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« Make intolerance of smoking history | Main | Notes from the smoking lounge »

Butt out, Burnham!

I was interviewed by Granada Reports (ITV) yesterday.

It was in response to the launch of a new campaign to 'Make Smoking History in Greater Manchester'. According to

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, is setting out plans to cut smoking rates across the region by a third. Mr Burnham is launching a public consultation with NHS leaders which he hopes will be the largest ever public engagement about tobacco harm.

People are being asked for their views about plans to cut the number of smokers in Greater Manchester by 115,000 over the next three years. Proposals will include extending smoke-free areas and licensing of tobacco retailers.

According to another report:

People from across Greater Manchester are being asked to become a part of history in a bid to end smoking in the region within a decade ...

Greater Manchester plans to go further than anywhere in Europe and cut smoking rates by a third. That would mean 115,000 fewer smokers across the region in only three years.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, along with health and care leaders, wants to encourage the biggest ever response to a campaign about tobacco harm.

“There will come a time when people look back and say: why did smoking ever happen?” said Mr Burnham. “I want to bring that date forward and have Greater Manchester at the forefront of the charge."

The new campaign was launched at a conference that proclaimed grandly:

The Greater Manchester tobacco control strategy sets out a vision to reduce smoking prevalence at a pace and scale greater than in any other global conurbation.

Speakers included Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, Pauline Dekker, 'pioneer of the Dutch criminal case against the tobacco industry', and Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York, but it was Burnham who stole the headlines, just as he did last year with a very similar declaration (Mayor backs radical smokefree plan to save Greater Manchester lives and NHS millions):

Plans by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership to drastically cut smoking rates in Greater Manchester ‘faster and further than achieved anywhere else in the world have been endorsed by Mayor Andy Burnham on the eve of the 10th anniversary of groundbreaking smokefree laws.

Truth is, Burnham has been waiting years for the opportunity to condemn smokers to further purgatory. In February 2010, with Labour still in government, it was reported that:

Smokers could be forced to light up away from the entrances to public buildings under government moves aimed at ensuring that no more than one in 10 Britons smoke cigarettes.

The health secretary, Andy Burnham, now favours extending the 2007 landmark law which banned smoking in pubs, workplaces and other enclosed places, to prevent non-smokers having to walk through clouds of secondhand smoke.

The move comes as part of a wider attempt by Burnham to set out the case for state intervention to improve public health, insisting it does not amount to a nanny state.

Burnham will also "carefully consider" the case for forcing all cigarettes to be stripped of their distinctive wrapping and sold instead in plain brown packets, in order to reduce their appeal. There will also be renewed action against black market tobacco, a ban on tobacco vending machines and extra NHS support for those who want to quit.

According to ASH, "This new strategy is a solid foundation for the future." Not everyone was so enamoured though. Writing for the Guardian, Sholto Byrnes, assistant editor of the New Statesman and formerly a journalist with the Telegraph, commented:

Under new government plans, those of us who have already been banished to office doorways could find ourselves searching even further for a place in which to light up. But that is not the limit to Burnham's ambitions. "One day," he said, "we'll look back and find it hard to remember why anyone ever smoked in the first place."

I have no desire to impose my habit on others; but that is not enough for those of Burnham's ilk. They wish to force me to "improve" myself. And how swiftly this new puritanism has carried all before it ...

Now, even images of Isambard Kingdom Brunel are required to appear minus his trademark cigar, and if Burnham gets his way future generations will need to consult the reference books to understand the term "the cigarette afterwards", while the double entendre in another Stuyvesant ad line – "for after-action satisfaction" – will pass them by entirely.

I'm guessing the studio-based interview with me (which was recorded in the afternoon) was broadcast following this report on the local evening news.

Neither the interview nor Forest's response is online but this is the statement we issued:

"The war on smoking has gone far enough. Adults know the health risks and if they choose to smoke that decision must be respected.

"Tobacco is a legal product and adults have every right to smoke without being vilified, treated like children or targeted with unfair regulations.

"There's no evidence that smoking outside is a threat to other people's health and introducing a licensing system will make tobacco even more expensive because the cost will be passed on to the consumer.

"This creeping prohibition has to stop. Instead of coercing smokers to quit, local government should promote harm reduction products like e-cigarettes.

"The key to smoking cessation is choice and education, not measures designed to hurt or humiliate ordinary, decent people."

My next post will take a closer look at the History Makers (sic) Survey, which I hope you will complete.

In the meantime here's another, very similar, initiative – Campaign for a Smokefree Sheffield launched.

Do you see a pattern emerging?

Update: In 2010 it was reported that while the Labour government would encourage cars and homes to remain smoke-free, 'Burnham will stress that the state does not have a right to intervene in a private space, even to protect children.'

Odd then that he should endorse the new Greater Manchester Tobacco Plan whose ideas include 'Working with social housing providers to explore smokefree tenancies and homes.'

Has he changed his mind about private spaces?

Update: My interview has now been added to the ITV report here.

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Reader Comments (5)

The day is coming when intolerant and righteous bullies like Burnham will be calling for smokers to be put in camps. Not the concentration sort, of course, but the rehab type to cleanse his conscience.

One day history will look back and see these rich and wealthy snobs buying bans, exclusion and marginalsation for exactly what they are - selfish, intolerant thugs who respect no one else's choices or opinions other than their own.

Smoking, however, will continue. There was a time way back in history when a tyrant poured moulten lead down smoker's throats to force them to quit. That didn't make smoking history so Bully Burnham's posh policies will have little impact too.

During his pontificating, . I heard it said that a child starts to smoke every hour. If that is true, and I very much doubt it, then we tax payers have been throwing money into a black hole for the last 50 years or more as no one has done more to shove smoking under the nose of youngsters than tobacco control.

They keep exploitating our love for our children to screw more money from us to fund their lifestyles, their personal smokerphobia, and their selfish better than thou ideology and think no one has notced?

Who the f#@k do they think they are!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 18:28 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

This extreme antismoking initiative is overt persecution of smokers. There is no demonstrated risk to others from smoking outdoors--indeed most studies show none indoors either. These radical antismoker initiatives need to be resisted.

As for Mr Burnham changing his mind about private spaces, I suspect that he hasn't actually changed his mind. He just unveiled his actual position. After all antismokers have consistently lied about their objectives as part of their tactical maneuvers to gain political advantage.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 19:02 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

People are being asked for their views about plans to cut the number of smokers in Greater Manchester by 115,000 over the next three years

"cut the number of smokers" ?

It sounds like he considers some people who live there as more of an infestation rather than citizens.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 10:18 | Unregistered CommenterRose2

Burnham and the Anti smoking Industry know they are onto a winner. Smoking rates will steadily decline over the next few years, due to a higher take-up of vaping; and they can claim the credit - just as as they attempted to attribute the post 2012 sharp decline to their 2007 ban, rather than to vaping.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 16:52 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

Burnham and the rest of these bullies need dealing with. Confronting head on. They trying to destroy our lives and take away our freedoms. Soon smokers will be in concentration camps if these nasty embryonic nazi's have their way. Their only endgame is prohibition of smoking. We all know what happens then don't we ! Market forces take over !

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 16:59 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

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