars a year. In their own time. On their own property. Otherwise their salary loses $650.

Pretty baffling isn't it? That means if you attend 5 weddings in a year, you need to prioritise which ones you can smoke a cigar at. If after the fourth one you feel a bit stressed later in the year, tough. I'm not sure if this is per ever 365 days, or calendar year, but it doesn't make any difference.

Is there any justification for this, anywhere? Because if there is, I'm damned if I can see it. The state has no right to dictate what people can do in their own time or on their property so long so long as it remains within the confines of the law. It strikes me as worrying that America allows its citizens to own guns and shoot trespassers on their property, but certain grown adults can't smoke a legally purchased and taxed cigar. The next step will be "we won't emply you unless you eat salad for lunch and run 6 marathons a year".

Hearing this story instantly reminded me of this:

If you have time, here's an episode that pretty much perfectly sums up the hypocrisy and bullshit of the anti-smoking movement

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Toddler Goes to Rehab to Break 40-a-day Habit

Some of you may remember this two-year-old with his 40-a-day habit.

True to form, the health puritans, having a misguided view of themselves as some sort of cavalier muskateers, here to rid the world of health threats - perceived or real - had to get involved for him to stop the habit.

Actually I don't think it's really such a bad thing, having a two-year-old weighing in at 4stone (or 56lbs for you Americans reading this) and smoking two packs a day is a pretty big red flag for lack of parental control or concern, or both. How serious the health risks are of his habit, I don't know; after all, the Semai children start smoking at two and it was found, of 12,000 adults studied, none had lung cancer.

Well the puritans got involved, predictably (what better way to strengthen their mantra of 'for the chiiiildren'?), and the kid went to rehab for a month. Oh, and it was all filmed...

They then showed him the next day as he rolled around on the floor screaming and crying as he threw a fit at being refused a cigarette.

I can understand why they'd want a toddler to stop smoking, but doesn't this reside under psychological abuse? I'm a little confused why they couldn't wean him off instead of cold turkey. The e-cig would have been perfect, but no prizes for spotting that wasn't used. Instead, he underwent "play therapy" to take his mind off smoking. I'll repeat that: play. Therapy. I'm beginning to wonder if that psychologist's degree was bought on eBay. I have no doubt he enjoyed playing with toys, and they probably helped distract him, but this is known as a diversion tool, not therapy.

THe report can be read in the Daily Mail.

This probably isn't the end of this saga, as we're also told

'This year, we found that there are baby smokers, who start from a year old,' admitted Aris Merdeka Sirait, CEO of the National Committee of Child Protection in Indonesia, stating that more than than 30 percent of children there smoke a cigarette before the age of 10.

As shown from the link above, this isn't a new trend at all, but as usual these 'protection' groups either relish dwelling in ignorance, or love a good scare story:

'Unhealthy children will be the future generation of our country. It is genocide.'

How's that for a moral panic?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Be Afraid, be Very Afraid. Vancouver Takes Things to the Next Level

Vancouver isn't the first to pass outdoor smoking bans. Nova Scotia has one, Halifax has one, and parts of California have them - although some of those have ditched all pretence and openly admitted 'hey, we just don't wanna see smokers, ok?' How they get away with that I don't know. Actually I do, it's because it's against smokers, not protected minorities. So everyone reading this, if you want to make a quick buck, influence politics and get your name in the news without any fear of repurcussions, jump on the anti-smoking bandwagon. Everyone else, well done, you still have your integrity.

Outdoor bans are slowly creeping through. Calgary has a bylaw that states smoking by doorways isn't allowed. I'm not actually too against that, provided the distance you have to be isn't stupid. It can be intimidating to walk through a crowd of people, and, fair enough, the smoke can be irritating to some. But let's not get the cart before the horse on this - if smokers hadn't been kicked out in the first place, they wouldn't be crowding doorways. It's nonsensical to all of a sudden proclaim 'well now we can't get to the door without breathing toxic smoke!' because if you'd been a little tolerant and sensible in the first place, smokers would peacefully enjoy their tobacco in a separate room, or a ventilated communal room, indoors. So excuse them while they brave the weather huddled together in the only place there's shelter - the overhang above the door. OK? OK. So while I can understand the argument against smokers gathering in doorways, I'm not at all in favour of 'shunting them further down that way'. No, treat them like human beings, put a roof over their head while they enjoy their legal product that they bought and paid for, and we'll all be happy. In the UK, the tax from tobacco provides about a quarter of the health services, so no one can afford to lose sight of the true cost of penalising smokers to such an extent.

What's this post about? The Vancourier has released an article explaining how nauseatingly low the anti-smoking campaign has got there:

It's official. Vancouver is a no-smoking zone. Butt them out on your shoe and fall in line.

A new bylaw takes effect today--in every Vancouver park (all 224 of them) and beach (except for Wreck) and along the entire seawall, smoking is prohibited. Anyone caught smoking will be fined up to $2,000.

Pretty sweeping huh? The anti-smoking lobby must have worked really hard to pull that one off. Actually, no. What makes this story even worse is the staggering fact that a handful of people have this sort of power:
This new bylaw, which outlaws a legal activity in a city of 570,000, was crafted and enacted solely by the seven-member park board--an entity few Vancouverites know anything about.

Wow. Seven people, controlling 570,000. As most Vancouverites don't know the board even exists, presumably they're an unelected body, so what right do they actually have to pull this off? Probably none. As for the reasoning behind this insanity (brace yourself):
According to [park board commissioner, Aaron] Jasper, the park board heard from "health care professionals" who claim secondhand smoke--even on a breezy beach--represents a health hazard. He noted the "environmental impact" of cigarette butts, and most bizarrely, went all Smokey the Bear on us. "Forest fires," said Jasper, "are a grave concern."

Forest fires? In Vancouver? Have there been any forest fires in Vancouver lately? Like since 1886?

"Well, this year there has been nothing I've been made aware of."

