Above, the first wave of guests arrive on College Green, opposite the Houses of Parliament, for the Save Our Pubs & Clubs reception at the House of Commons on Wednesday June 29.
GUEST POST BY PAT NURSE:
People think I've become disillusioned about the smoking issue but the truth is I am sinking deeper and faster into despair under the sheer weight of daily stupidity dressed up as some sort of new 'scientific report' that shows smokers must be purged from 'decent' society by any means.
This is no longer about health but hatred of people who don't want to hurt anyone else but just want to be left alone to live their lives in peace. Lifelong smokers like myself from childhood who are from a different generation and a different age when smoking was perceived differently are the most affected. In just four years because of the smoke-free law and government backing of it we have gone from being heavily taxed contributors who have kept the NHS afloat for decades to 'disgusting', 'smelly' and 'selfish' pariahs who have no right to exist and are blamed for everything from child murder to global warming.
That is why I attended the Save Our Pubs and Clubs reception at the House of Commons on Wednesday. I wanted to tell our elected representatives just how socially damaging, exclusive and downright unnecessary this social health policy is and why the time has come to redress the balance between those who can't or won't quit and those who despise them because we are standing in the way of those spiteful people who want the world in their own perfect image.
I was impressed by the number of attendees and uplifted to see so many people who feel strongly enough to make the journey from across the UK to London to visit the House of the Privileged and make their feelings known.
My own MP Karl McCartney indicated that he would have come but for “a prior engagement” and he has kindly agreed to see me at a local surgery in Lincoln today where I intend to tell him how the ban has encouraged the rise of a new phenomenon – smokerphobia.
That people can believe the alleged public health doctor who said that putting an exhaust pipe in a car is safer that smoking a cigarette in the vehicle shows how ignorant people are about the effects of smoking. They are ready to believe it because they have been taught over the last generation to hate and fear people who smoke. Evidence that the issue is now so far from removed from health is obvious by such stupid statements.
I wanted to tell any MP who was prepared to listen that the country is losing the plot over the smoking issue but I was deeply disappointed at the lack of parliamentarians at the event. I don't know how many were there as I didn't recognise any MPs other than our hosts, Greg Knight (Conservative), Roger Godsiff (Labour) and John Hemming (Lib Dem).
I spoke to Greg Knight as the person who I thought said that smokers were being penalised for a choice they made that others disagreed with – although actually I think it was the Labour MP Roger Godsiff.
As someone who began smoking at the age of eight, I asked I asked Greg how I could have consciously made a choice at that age. I did what a lot of other kids did at the time and continued into adulthood when no one had a problem with it until one was created by modern government who refused to hear both sides of the issue but put the smokerphobics at ASH into government to make public health policy.
I smoke now because I enjoy it but I cannot make an informed health choice to quit when not enough studies have been done to show what would happen to someone like me if I did. The only study that has been done on this – as far as I am aware – is the Arunachalam Kumar, Kasaragod Mallya and Jairaj Kumar study conducted at the KS Hegde Medical Academy in Mangalore, India.
They were "struck by the more than casual relationship between the appearance of lung cancer and an abrupt and recent cessation of the smoking habit in many, if not most, cases". They claim that lifelong smokers who quit increase their chances of getting terminal illness from 20 to 60 per cent. I'll stick with 20 per cent, thanks.
Greg seemed very interested to hear my story and I asked if he could arrange for me to speak at the Conservative party conference to explain to delegates why they need to start listening to us and why balance on this issue is vital if we are to avoid a social tragedy akin the the times when homosexuality was illegal, belonging to the 'wrong' religion could get you burned at the stake, and being from the 'wrong' culture could get you excluded from every public place in the UK.
We are going back to the days when it was acceptable to say 'No blacks, no Irish and no dogs' but this time legislation allows people to say 'No smokers'. Dogs are now more welcome than we are in a society that smokers helped to build until 2007.
Greg said he would if he could but that was not something in his power as the Conservative party secretary arranges such speeches. He said to mention this idea to Simon Clark who may be able to make it happen, at least by having me at one of Forest's fringe events.
I was disturbed that the House of Commons bar staff called security on us for smoking outside and angered that apparently only MPs can smoke out there because for them a blind eye is turned. I was, however, also uplifted to see the delegation of smokers at the event simply choose to ignore the bullies and carry on smoking.
It was great to catch up with some friends in the movement. I was upset to see one had become ill since our last meeting a couple of years ago but he looked remarkably well. Nick Hogan also looked great and it was fantastic to see him back on fighting form. Lou, my friend from Lincoln who has no computer and knows nothing about this cause or its characters, was anxious to meet Nick the most, such was her respect for what he did in trying to make a stand for people like us.
Dick Puddlecote, David Atherton and Charles Childe Freeman looked after Lou and me at the pub after the event and they were as always great company.
I fell in love with David Hockney for his sheer dedication to this cause and his call for a common sense approach. I am from the generation where people who have your respect are addressed by their title. MPs like Mr Knight, Mr Hemming and Mr Godsiff deserve that respect. I have only one name for those sitting in the House of Commons who make decisions based on what they hear from ASH rather than what they hear from the grassroots smokers themselves, but Simon's blog doesn't allow foul language.
I fear the pubs battle is lost. It is too late and was too late once the Conservatives and Liberals won the election. I knew that if we didn't get heard after the champagne socialists in Labour were gone then we would never be heard. Those pubs that were on our side were silenced or have now disappeared. Those that remain simply don't want us in their pubs.
The battle as I see it now is to stop smokerphobia from gaining even more ground. We must ensure that government listens to smokers. We must educate and make the media aware of how they are being manipulated and being made to look ridiculous by their acceptance of any old science by press release study, and we must get the wider public – both smoking and non-smoking – to realise what is being done to an unpopular minority for ideological reasons rather than any real concern about public health.
Smokerphobia is taking us back to science by witch doctor. It's a witch hunt and instead of real studies they are spouting mumbo jumbo nonsense simply because they can.
For all the above reasons I will be having a protest in my home town tomorrow and, if successful, I will hold it every year until the balance is redressed.
For the same reasons I will be back at the House of Commons again next year and the next, and the next, and the next, for as long at it takes.
Further to Pat's post ...
I can confirm that in addition to the hosts – Greg Knight, Roger Godsiff and John Hemming – the following MPs were present:
Nigel Adams, Alun Cairns, Theresa Coffey, Jackie Doyle-Price, Roger Gale, Caroline Nokes, David Nuttall, Laurence Robertson, Mike Weatherley (Conservative) and Phil Wilson (Labour).
MPs who were unable to attend but sent someone to represent them included David Amess, Brian Binley and Philip Davies (all Conservative).
In addition, there were several peers including, we believe, Ed Miliband's policy guru Lord Glasman, and a substantial number of MPs' researchers and other political staff.
Next week we will be writing to every MP with a copy of the Morning Advertiser that features Save Our Pubs and Clubs on the cover plus a covering letter with information about the reception and what was said.
With regard to smoking on the terrace, the situation is as follows: there is a smoking area on the terrace. Officially, however, this is a smoking area for pass-holders only (ie people who work in the Palace of Westminster), not for guests, especially if they are unaccompanied.
Very rarely is that rule enforced (or so we were told) and more often than not a blind eye is turned to people stepping on to the terrace for a smoke.
See also: MPs hold event to change smoking ban (Morning Advertiser)