Got that? Picked yourself up from the floor?
Secondhand smoke, which poses no threat indoors, is now a health concern now only outdoors, but along the coast with a strong sea breeze that barely lets you keep your hair and clothes. The serial killer of smoke can easily withstand such a gust of air though, and still find victims. I'd love to know who these "health care professionals" are that he's been talking to.
Environmental issues of cigarette butts? Um, Jasper? There's these things called bins, and people, well, put things in them that they are done using. And most of them have these other things called ashtrays on the top of them, used for, well, putting cigarettes in. These 'bins' and 'ashtrays' actually stop the cigarette butts winding up on the floor and thus remove the 'environmental issue' of discarded butts. Now you're up to speed, can you review this policy?
Forest fires in Vancouver... I'm not even going to bother touching that one.

The bylaw gets worse, by the way (not that you expected anything less, no doubt):

Penalties not only apply to smokers but smoking accomplices. For example, if you light a cigarette for your 83-year-old grandfather who stormed the beach at Normandy but now resides in a wheelchair with limited use of his trembling hands, you can be fined up to $2,000.

And if, despite permission from the driver, you light up inside a taxi that happens to be on park board land, you're subject to punishment. Up to $2,000 worth.

This is actually quite tragic. Many members of the elderly generation enjoy nothing more than sitting on the coast, and many enjoy their pipes, cigars or cigarettes too. But they can't do this, they have to remove themselves from the beach, smoke somewhere else, then totter back. This is inconvenient for everyone, but when we're talking about a demographic of people which has a large number of wheelchair users or people generally unsteady on their feet, it's disgraceful. They're probably wondering what liberties they actually fought for back in the day. But, they're also the one generation in society you can depend on to not give a damn and continue regardless, and thank God someone is doing that, because the 'rebellious youths' are nowhere to be seen.

But of course, this is done for our own good:

"This isn't about punishing people, it's about educating people," said Jasper. "Your personal habits are your personal habits and as long as they're not infringing on the peace and enjoyment of others and the health of others, continue whatever you're doing. It's not my place to tell people what they should do."

It never ceases to amaze me, truly. Smokers can't infringe on the rights of others, yet, as a legal product, smokers do have the right to smoke tobacco, so these rules and bylaws are affecting their own rights and freedoms. And as we all know, smoking on the beach or park isn't affecting the health of anyone else, much less their enjoyment - and peace, peace?! I have no idea what he even means. The only way smoking disturbs the peace is when one of those omnipresent self-righteous fuckwits creates a scene by taking it upon themselves to cleanse the population, leaving it devoid of smokers. Smokers are pretty content and quiet when they're puffing. Tobacco has that effect, you see.

"Our job is to make sure that everyone can have enjoyment of our parks and public spaces."

Except smokers.

If this was a TV drama, I'd be enthralled, anxiously waiting for next week's installment to find out what unbelievable plan will be unveiled next. But somehow, unbelievably, this is real. We can't decide whether burkhas should be allowed in schools because we don't want to offend anyone, but there's not even a second thought to treating smokers like second-rate citizens. It's like selling kids ice-cream and saying 'oh, but you can't consume it. No, it'll kill you. Use it as an ornament, or go way out into the woods where no one can see you'.

I might just go live in the mountains.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Youths Want Landlords to Decide Smoking Status

According to a survey by Freedom 2 Choose, teengers think landlords should have the choice of whether an establishment permits smoking or not. The Morning Advertiser reports:

Members and supporters surveyed 1,312 under-25s in five different areas of England and found 99.7% think pubs and clubs should have the choice about whether people can smoke inside.

And 98.4% think pubs and clubs should be allowed separate smoking rooms.

Just 1.8% said the smoking ban deterred them from smoking, although 85% said it had affected their social habits.

Meanwhile, 85.2% agreed that second hand smoke does not pose a health threat.

What's most interesting about this is that it's young people, i.e. the generation brought up hearing the scare stories of smoking and passive smoking, the generation that has been PC'd, the generation that has always been accustomed to anti-smoking reports and legislation. So despite a lifetime of anti-smoking propaganda, the vast majority believe passive smoking doesn't pose a threat to health and believe smokers should be allowed to enjoy their legal habit under a roof. Perhaps all is not lost.

This begs the question that if the public is not in favour of a ban, why do we, a supposedly democratic society, have one? How can we, in this age of technological advance and proposed tolerance to others, not allow separate smoking rooms or proven ventilation to combat the annoyance of smoke?

Older generations were never in favour of the ban, either. In fact, they were predominantly the ones smoking in venues like pubs or bingo halls, had grown up in smoky environments and smoked most of their lives. I'd bet any money that a similar poll of adults and the elderly would find similar results, because people are generally tolerant and smart enough to realise that they're not going to get struck down with cancer by a night in a smoky pub. Not until we're given a single name of a person who died from secondhand smoke exposure.

The public have spoken. We don't want a draconian ban, and we don't want our liberties removed.

Finally Recognised: Smoking Ban Main Cause of Pub Closures

This isn't news to most people, we knew before July 2007 that the ban would have a negative effect on trade. How did we know this? Because we, paying, smoking customers, said we'd stop going places we weren't welcome. We didn't need a degree in economics to be aware of the fact that if paying customers stop turning up and spending money, the profits of the establishment will dwindle.

Oddly, a lot of other people seemed to think less paying customers would have no effect on profits or trade. Naturally, Stanton Glantz and his band of merry men knocked up a report or two claiming to prove that smoking bans had a positive effect on trade, but it's pretty much a given these days that if Glantz says something, the opposite is true (bear that in mind for future reports). Never trust anyone who resorts to science by press release, because you can be sure the actual facts will be the opposite - otherwise they wouldn't need to rely on press releases in the first place.

We were told that the recession was responsible for pub closures, bingo hall closures and basically all closures within the hospitality trade. I've never had trouble agreeing that the recession had some effect on it, however I was also always aware that pub closures had a very obvious pattern after any smoking ban around the world. We have the benefit of bans being enacted at different times around the world, Wales enforced theirs before England, parts of America had it before that. What we could always see, no matter what country and what year, was an immediate and predictable effect on trade.

Yesterdays Morning Advertiser acknowledged that we were right:
CGA data has been manipulated by CR Consulting to reveal a striking correlation in the rate of closures in England, Scotland and Wales following the smoking bans in each country.

Previously, the different start times of the ban have obscured the similarity of the decline across Britain, causing commentators to look to other reasons for pubs closing.

Now, the report says “the smoking ban is demonstrably the most significant cause of pub closures”.

“While there is significant variation in the trajectories of the pub estates before the ban there is an almost total correlation between the three GB lines after the ban. This indicates that they are affected by a strong common factor ­— the smoking ban.

“The correlation is in fact so close that the trend line for the three countries is identical.”


“With smokers being moved outside, the price premium [in pubs] can no longer be justified [by drinkers] so more people drink at home,” it maintains.

“This has a cumulative effect — as fewer people use the pub it becomes less of a social draw.”

Vindication sure is sweet. It's pretty disgraceful that this needs to be printed in the news before people believe it, but as they say, common sense isn't all that common

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Big Pharma exposed

This is the industry we're all up against. Not just smokers and people who are somehow compelled to take 'diet' drugs, but every one of us is facing a huge industry that is constantly trying to convince us we're ill; an industry that makes drugs and then defines a new 'illness' to sell those drugs, that spends three times as much money on marketing as it does on research, that has doctors and health organisations in its pockets. The pharmaceutical industry is so powerful it has been granted immunity, so if someone suffers severe reactions or dies as a result of a drug, no action can be taken against the industry. Drugs can be created and fast-tracked through testing, meaning you, your family and perhaps most importantly, babies and children, are being injected or pill-fed drugs that are potentially lethal and a lot of the time have no positive effect anyway. None of us should allow ourselves to be human guinea-pigs.

Check out some of the other videos in the side-bar, too.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Secondhand Smoke, Firsthand Lies

Secondhand Smoke has reared its ugly head again. We were so caught up with display bans, plain packaging, thirdhand smoke, outdoor bans, apartment bans, potential private housing bans, airbrushing smoking out of photos and banning it from films that secondhand smoke all but disappeared.

It's actually a pretty brave comeback, seeing as a lot of people never bought it in the first place and a lot of others have gradually realised it's a lie, too. But, two days ago, Science Daily reported this:

being exposed to even low-levels of cigarette smoke may put people at risk for future lung disease, such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Ok, former Surgeon General Carmona was spouting this rubbish, in direct contradiction of his report, back in 2006, so it's nothing new. It goes on:

Epidemiological studies have long shown that secondhand smoke is dangerous

No, they haven't. The famed 1992 EPA report contained 11 studies, none of which individually showed a risk. The only way they purported any risk was by lowering the Confidence Interval to 90% and cherry-picking data, and even then the 'risk' emerged so low that it wouldn't be accepted in any other area of science. The large study undertaken by the WHO found no statistically significant risk, the only statistical significance was that passive smoke offered a 22% decrease in a child's chance of getting lung cancer as an adult - a protective effect. The largest passive smoking study, by Enstrom and Kabat, also found no risk. President of the prestigious Research Institute Necker, retired world-renowned pulmonolgist Professor Philippe Even has spoken of the lack of risk from secondhand smoke:

There are about a hundred studies on the issue. First surprise: 40% of them claim a total absence of harmful effects of passive smoking on health. The remaining 60% estimate that the cancer risk is multiplied by 0.02 for the most optimistic and by 0.15 for the more pessimistic … compared to a risk multiplied by 10 or 20 for active smoking! It is therefore negligible. Clearly, the harm is either nonexistent, or it is extremely low.

Interviewer: It is an indisputable scientific fact. Anti-tobacco associations report 3 000-6 000 deaths per year in France ...

Even: I am curious to know their sources. No study has ever produced such a result.

Interviewer: Many experts argue that passive smoking is also responsible for cardiovascular disease and other asthma attacks. Not you?

Even: They don’t base it on any solid scientific evidence. Take the case of cardiovascular diseases: the four main causes are obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. To determine whether passive smoking is an aggravating factor, there should be a study on people who have none of these four symptoms. But this was never done. Regarding chronic bronchitis, although the role of active smoking is undeniable, that of passive smoking is yet to be proven. For asthma, it is indeed a contributing factor ... but not greater than pollen!

A pretty different picture to what we're led to believe, then. But why wait until retirement to tell the public this information?

As a civil servant, dean of the largest medical faculty in France, I was held to confidentiality. If I had deviated from official positions, I would have had to pay the consequences. Today, I am a free man.

Not sure what he means? Ask Dr Enstrom, one of the remaining scientists who lets his research speak for itself rather than speaking from a political idology or agenda. His bravery to remain a true scientist has cost him his professional position (more here and here)

Back to Science Daily:

but there have never been conclusive biological tests demonstrating what it does to the body at a gene function level, until now.

"Even at the lowest detectable levels of exposure, we found direct effects on the functioning of genes within the cells lining the airways," says Dr. Ronald Crystal, senior author of the study

She's right, there haven't been conclusive biological tests demonstrating what it does to the body. Actually, it's still not known what 80 a day does to your body, and it's also the case that light smokers, of about <5 a day, have no elevated lung cancer risk over non-smokers. That won't stop this laughable research though:
"The genetic effect is much lower than those who are regular smokers, but this does not mean that there are no health consequences," says Dr. Crystal. "Certain genes within the cells lining the airways are very sensitive to tobacco smoke, and changes in the function of these genes are the first evidence of 'biological disease' in the lungs or individuals."

Sounds good, right? Not really. We experience gene mutations and changes in functions every single day, simply through being alive. Our cells die and get replaced and our body heals itself of all manner of damage. Simply noticing that the lungs are part of this process is not damning news. It's akin to saying that when you eat, your digestive system changes and therefore eating is bad for you. when we eat, our whole body changes; blood is directed to the stomach and our body works hard to process what we eat - it's not inconceivable for someone to turn around and say 'hey, the body is working really hard to get that stuff out, because it shouldn't be there!' See where I'm going with this?

There's probably not much point in me including the following excerpt as it's now so routine in study reports that we'd be more surprised to not see it, but just in case you're wondering why this so-called researcher is spouting such propoagandist manure:

Dr. Crystal says that this is further evidence supporting the banning of smoking in public places, where non-smokers, and employees of businesses that allow smoking, are put at risk for future lung disease.

I think the gaping flaw is that if a wisp of smoke is maliciously altering lung function, how can we smoke 40, 60 a day and survive to be elderly? Even CRUK acknowledge that the average age of cancer in a smoker is 65 - the same age as it is for non-smokers.

As for the specifics of this "study", check this out:

Crystal and colleagues took urine samples from 121 participants to see how much exposure people had to cigarette smoke, measuring nicotine and its breakdown products. This allowed them to classify participants as active smokers, nonsmokers, and people with low-level exposure.

Like it isn't bad enough trusting a doctor with a stripper's name, we now see a sample so small most other studies and sciences wouldn't even permit it, and categorised people based on nicotine in the urine. Let's hope they didn't have potatoes, aubergine or tomatoes for lunch. CNN reported on it, too, saying:

Crystal speculates that the effects of secondhand smoke may be reversible if a person cuts off exposure to smoke entirely.

Of course she did. I think someone needs to tell her what secondhand smoke actually is

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Children Encouraged to Assault and Steal from Smokers

It's not a headline I was expecting to write, but that's the startling news now. The perpetrators don't consider it assault and theft, they consider it some sort of moral crusade that can only be good, but make no mistake about it: a group of people swarming a person and taking their legal, paid-for cigarette out of their hand or mouth is assault and theft. Here's the low-down:

"The final idea was to go out and literally ambush smokers and take their cigarettes off them. The adverts don't works so we are going to make you stop smoking."

Firstly, "literally ambush" is illegal and constitutes a premidated attack.
Secondly, take their cigarettes off them. The cigarettes they legally purchased in a premise that is legally allowed to sell them. If they rushed up and stole your watch, or even a bottle of water, it wouldn't be accepted.
Finally, the adverts don't work? Sure they do, many people believe them, others realise they're bullshit. But it sure as hell isn't anyone's place to make anyone else stop doing what they want, especially when what they're doing is legal.

The group in question is children of CHundred of Hoo Comprehensive School in Medway. They call themselves the Ciggy Busters and even film themselves in the act of assault and theft - happy slapping is punishable, but this apparently is condoned.

The teacher responsible for this, Margherita Gramegna, said:
I was scared about doing something so crazy on the street - I mean you can get arrested.

But we researched it properly and planned it in a way that we covered all the possibilities.

We didn’t start directly with the general public because we were scared of their reaction, so we planted some people to demonstrate with first.

She also said that

I knew we could not really go and film in public and attack people in that way and take goods off of them, so we devised a cunning plan.

We planted some people and we started with them. People were watching and following us and at the end we tried with some other people.

Huh. She acknowledges it was an attack, that it was illegal and that she was scared of public reaction, so they just utilised tactics to convince themselves they were in the clear. Wrong. Encouraging students to behave in a manner is not only immoral and unjustifable but utterly against the law, too. So what did the law have to say about it? Nothing. The police were actually told before the event took place that it would be happening, and rather than turn up to arrest the infantile, intolerant little dipshits, they turned a blind eye. It'd be interesting to see if they do the same should they be informed a gang is running around stealing other purchased goods from the general public.

One of the most worrying things of this story though is the neglect from the teacher. She has willingly put her students into a potentially dangerous situation - there are plenty of people on the streets who won't take kindly to being assaulted and having their tobacco wrenched from their person, and will think nothing of fighting back. Where is the teacher responsibility (and that of the law)? She should be the first to say it's dangerous and not acceptable behaviour - no doubt she wouldn't condone them stealing alcohol from patrons leaving the supermarket (how could she, with a name like Margherita?).

The possible side-effects of such a stupid attack could be enormous. Aside from the students being assaulted back, what would happen should one of the smoking victims become injured as a result, or even worse, if one suffered a heart attack from the shock of what's going on? It's shocking this is condoned on any level, and the police should be arrested for not upholding the law (most other people get sacked for not doing their job, why are the police exempt from that?).

Should you think I'm overreacting with the word 'assault' or mentions of possible heart attacks or injury, take a look at the video of the kids in action. Click the video to watch it in Youtube and read a handful of the comments to see that the teacher really did put her students in a potentially hugely dangerous situation.

Arm Yourself With Facts

Not a day goes by that doesn't see more garbage spewed by anti-smokers, in the vain effort of further demonsising smoking, the tobacco industry and smokers themselves. This is a couple of years old but is showing its head again Straight away we know it's a crock, because the "spotlight" on FCTC is in support of it, rather than exposing the horrendous implications it carries. It's full of factual errors, which I have rebutted point by point and which should be passed around as much as possible so people can do what the blog title says.

1. Its products kill. Tobacco is the only consumer
product that kills one half of its regular users
when used as recommended by the manufacturers.
More people die from tobacco related
conditions per year than tuberculosis, hepatitis
and HIV4 combined.

"smoking-related disease" is intentionally fickle. There is not one single illness that smokers get that non-smokers don't; in fact, rates of "smoking related" illness is rising faster in non-smokers than smokers, most probably due to the fact that we have less smokers these days, showing that the illness is not smoker-specific but because the percentage of smokers was higher it produced an illusion. Therefore, the claim that 50% die from tobacco is fraudulent - while 50% may die from cancer, emphysema, heart disease etc, this figure isn't much different than the non-smoking population. With life expectancy at an all-time high, cancer and other diseases come with the territory. Plus, the countries with the highest rates of smokers, like Japan and Greece, have lower rates of heart disease and lung cancer than countries with the lowest rates of smoking, like the USA. Seeing a smoker with lung cancer does not mean smoking caused lung cancer, the cause could be the same as it would be in a non-smoker. As Lord Nimmo said, the fact non-smokers also get the disease means we cannot say with certainty that had the smoker abstained from the habit he would not have suffered it anyway. Finally, plenty of products kill people when used as intended, if a tyre blows out on a motorway then the risks of a high-speed crash, and fatality, is high. And let's not forget guns, a product whose design is specifically to kill. Not only is the 50% figure bogus, but the claim that tobacco is the ONLY product to kill a high percentage is outrageous, especially taking weaponry into consideration. The CRUK site has figures explaining that 0.03% of smokers get lung cancer a year - a number far lower than anyone would imagine given the anti-smoking hyperbole. Even Richard Doll noted that smokers have a 99.9% chance of NOT getting lung cancer (annual risk).

2. If tobacco products were developed today they
would not be allowed on the market. The tobacco
industry developed at a time when there
was little understanding of the detrimental
health effects from smoking so that until the
1960s, it had little oversight from regulators.

Possibly, but it's difficult to say. To this day, no animal study has ever managed to induce lung cancer in an animal using tobacco (excluding tobacco condensate on bald mice to induce skin cancer; any irritant can cause skin cancer however). Furthermore, smoke-exposed animals typically outlive the non-smoking animals AND suffer less cancer, which means if tobacco were developed today it would very likely be marketed as safe, just as other animal-tested products are. In the field of epidemiology though, the average age of a smoker developing lung cancer is 65 (the same age as it is for non-smokers, incidentally). If the average smoker starts at 18, it takes almost 50 years for cancer to become apparent. So if tobacco were introduced today and subjected to epidemiology, given the very long length of time it takes to notice any disease the study would probably not last that long, and tobacco would probably be passed as safe. Even if the study went on for 50 or 60 years, it may well note that given smokers get lung cancer at the same age as non-smokers, and there is no immediate risk from the activity, tobacco would probably not be banned. We consume and use things everyday that we know may pose a threat to us, so there is no reason to think that tobacco would be an exception.

3. The industry cannot be relied upon to
regulate itself. As early as the 1960s tobacco
industry sponsored research showed that
nicotine was addictive. This information was
never willingly disclosed by the industry. The
tobacco industry also uses tactics in the developing
world that are outlawed in other areas5
such as promotions to children6 and young
people smoking, advertising that glamorises
smoking. The tobacco industry also exploits
farmers to such an extent that they struggle to

Nicotine is actually a habit, not addiction. ASH have recently admitted this ( It is also verifiable by noting that NRT has a failure rate of over 98% - if nicotine was the sole reason for smoking then smokers would happily turn to NRT. In any case, nicotine being addictive is a moot-point - alcohol can be addictive, as can caffeine and many prescription drugs. The tobacco industry tried to develop a safer cigarette in the 1960s but was squandered by the anti-smoking movement - even when the industry DOES try to regulate itself, it is hindered. Nicotine occurs naturally in the tobacco plant and any additives the industry uses are approved safe for consumption and are found in our food, drink and air.
Tobacco accounts for huge profits and generated income for developing countries. How it affects individual farmers is a separate point, but it must be remembered that banning their prime crop is going to cripple them financially far more than the tobacco industry. Criminalising tobacco is not the answer, but instead the respective governments should implement legal protection such as minimum wage. Any business can treat its workers badly, this is the reason sweatshops in developing countries are so popular for such brands as Nike and Adidas. While their actions are not condoned, there is no purpose in singling out the tobacco industry - they abide by the little laws in the country. The tobacco industry also employs thousands upon thousands of people around the world.

5. The industry has actively fought against
regulation. The tobacco industry tried to block
the development of the FCTC and weaken its
content and has attempted to discredit the
WHO. An independent enquiry into the tobacco
industry’s attempts to undermine the WHO
concluded that “the attempted subversion has
been elaborate, well financed, sophisticated, and
usually invisible8”.

Of course it has, what business would not try to halt a movement trying to put it out of business? The WHO are openly anti-smoking, with posters showing they want the whole world to be smoke-free. If you ran a business, would you not stop someone destroying it? The WHO have no objectivity with tobacco, either; their study into passive smoking, the world's largest ever carried out, found no statistical significance for non-smokers exposed to smoke, and even found a 22% decreased risk of lung cancer for babies exposed to smoke. The results were duly hidden. They should be discredited, and the tobacco industry wasn't the only one to do it: the British media was very vocal when it got hold of the study results.
The FCTC is a hateful and wasteful organisation, attempting to outlaw smoking around the globe and put a government monopoly on nicotine delivery. The FCTC costs vast sums of money to be a part of and removes government choice in deciding what laws and regulations to place on tobacco. As an initiative, it is intolerant and hateful, with a sole purpose of destroying the tobacco industry.

6. The tobacco industry has either suppressed
research or aimed to create ‘controversy’
around the harmful effects of smoking. Despite
strong scientific evidence demonstrating
the negative health effects from smoking
tobacco, the tobacco industry has
consistently sought to discredit it and funded
confounding studies. This was especially the
case of second hand smoking. Gilmore and
McKee9 show how the industry systematically
tried to undermine a crucial Environmental Tobacco
Smoke study conducted by International
Agency for Research on Cancer.

The studies - and internal documents - of the tobacco industry are freely available on the internet. The prime reason the industry refuted third-party studies was simple: they were bogus. A good example is the famous smoking beagles study, with its methodology having 80 something smoking dogs and only 7 non-smoking dogs, allowing them to make the (unsurprising) discovery that the smoking group had higher rates of illness. Epidemiology cannot 'prove' cause and effect, and that is the only research on smoking and illness for humans. Moreover, as said earlier, it has been consistently shown that countries with high rates of smoking have less rates of lung cancer than countries with low rates of smoking. The industry had good reason to discredit the studies.
With regards to secondhand smoke, the IARC study in question is the aforementioned WHO study, finding no statistically significant link, meaning no reason for a smoking ban. The WHO radically twisted these results, but they are available for all to see on the internet should anyone doubt this. The other large study, by Enstrom & Kabat, was initially funded by the American Cancer Society and anti-smoking groups. The primary data came back showing no risk of SHS and these groups, with their clear agenda, pulled funding. It is no secret they only support studies that are guaranteed to provide the 'right' results. Their tactics are worse than those of the tobacco industry and their claims of discrediting studies is wholly hypocritical.

6. The interests of the tobacco industry, selling
more tobacco, are in direct conflict with the
goals of public health. In order to continue
generating high profits the tobacco industry
needs to replace the smokers who have either
died or quit. The industry argues that it does
not directly target its advertising at young people.
However a major study found ‘a positive,
consistent and specific relationship’ between
exposure to tobacco advertising and later takeup
of smoking among teenagers10.

Tobacco advertising is banned. Most smokers start as teenagers because that is when it is legal to do so, just as most people begin to drink when it is legal to do so. The goals of public health are not to encourage people to be more healthy, but to conduct phony studies to fulfil political ambition. The tobacco industry does indeed need people to smoke, or it will have no profits. However, their advertising is banned so there can be no claims made against it. People smoke because they want to.

7. Corporate irresponsibility: WHO has stated
that corporate social responsibility and tobacco
companies are an “inherent contradiction’. The
tobacco industry’s own documents show that
most of its youth smoking prevention campaigns
are designed to promote the industry’s
political and marketing aims rather than to
reduce smoking. Their campaigns mostly focus
on underage smoking, stressing that smoking is
an adult activity rather than an unhealthy one.

It would make little sense for any company selling a product to try to reduce the number of said product being sold. There is no factual error in what the tobacco industry says: smoking is an adult activity. A quick look at the Philip Morris website clearly shows abundant health warnings, too, but in this day and age no one is ignorant to the potential risks from smoking. What is more remarkable is that the tobacco industry does this at all, as other industries do not promote such self-harming warnings - for instance, Coca Cola does not mention the aspartame in its diet drinks can cause a variety of health problems.

8. Negative to society: The World Bank argues that,
on economic grounds alone, tobacco should be
controlled, and estimates that when all costs of
tobacco around the world are subtracted from all
the benefits, the net result is a global economic
loss of US $200 billion each year.

They 'estimate' that because the real figure could never be in agreement. In Britain alone, smokers pay between £8 billion and £12 billion tax, and "smoking-related diseases" costs about £1.5 billion. Smokers therefore pay an extra £6.5 bn - £10.5 billion. Taking into account that this is a similar trend in other countries, each country has a lot of profit. Then factor in the amount of jobs the industry offers and it is clear that tobacco is very good for the economy.

It's Time to Leave the FCTC

Last week I came across this terrible, frightening article

I sent the following email to both authors explaining their errors and ignorance and thought some of you would like to read it and pass it on. No reply as of yet (I don't expect that to change either)

Dear Ms’ Gartner and McNeill,

I have just come across the paper “Options for global tobacco control beyond the Framework Convention in Tobacco Control” and have some comments, if I may.

Firstly, you state “Retail display bans and mandatory plain packaging of tobacco products are simple extensions of advertising bans. It is accepted widely that cigarette packs provide brand imagery, convey promotional messages, are displayed to maximize imagery and positioned at eye level in the most visible position in shops [1,2]. Restricting packaging and placement are accepted by the public for other products, such as ‘prescription only’ medications [3].”

Whilst this is true, the paper fails to note that prescription only medicines are visible at eye-level and in brightly coloured packages. Tobacco products are banned from advertising, so a display ban is not necessary. The simple fact is that tobacco is never not behind a counter, meaning children do not have access to it unless the shop proprietor is willing to break the law (in which case, a display ban is useless). Products being at eye-level is no conspiracy, it is simply so consumers are able to see what is available. Moreover, plain packaging and display bans will encourage criminal gangs. Tobacco smuggling is big business now and with plain packages it will be incredibly difficult to tell the difference between legitimate and illegal. There is also the risk that illicit tobacco contains unregulated ingredients that could cause any level of harm to the user. There is also proof that display bans increase youth smoking rates – see this link

Secondly, the paper says that “Many jurisdictions ban distracting activities while driving, such as using a mobile phone. Smoking while driving has been linked to traffic collisions [4], and a good case can be made that lighting a cigarette, smoking it and disposing of it are unnecessary distractions that increase risk [5] and expose other car occupants to high levels of second-hand smoke [6].”

Indeed, using a mobile phone has been banned, but only using a handset – it is not illegal to use a hands-free kit, with the premise being that both hands are free. Smoking permits both hands to be free to drive, as the smoker can place the cigarette in their mouth or the ashtray. Lighting and disposing require less time than initiating a phone call via a hands free kit, using satellite navigation equipment or changing the radio station – all of which are legal. It is also legal to eat and drink while driving, despite the fact both activities are far more distracting than smoking. If the driver unscrews a bottle lid and drops it, it will be a huge distraction as they will wonder what to do with the open vessel. Similarly, if they take a bite from a sandwich and spill the ingredients over themselves, they will be distracted. The paper also overlooks the very real psychological effects of not smoking. By that I mean that if a smoker has a long drive, the stress of not smoking will be a far greater distraction than the act of smoking itself. Psychological distractions will cause decreased awareness, while craving a cigarette can also trigger decreased awareness, as well as mild anxiety and stress, which could prompt the driver to drive less sensibly in order to get to the destination quicker or find somewhere to stop.
The other simple fact is that a car is one’s private possession, like a home. Banning smoking inside takes government interference a step too far and removes any degree of responsibility for the owner. While second-hand smoke exposure will be higher inside a car than outside a car, it is up to the passengers to decide if they think the risk is too great for them or not. Moreover, a smoking ban in cars would be blanket, meaning that even a single person with no children who only drives alone would still be banned from smoking.

Thirdly, “Adolescents' exposure to movies containing positive smoking scenes has been found to be associated with greater likelihood of smoking initiation [7]. Research also suggests that this effect can be reduced by screening anti-smoking counter advertising prior to these movies [8]. The net effect of these measures, in addition to those in the FCTC such as tax increases, is likely to be a slow but steady downward trend in smoking prevalence.”

This is a falsehood. Smoking rates were declining year on year until the smoking ban, at which point it increased. People will not stop smoking just because they are told to, in fact it will cause the opposite effect. Furthermore, increased taxes will not lower smoking rates but will merely drive trade towards the black market, causing economic problems, a strengthened criminal activity and the introduction of unregulated tobacco products. It should also be noted that while current measures mean children can only purchase cigarettes from licensed premises, criminal gangs will have no problem in pushing their products on the streets, in clubs and outside schools. I have made that last point bold because the enormity of it cannot be overstated.

Fourth, “However, more radical approaches need to be considered to achieve a faster impact on smoking prevalence and related harm. In this category we place: harm reduction with low nitrosamine smokeless tobacco (LNSLT) and/or high dose recreational clean nicotine products [9]; improving the regulatory structure [9]; restrictions on where tobacco can be sold and the number of outlets [10]; regulated market models, i.e. moving retail sales from the open market to a government controlled monopoly [11]; and smoker-licensing schemes that require smokers to obtain a licence to purchase a restricted quantity of tobacco always accompanied by advice as to its harmfulness [12].”

Why is smoker reduction so important? It is not a case of cost, because smokers pay into society far more than their estimated health costs withdraw. In a free society people are allowed to consume legal products and engage in risky activity. There is simply no reason to hound smokers or force them to quit. In this day and age, no one is ignorant to the risks or dangers, meaning each smoker made a conscious choice to smoke, in the same way that alcohol users choose to do so despite consuming a neurotoxin and risking alcohol poisoning or disease later in life. Unlike alcohol, tobacco does not make a person violent, nor are there ‘smoke driving accidents’ like there are drink driving accidents. Alcohol suffers no display ban nor packaging rules, indeed alcohol is promoted at exceptionally low prices, and not behind a counter where children are unable to reach it.

I await your response.

Thirdhand Smoke: The Plot Thickens

Since my last blog post about thirdhand smoke and Winickoff's bogus study to further the anti-smoking ideology, I contacted the man himself with queries about his findings. I sent him the following email:
Dr Winickoff,

I read your latest ‘report’ with mixed feelings of great amusement and sadness. I fail to see exactly how you can claim that tobacco smoke travels down telephone lines and “air ducts, through cracks in the walls and floors, through elevator shafts, and along plumbing and electrical lines to affect units on other floors.”

Of course, I would be able to grasp rudimentary understanding of these claims had you provided evidence, but as you didn’t, I can’t. Referring to your own non-study on third-hand smoke is not proof of concept, especially when said non-study was utterly ridiculous anyway – sorry, but phoning people and asking if ‘third-hand smoke’ existed would it prompt them to quit smoking is not, in any level of study, demonstrative proof that third-hand smoke a) exists or b) poses a threat. The first rule of toxicology is the poison is the dose and furthermore, you admitted some time ago that third-hand smoke is mere smell.

You claim in your ‘report’ that Georg Matt and two other studies show that lingering tobacco toxins reach high levels, yet the levels are actually so low as to be barely present. Moreover, none of the three referenced studies mention tobacco smoke travelling between apartments. You must surely be aware that fabricating an argument is not science, is not persuasive, and actually means the evidence is lacking and therefore your entire premise is baseless?

It still perplexes me that decades ago upwards of 80% of American and British adult males smoked, in any area they pleased besides libraries, galleries and churches. If tobacco posed such a threat that the slightest wisp can cause disease, then living in a perpetual fog of the stuff should surely have killed off a vast percentage of the population. Instead, we saw a baby boom and generations getting stronger and living longer. While smoking rates dropped, cancer rates increased. While smoking rates dropped, asthma rates increased.

Please, can you provide justification for your continued insistence of the health threat of third-hand smoke and these notions that second-hand smoke can travel along plumbing and phone lines to pose a threat to neighbours?


This initially received no reply, so I sent a follow-up email asking for a response and received this:

Thank you for your interest and intellectual engagement. Many of the compounds exhibit a stochastic pattern of harm. Understanding this concept will help you understand the science better.

Also, there are important differences between childhood exposure and exposure for adults--related to neurophysiologic processes that occur during development.

Regret that I cannot carry on a personal dialogue with you on this but I hope these responses get you started on deeper scientific inquiry.

All the best,

The keyword here is "stochastic". What Winickoff is saying is that the harm is random. Or, in other words, the results were inconsistent to demonstrate any harm, so rather than admit defeat they said "oh, well the people who did get ill suffered as a result of thirdhand smoke". Put simply, it is a tacit admission that their study was bogus and demonstrated nothing except thirdhand smoke poses no risk.

Winickoff is no different to the other researchers in the anti-smoking field - avoiding questions and refusing to reply to specific queries, instead giving short undetailed responses that do nothing other than show he is alive. If the research demonstrated what they purport it does, no avoidance would be necessary.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Your Home is Not Safe

Most of us knew the 'discovery' of thirdhand smoke was nothing more than a new political leverage for the anti-smokers; something they could use to deny smokers fostering, adopting, teaching and smoking at home. This could never happen straight away, but in small increments. With vindication that we never wanted, this turned out to be exactly the case. In the USA especially, smokers are increasingly demonised and an increasing number of businesses refuse to employ smokers - even if they smoke outside of working hours. This is spreading to anyone using NRT, presumably in case they 'relapse' and go back to tobacco. Anyone following the F2C blog will be aware of the fuss Grampian hospitals have been kicking up to refuse anyone smoking on the grounds, including patients, with the penalty being that treatment will be refused. Completely illegal of course, but that never stopped them trying.

Michael Siegel reported earlier in the week how a new study has claimed that secondhand smoke exposure causes poor performance academically. The first point of common-sense is to simply ask if SHS causes poor academic performance, how come active smoking has positively beneficial effects on the brain and concentration, and how did we ever evolve with people smoking for our entire history?

As you might have guessed, the study was a crock of shit, as it simultaneously measured self-reported secondhand smoke exposure and self-reported academic performance. In other words, people estimated how much passive smoke exposure they had (I couldn't ever quantify that, could you?) and also stated their academic performance. Not exactly rigorous science by any stretch of the imagination. So how much did their performance suffer? "Students exposed to SHS at home 1 to 4 and 5 to 7 days per week were 14% (95% CI, 5%-25%) and 28% (15%-41%)"

So, uh, hardly at all. Averages of 14 and 28%? Come on now. No real scientist would ever genuinely consider that noteworthy, so what's the agenda here?

If exposure to SHS could impair the students’ academic performance and hence reduce their chances to succeed, then home smokers are depriving the students’ human rights to higher education stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—Right to Education (Article 26), which states 'higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.'
Tobacco control advocates, educators, and human right advocators can also make use of our evidence to negotiate an expansion of smoke-free legislation to the home environment.

Ahhhh. The tried and tested "for the sake of the children" argument. Or, put in a real context, " we have no evidence whatsoever that tobacco smoke impairs academic performance or cognitive ability, so we'll tug at the heart-strings instead." Although it must be noted that the study author is using the term "evidence" incredibly loosely, and it's admitted by the researchers that there was a significant margin of error:

Although restricting our analyses to nonsmokers only should have largely reduced the confounding effects of unfavorable lifestyle factors associated with smoking, residual confounding cannot be ruled out because of the crude self-reported measures of socioeconomic status and unmeasured lifestyle factors.

In other words, they were unaccounted variables that could, and most certainly would, have affected the results - and if the results were affected, then there would be no "evidence" to push for a home smoking ban, and that just won't do at all. Moreover, as Siegel notes:

In addition, there are other important confounding variables, such as parental involvement with the child's education. In other words, there are many reasons why children who are more heavily exposed to secondhand smoke may do poorer in school, and the study cannot adequately rule out these alternative explanations.

Therefore, it is mystifying why the study goes ahead and concludes that the observed association in the study is attributable to a direct, causal effect of secondhand smoke exposure.
 Siegel makes another excellent point, that "because the study is cross-sectional, it cannot establish whether the academic performance problems might have predated the secondhand smoke exposure." What he means is, no base level of performance was taken. It's all well and good comparing smoke-exposed to non-smoke-exposed children, but without comparing the same child's performance before and after exposure began nothing is actually being measured at all.

 If a child typically scored 70-90% on tests, then was exposed to secondhand smoke and his grades went down to 40-50%, and all other variables had been accounted for e.g. general change in attitude towards studies, then a case could exist for secondhand smoke impairing academic performance. As it stands, however, all we have is more pseudo-science, political bullshit printed in a journal to win support.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

San Francisco Aiming to Ban Tobacco in Grocery Stores

There's an almost laughable certainty now that any new draconian measures will first take place somewhere in California, especially when it relates to smoking.

San Francisco became the first city in all of America to ban all tobacco products in drugstores, like Walgreens. Maybe customers given the choice in front of them between Marlboro or Nicorette will opt for the more enjoyable product and this will annoy Big Pharma. However, we're rapidly learning that all the new steps taken by Tobacco Control to appease them are never good enough; that they're merely a stepping stone to the next piece of excessive legislature that does nothing but profit big business and criminal gangs. Smokers do not give up when new laws come into effect, they simply buy elsewhere and therefore remove money from the economy and place it into the hands of black market providers. For some reason beyond comprehension, governments and councils must see this as a good thing. So, following the usual trend, San Francisco has proposed a new bill: banning tobacco from superstores with an in-store pharmacy. To clarify that, it doesn't mean the pharmacy section of a store, but the entire premises will be banned from selling tobacco products.

Stupid, pointless, draconian? Yes, yes and yes. But San Francisco is creating its own bigger picture here, and is aiming to become smoke-free entirely (or, to put it in blunt terms that they're too cowardly to admit, smoker-free).

Recent legislations against tobacco includes expanding areas where smoking is not permitted throughout the city, an adjustable litter fee of 20 cents has been added to the price of each pack of cigarettes, and debates have taken place to reduce the number of permits allowing places to sell tobacco. In other words, they want less places to sell tobacco and almost nowhere to smoke it. Adding money to cigarettes for litter is absurd though; the tax on tobacco is already far beyond normal and fair, meaning smokers pay hefty sums, well into the billions, to society each and every year. This does, by the way, does help provide council support including road sweeping. Besides, if we're going down the route of charging for things that can be dropped on the street, should packaged food suffer the same fate?

 Supervisor Eric Mar, the man so out of touch he believes tobacco bans help improve health and lower smoking rates, said that

Cigarettes and chewing tobacco are a tiny fraction of the products sold, and pharmacies should be selling medicine and helpful items, not items like cigarettes that kill you. It sends the strong message that we are a city that promotes healthy living and stores should sell products with some accountability to the public.
Actually Eric, it sends the undeniable message that you are supportive of segregating a large minority of people who contribute vast sums of money to society. By purchasing legal products. To "promote" something means you try to educate, or entice people to take up something healthier; it does not mean berate, abuse and isolate. The correct words for that are bigotry and hatred.

Not only does this measure affect smokers, it is also guaranteed to affect businesses (again). Safeway has ten stores in San Francisco with pharmacies, so the unavoidable outcome will be smokers purchasing their tobacco elsewhere and quite possibly their other shopping goods with it.

Quite rightly, the 2008 move to ban tobacco in pharmacies was met with the comments that it targets one specific type of business. Unfortunately, the City took this as an incentive to just hound other businesses, too.